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The women, making Moonj baskets in one of their houses. It's like a daily community meet.
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The raw material. Wild grass - Raffia. When bought, the “Sarpat” grass is much thicker and greener. In its original form, they call it "Moonj", but once its skin is torn out and made into small knots for storage, they call it “Balla”. Locally, they refer to the craft as “Balla” itself.
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These bundles of knotted “Balla” are left on the roof so they are exposed to dew and sunlight. Once one side is dried, it is overturned. Initially, it is green. But it needs to dry up completely, otherwise it will rot while dying or using. It is stored dry. Only a little before use, it is kept in a small bucket of water to soften.

There are two grasses used here. "Kaasa" and "Sarpat" are similar looking grasses, the form being the same, but structurally, Sarpat is thicker and stronger, hence its skin is used for “Balla”, the outer weaving on the baskets. Kaasa is used as the filling. Both these are wild grasses and can be found in almost all areas. Only they are called by different local names in different areas.
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They leave the grass in the bucket while working in summers, but in monsoons, they just need to dip it and leave it outside, and it is still moist enough to work with. Too much moisture makes it turn yellowish. And if it is too dry, one can’t work with it as it is too brittle.
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They use these baskets as kitchen storage containers as well.
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Trying my hand at it!
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Apart from the age old traditional designs, they are also given new designs sent to them from Bombay.
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Their tools.
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The dying process. Boiling the colour with the grass.
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The dying process. Boiling the colour with the grass.
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Dyed raw material.
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The marketplace in Allahabad, where Moonj baskets are sold.

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