Her fingers, holding a big needle, moved carefully yet quickly between the strands and holes of a piece she was holding. Curiously I asked what she was making, and she replied shyly that it was a tray. When I asked her name, softly she uttered, Sumitra Mohanty. Her smile was bigger than mine and expertise of her nimble fingers better than mine, any day! She was making Golden Grass handicrafts with golden grass strands.
She wasn’t alone, there was a group of around 30 women in that room making something or the other handicraft of Odisha. These handicraft items spoke of fine craftsmanship.
We were in a small village called Antia in Jajpur district of Odisha.
Discovering the Secrets of Golden Grass Handicrafts of Jajpur
I had heard of handicrafts made of bamboo and cane, but Golden Grass Home Décor was new for me. Well, Odisha has a tradition of making traditional Indian crafts or artifact and objects of daily use. Then how could the golden grass be left behind?
Weaving of baskets in India is an art as old as probably pottery making. In earlier times, the food gatherers used to weave reeds composed to make baskets for keeping food. Later, over the period, they changed materials and the culture of making eco-friendly golden grass baskets for domestic use was developed. The diversity of this did not restrict for domestic use only, they were being used for ritual purposes as well. Since generations golden grass items are made.
This age old Handmade Golden Grass craft is unique, and this variety of Ethical Handcrafted Artistry is called Kaincha work. Golden grass (Vetiver Zizanoides) is locally known as Kaincha or (khus in some other parts of India).
How Golden Grass is procured
Following the onset of monsoon, the golden grass is abundantly found as wild grass in swampy and marshy areas of Odisha, mostly riverside.
The grass grows up to about 5-6 feet in height. Collecting raw material remains largely the responsibility of village women, who usually set out in groups, often wading through waist deep water to collect sufficient amount of golden grass. After collection, the women use their teeth to split each stem into two even strands along its length. These strands are then left in the open to dry. After drying it for about 15 days, the strands start changing color from pale green to mild yellow and finally to golden yellow. Hence the name ‘Golden Grass’.
Jajpur Golden Grass Artisans
The Golden Grass artisans are almost always women. During their leisure time women used to make these handicraft items for general utility at a common place in the village… just like women knitting sweaters in North India. 😀 The making of the traditional Golden Grass handicrafts has transcended down from generation to generations but only to womenfolk. Most families make golden grass items collaboratively, with all womenfolk contributing. Even children help them with the colouring of the items.
Only material used to make this craft is the golden grass or Kaincha as it is known locally. Of course, they use tools like scissors, measuring tapes and needles which is used to coil the grass. Often vegetables dyes are used to colour the strands before weaving to make vibrant patterns.
Though the century old craft is traditionally practised, inadequate skill development programmes, imagination and lack of market linkage failed to generate a steady and sustainable income for women. They could only produce items for their own use.
Self Help Group (SHG) of Jajpur district
When the govt saw the potential of this Ethical Handcrafted Artistry, they decided to do something to help the villagers. That’s when the role of govt made it easy for them. Senior artists were roped in, and they started to teach the craft knowledge, different designs, various products to these women.
The knowledge is transferred in a fun way, along with the ancestral songs and poems that are sung during harvest and crafting preparation. They also tell the history and different methods. These artisans now believe that they can make a difference in their own lives by spreading their work and showcasing their skills to the rest of the world.
More than 300 families are benefitted from this SHG scheme in Antia village itself.
This age-old Odisha handicraft is a blessing for the poor people of these areas as it requires very little capital to invest and provides a steady income to craft makers. During the training the women are paid from Rs 3000 – 4500 per month as stipend. The trainers are paid a monthly salary of around Rs 15000 each.
Handicrafts made from the wild golden grass are helping change lives in Jajpur, providing people with a steady source of income. After training, each one of them earns between Rs 3,000 and Rs 10,000 in a month by making items from the golden grass. The salary depends on the expertise and number of items made by them. Today the clusters of golden grass craft-persons of many villages reflect their economy growth and the change that has come about.
