A photo series by Pubarun Basu and Dr Oishimaya Sen Nag
They are no ordinary village women. They are the Green Brigade of the Sabai Grass Cluster
of Mayurbhanj, Odisha. Their ingenuity and diligence have won many hearts. They are
women who have defied traditional boundaries and stepped out of their homes to create
elaborate handicrafts from the simple Sabai grass.
The Sabai might appear quite unremarkable, but it is extraordinarily resilient to changing
climate patterns, with its ability to grow in soils with low water and nutrient content. It is an
ideal raw material of choice - sustainable and biodegradable - to craft exquisite handicrafts.
In Mayurbhanj, the Sabai was traditionally used to make ropes due to its high durability and
resilience. The grass is harvested from the field and then braided to make the ropes.
However, one property of the Sabai was less explored for a long time - the ease of dyeing
the grass. It was this property that was harnessed by the ingenious women of the Sabai
Grass Cluster to create exquisitely beautiful handicrafts.
The process of Sabai handicraft making is eco-friendly - handcrafted by women using grass
that was grown without any artificial chemicals and little water. The products are also
Today, hundreds of women in Mayurbhanj are benefitting from this handicraft-making. This
simple, non-demanding grass has transformed their lives and made them financially
Thus, the Sabai grass cluster of Mayurbhanj is a story of hope for the future - of financially
empowered women and sustainable consumption. It is a story that can inspire more such
initiatives in the times ahead.
Oishimaya Sen Nag is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader, a travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, and loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures & participating in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
Pubarun Basu is a 22 year old photographer based in Kolkata, India. Pubarun made it to the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia 2022 -The Arts list. He was declared as the "Youth Photographer of the Year'' in the Sony World Photography Awards 2021 and his work has been published by international organisations such as National Geographic, Forbes, The Guardian, BBC, CNN, Rolling Stone, GQ, Vanity Fair, and more. Pubarun’s work has encompassed themes of environmental conservation, connecting the stories of resilience of indigenous communities with their intangible heritage.