Ringal or ‘Dwarf Bamboo’ provides a great livelihood option to craftsmen in India’s Uttarakhand.
Ringal is the small reed-like variety of bamboo (sometimes called dwarf bamboo) that is found in abundance in the higher mountain areas of the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, where Luxmi lives. Amongst the communities that inhabit these hilly areas, ringal has historically been a source of livelihood for many harvesters and weavers, and plays a prominent part in the community’s life. Natural grass and bamboo are used to make light furniture, decorative handicrafts and functional items like baskets and mats. Luxmi tells us that the women carry firewood, manure and vegetables in ringal baskets from the fields and forests. During the major festivals, the shrine and umbrella carried by the devotees to the temples is made from ringal, and it is even mentioned in certain prayers and scriptures.
“Ringal is cheaper than plastic,” Luxmi says. “You can buy a ringal basket for Rs.50 and it will last you six to seven years. A plastic one costs double…but people still buy them because they think it is fashionable and modern. We use ringal baskets in our home. They are much better looking than plastic things.”
More than 10,000 artisans make their living by making bamboo and ringal products in the state. Recently, bamboo products are becoming increasingly popular amongst higher-income groups in European countries, and trade in these products is growing at a fast pace because of the decline in timber production. Bamboo is used today to make everything from medicinal teas to roofing sheets.
Luxmi hopes that ringal will remain an integral part of the everyday life of her community and others in Uttarakhand, such that the artisans and their trade are not replaced by a culture of plastic. To watch more of Luxmi’s video on more such issues of Uttarakhand, click here