At a time when the pandemic has taken a toll on rural economy, a ray of hope has emerged for the golden grass handicrafts persons of the district. The likes of Sarojini Das, Paromita, Latika Jena are a happy lot now.
Handmade Golden Grass Crafts
Today, the craft of golden grass is treated as a part of cottage industry. There is a huge demand for golden grass handicrafts. It is an eco-friendly, biodegradable and sustainable craft too. It reduces the use of plastic and hence planet friendly.
Odisha government has decided to apply for the ‘Geographical Indication’ (GI) tag for Golden Grass craft. The GI status will give it a distinct identity as nobody can misuse the name to market similar crafts. Jajpur Handicrafts Marketplace has started to boom.
Odisha Handicrafts Online Shopping
Some of the most common Unique Eco-Friendly Decor articles made are baskets, trays, bowls, fans, coasters, table mats, hats, footwear, temple shaped boxes, lampshades, pen stands, toys, wall hangings and mats. The list and creativity go on.
Currently golden grass handicraft items are redesigned for the international buyers according to their taste and preferences, but not detaching it from the originality and ethnicity.
A new concept of golden grass jewellery is also coming up, where they make attractive and designer jewellery along with other accessory items like bags, key chains which will be sold online as Odisha Handicrafts.
They also provide artisans with platforms to sell their items in many exhibitions and festivals in and outside the state. They are also trying to organize exposure trips for the craft-persons to other states to help them sell their produce in craft melas.
There are several Online platforms where Golden Grass Handicrafts products are available. Some of them are iTokri, which is high into golden grass jewelry and related stuff, Utkalika Odisha, and Odishaestore.
Useful Information on Jajpur, Odisha
How to reach Jajpur
By Air – Bhubaneswar is around 100 KMs from Jajpur and Bhubaneswar is well connected from the rest of India by flight.
By Train – Jajpur has a railway station.
By Road – Jajpur is well connected to other cities of Odisha.
Where to stay in Jajpur
We stayed in Jajati Courtyard. Quite decent hotel and the staff is courteous, helpful. There’s another good hotel named Brahmani. Check out below all the possibilities of stays as per your budget.
Please click here for more accommodation options to suit all pockets
Where to eat
If you are keen on having an authentic Odiya food, the head over to Odianee restaurant. It is one of the best in town. They serve only lunch.
FAQ on Golden Grass Handicrafts
What is Golden Grass?
Golden Grass, also known as ‘Kaincha,’ is a unique variety of reed grass that is famous for its golden luster when dried. It is split and woven to create an array of golden grass handicrafts items like baskets, grass mats, coasters, table mats, hats, and curio boxes. These products not only add a touch of elegance to any living space but are also eco-friendly and sustainable.
Where does golden grass grow in Odisha?
Golden grass is a type of straw-like grass that is naturally and wildly found in swampy and marshy areas of Odisha, mostly riverside. Kendrapada, Jagatasinghpur and Jajpur districts are some of the places where it is found.
What is the local name of Golden grass
A yellowish variety of Golden grass (Vetiver zizanoids), is locally known as ‘Kaincha’ in Odisha and ‘khus’ in some parts of India. It is called Golden Grass due to its golden sheen on drying.
What is golden grass used for or What are the products of golden grass?
The most common Odisha handicrafts products made out of Golden Grass are table mats, baskets, table mats, coasters, curio boxes, wall hanging and hats etc.
How do you take care of golden grass products?
The best part of these products is that they require minimum care. They can be washed with plain water (not dipped) and dried in the sun or shade. Even the colored portions use vegetable dye. However, the raw dried strands need extra care, so need to be kept in closed rooms to avoid any moisture getting in and infecting the strands with fungus.
Are Golden Grass Handicrafts available online?
Yes, they are ! iTokri, Utkalika Odisha, and Odishaestore are some of the stores for online shopping of Odisha handicrafts.
