TODAY -

Kuhi - An essential plant for Nungbi pottery, Ukhrul district, Manipur

Dr N Irabanta Singh *

Pottery from Nungbi : Workshop / Exhibition of Pottery Crafts of Manipur  :: September 10 2017
Pottery from Nungbi : Exhibition of Pottery Crafts of Manipur in September 2017 :: Pix - Shanker Khangembam



Prior to the introduction of chemical dye sale in Imphal market around early part of 19th Century, different ethenic groups (both in the Valley and hill regions) of Manipur State have practiced the art of dyeing clothes and other items by the natural dyes.

These natural dyes obtained from plants have been used by weavers for imparting different shades of colour to different clothes, bamboo basket, flower pots, fishing nets, including Nungbi pottery items.

Kuhi (Botanically Pasania pachyphylla Kurz. Schottky Syn. Querus pacyphylla Kurz; Family Fagaceae) is an essential plant used by the Nungbi Village populace for their skill work Pttery. Nungbi Village is situated 37 km away from Ukhrul district H.Q. towards Jeshami road. The village are dominantly inhabited by Tangkhul tribe.

Pottery is practiced at Nungbi Khulen ( Lore in local district ), Nungbi Khunthak and Nungbi Khunou. Seventy percent of the villagers are engaged in pottery profession. Other activities of the villagers are paddy cultivation, horticultural crop plantation and Cattle farming.

Botany of Kuhi

A large evergreen tree, leaves 10-18 cm by 4-5 cm, oblong- lanceolate elliptical, acuminate. Spikes solitary, female flowers connate in groups of 3 (three).

The acorns and cups from a compact hardness. Common at 1950 to 2700 m asl. In the north and eastern hill districts of Manipur. In Tankhul dialect Kuhi is known as Machina.

Uses of Kuhi

The Meitei/Meetei used Kuhi for dyeing purposes. Stem bark is cut into pieces and soaked in a pitcher containing water for 6 to 7 days. It is now ready for dyeing.

It is used for obtaining dark brown colour. The thread or cloth is soaked in Kuhi (Pasania pachyphylla) prepared liquid. This preparation is also used for dyeing fishing net/Eeel.

The Tangkhul potters of Nungbi Villages used Kuhi/Machina leaves for polishing previously baked (Mei Ikpa) clay made pottery items. While rubbing the pottery items by the leaves of Machina a special type of juice comes out which sticks like a gum causes the item look smoother and shining.

According to one of the potters, by rubbing with the leaves of Machina, the durability of the pottery items will be lengthened and strengthened.

The Kuhi leaves contain a lot of trichomes (makreng in Manipur) which causes smoothening the end product as well as darken the pottery items.

Need for conservation of Kuhi

As on now, it is not an issue for plucking Kuhi leaves from the nearby Jungle. But a time will come where the potters may face shortage of Kuhi leaves due to various development processes. As such the Government need to take up steps for conservation of Kuhi because the plant is an essential item for enhancing sales values of the Nungbi pottery items.


* Dr N Irabanta Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is former Professor (Higher Academic Grade) / Life Sciences, M.U. and Former Dean, School of Life Sciences, Manipur University and can be contacted through irabanta(DOT)singh(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on June 13 , 2018.



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