Mayurbhanj: Having its origin in Madagascar, Sabai grass – a wild, climate-resilient grass that needs little water and grows in the hilly, wooded – areas found its way to Mayurbhanj in Odisha long back and it was used to make ropes, baskets and bags for soldiers who fought in World War II. Today, Sabai grass is a trending item in the fashion circuit and erstwhile Mayurbhanj royal family princess Akshita Manjari Bhanjdeo is playing a vital role in popularising Sabai grass craft both in India and abroad.
Aside from selling Sabai grass fashion products online, Akshita has been working to train the locals in the art of using Sabai grass to make trending fashion products as well as sell their products online via social media. The idea is to make the people in the region self-reliant and earn by selling their Sabai grass handicraft products in India and abroad.
As the income of most families in Mayurbhanj who earn a living by making Sabai grass products is low, the royal family has taken various initiatives to provide market facilities to these artisans. The Mayurbhanj Raj family has come forward to promote various household products with the help of social media within and outside the country and make Mayurbhanj products popular all over the country.
Thirty people from the group have been trained for three days on social media marketing and people were trained to market various Sabai grass products to create an identity for these products through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others. The aim was to increase the demand for the products.
According to Akshita, the Mayurbhanj royal family will extend its helping hand to the artisans so that the handicraft of the Mayurbhanj district shines all over the world. Producer group members will be provided with the necessary laptop mobiles to learn how to market their products with the help of social media, she added.
At the heart of this are Usha Rani Naik and her self-help group, Durgadevi that weaves magic with the humble Sabai grass, turning it into ropes and then articles of decor. The 10-member group of women work and live in the Guhaldihi cluster which has 14 villages and is considered the epicenter for harvesting Sabai in Mayurbhanj.
When she started in 2011, women in Mayurbhanj only made rope from Sabai grass and now it is used to make home décor items and even fashion products. Many craftswomen also create innovative designs for bags and other accessories – partially inspired by Akshita’s family.