The history of bamboo crafts traces back to 12th century Beppu when the private chef of Japanese emperor Keiko illustrated the use of this eco-friendly wood for basket making. Mentions about this are also found in Nihon-shoki, the second oldest book of classical Japanese history. According to legends, the name bamboo is derived from the word ‘Bambu’ of the Malay language from Malaysia, where it is believed to be called after the sound bamboo makes while exploding in an open fire. Bamboos are the largest members of the grass family, belonging to the subfamily Bambusoideae. Here due to the absence of secondary growth, the stems tend to grow columnar rather than tearing, causing it to grow to exceptional heights. Certain species of bamboo would grow up to 91 cm within 24 hours, at a rate of almost 4 cms an hour, unlike the growth of other grass varieties. Being one of the fastest-growing species, it matures in almost 2 years, while other timbers take up to 40 to 60 years for maturation. The plant itself possesses an anti-bacterial property hence needless of pesticides during cultivation. Regions of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia hold strong the economic and cultural significance of the plant and this reflects in their culture. Nowadays, the use of bamboo stems can be found in construction works, food cuisines, furniture makings, and even in manufacturing fabrics, bed sheets, towels, and purses. Bamboo fabrics make a softer alternative to cotton counterparts. The edible bamboo shoots or sprouts are an active ingredient in many Asian dishes and broths.
Bamboo craft is a traditional art practiced in various parts of the world. With time, it grew to become one of the strongest pillars of the Indian rural economy. Assam, Tripura, and West Bengal with the largest number of bamboo forests make the most notable variety of the craft, traded within the country as well as to foreign lands. The products include mugs for rice beer, hookahs, musical instruments, floor mats, fishing devices, handles, etc. The crafts also come in a wide variety, ranging from showpieces to furniture to home decor products, the style, and design of which differs from region to region, according to the artisan’s choice or cultural influence of the place. Above all, it is a low investment industry and has built the potential over time to employ many families making a reliable livelihood for them.