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I saw your story on Instagram and knew it was coming. 🙂
Very well written and very informative also.
Have not heard of golden grass.
Thank you so much! Even I had not heard of this. 🙂
Interesting facts. Very well written.
Do they hold any exhibition in north India?
No idea. Will ask and let you know?
Wow this is such beautiful art! I love the idea of using things that can be found in nature for art. I would love to try this out and pick up a few pieces from Sumitra as well.
Isn’t it? 🙂
She’ll be very happy to know this. 😀
oh wow! These are gorgeous gorgeous!!! Amazing work with amazing attention to detail.
Thank you so much. I was also amazed. 🙂
It’s always been amazing to me how they craft those…truly so beautiful. Little works of art!
What a lovely set of products! The craftspeople are truly magicians. They transform grass into beautiful and useful items.When I come to India I will definitely try to go to Odisha. Maybe even try to meet you!
Ha Ha Sure!!
Not only meeting, probably we can go together to Odisha ! 😀
I live in Odisha. I am so happy to see this article about Kaincha in my own state and its culture. 🙂
Thank you for sharing this.
Oh happy to know that. You are living in a very rich state in terms of art, & crafts and history.
It’s incredible how the women are transforming the humble golden grass into such beautiful and delicate handicrafts. It’s also great to know that this art is proving the women with a decent living and that the craft is considered to be a heritage for Jaipur, and that is has been practiced for centuries. It would be great if it was to receive the Geographical Indication certification.
I have never heard of Golden Grass before. I am for sure going to have to do some online shopping for some Golden Grass home decor.
Those handicraft items look so beautiful! I have seen them around in markets and stuff, but never knew all these details about how they are made. Thanks for sharing!
Loved reading you wonderful post about the women who make this delicate Golden Gras handicrafts. Good that they get some government support, in order to carry on the tradition. I would instantly buy one of these drop-shaped trays, given the chance.
I have the kind of personality where I always value handmade goods. These handicrafts are truly fantastic! The fact that they exclusively create these with golden grass is quite amazing. For their dedication and talent, artisans deserve to be recognized. I dearly believe that a lot more people would support and buy their wonderful items. And in the future, I also hope that the following generations will continue to follow this custom.
I knew about Bamboo, cane, jute but never heard about Golden Grass and the handicraft market. It is really amazing that you covered the handicraft artisans and their work. Amazing. Work I must say. In any chance do they sell in Delhi?
These are absolutely beautiful! This would be a perfect souvenir that I would definitely get for myself and for my family. I love the way this tradition is carried on by teaching next generation via songs and poems. That is precious! I hope to able to visit Jajpur myself someday.
I was in Jaipur a long time ago, in 2008. The city delighted me, but I hadn’t heard at the time about Golden Grass Handicrafts in Jajpur. It’s a shame, as those items look so pretty. I saw some on the markets and bazaars but didn’t know they are made in Jaipur. It’s so exciting that you describe manufacturing processes and golden grass growth. I would love to purchase some of those baskets or grass mats. I like the local name ‘Kaincha.’
The exquisite Golden Grass handicrafts of Jaipur is something to be thankful for as a sustainable, eco-friendly and biodegradable craft handed over by generations of artisans in Odisha.And it’s interesting how the artistry is passed on through poetry and songs by weavers.It’s commendable how women wade through waist deep waters to collect the golden grass,split each strand of grass, dry them, and finely weave into baskets, trays, hats, coasters, key chains and even jewelry items. Like other eco-friendly items like jute, cane and bamboo , Golden Grass or Kaincha handicrafts have evolved as a prime source of income for the local artisans and it’s great that the government had decided to give it a GI status for its unique identity.
Wow! These are beautiful. Happy to know that the government already saw its potential and they are now being supported. I would love to buy it for myself. Will check out the online stores you mentioned. Looking forward to seeing more of their updated designs for the international market.
We have seen this art, they have mostly same process but did not know the history behind it.
They look good and last long. we have some pieces at home.