In Bihar’s Jamui district there is a unique public playground under construction. From benches and chairs to swings, slides, and even dustbins around the playground will be made of Bamboo – thanks to Ananda Mohanta, an Odisha-based artisan.
“The work started early in March with eight people but slowed down owing to the lockdown. Using five trucks of bamboo we have completed most of the construction. But it will take another year to complete the project,” says Ananda Mohanta. He also adds that there are bamboo cottage-like structures placed around the park where visitors can take shelter and rest.
But it is not just park utilities that Ananda builds, he can replicate 40 different household objects such as sofa sets, arm chairs, pen stands, and more with bamboo.
About the artisan
After completing his education at the Government Inter College in Odisha, Ananda Mohanta, a resident of Betnoti town of Mayurbhanj district, started working as a Sal leaf trader with another farm in his village. He would collect these leaves and distribute them across various cities to make plates and cups.
In 2008, he took up a course on Bamboo crafts organised by the National Bamboo Mission in Dehradun.
“It was a three-week course free of cost, but after attending it I wanted to learn more. So I paid extra and stayed back for a three-month course to learn more about how to make crafts from Bamboo. Once I was confident with my skills, I returned to my village and continued practising the craft with bamboo I sourced locally. I would make pen stands, decorative flowers, and try to replicate all household products using bamboo. After a few months of practise, In 2009, I purchased 10 acres of land from the government to start growing bamboo. Owing to the geographical location, Bamboo grows very well,” says Ananda adding that he applied for loans and sourced necessary machines for cutting the bamboo, and treating it.
For new ideas, Ananda would look around his home and identify products made from plastic or any other material. Keeping that item as his subject, he would try to replicate the same using bamboo.
He started by selling simple household items such as bowls, pen stands and water bottles but soon started to make sofa sets, doors, windows, cottages, and 40 different products. The household items are sold across the country and he says that it takes only a few hours to make these. In one day Ananda can make a minimum of four baskets, cups, or buckets.
“I built a 100 sq ft cottage in Sambalpur, Odisha which is used as a guest house. It has an attached toilet and a verandah. It took me almost one and a half months, and 10 people to finish one cottage. The process involves procuring bamboo, cutting it, treating it using chloroplast, and boric acid. This ensures long-life and keeps the product bug-free. Many people assume bamboo structures are fragile, but they are very strong, and the cottages can carry 5 quintals or more of weight. Apart from that, owing to the presence of silicate acid, it has good fire resistance too.” says Ananda adding that his monthly turnover is over Rs.70,000/month.
While his farm is taken care of by 95 employees working full-time and part-time. Ananda also offers training for people in the village who wish to learn the craft. 30 of his employees are women who were trained as part of the Self Help Group called Maa Manasi started by his wife.
One project the artisan is proud of, till date, is the sit-out he made at Utkal University in Bhubaneswar.
“Outside the MBA department’s building, there is a cottage-like structure where students gather to eat food, chit-chat and sometimes discuss their studies. It has simple benches inside, and is an open structure for air ventilation.”
Braja Narayana Mohanty who is the former Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Manipur is passionate about bringing bamboo products to the forefront of India. He had recently tweeted images of Ananda’s work to help him get recognised.
He says, “I have worked with many artisans in North Eastern states to industrialise bamboo products, and a few months ago I came across Ananda. When I heard about the work he was doing, it was really interesting, and the products were eye-catching. I hope people recognise such artisans, give them the platform they deserve and promote their products.”
For the future, Ananda plans to increase his bamboo production, and produce bamboo plywood that can be used to make shelves and cupboards.
Apart from water bottles and brooms made from bamboo, you can eliminate the use of plastic products at home, by purchasing mugs, buckets, mats, wall-hangings, arm chairs, sofa sets, and 40 different items made from Bamboo. Ananda says he can transport the items across the country and that the prices are different for each.
You can get in touch with him on +91 8018175937, if you wish to order.
(Edited by Sandhya Menon)