Almost forgotten but still found in Parkha Village: Traditional handicrafts of Sikkim

Author: Tanuja Rai
Date: 2020-07-21

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Handicrafts and artifacts are the beautiful manifestations of the creative minds of artists. In Sikkim there are many who make beautiful handicrafts and believe in preserving and promoting these traditional arts. About 15.7 km from Pakyong in East Sikkim lives 63-year-old Khuja Maya Sharma an artisan belonging to Parkha Village. Mrs. Sharma believes that the state Sikkim is not only resplendent with its natural beauty but with its arts and crafts too.

Mrs. Sharma has been weaving traditional mats called pira, gundri, jagarah, and double pira since she was 15 years old with hay, maize husk, and plastic. She lives with her husband who is also interested in making traditional doko and jhag. Doko is a hand-woven, V-shaped basket made with bamboo and Jhag is also a bamboo basket that is used to store maize and cardamom in rural areas in Sikkim.

Khuja Maya Sharma taking a break on the phone while weaving mats with hay

There are many like Mrs. Sharma and her husband in Parkha village who make exquisite handicrafts and believe in preserving them. These people believe that there aren’t many these days that show interest in learning to weave traditional handicrafts. She says “I remember how my mother taught me to weave since I was a teenager and I have carried it with me till now. I hope that this tradition never dies, and I wish more people from this generation learn to weave and build traditional artifacts.”

Mrs. Sharma and her husband earn their living through farming, and whenever someone comes and asks her about the making of these handicrafts, she feels happy. She says, “You can ask some elderly people in Parkha about these traditional handicrafts, they will make you sit and tell you stories about them.” These villagers are the gems of Sikkim trying to teach new generations about the values of culture and traditions.

"Thungse" - hand woven bamboo basket to store corn

Leeladhar Sharma is the 61-year-old neighbor of Mrs. Sharma who also makes delicately and beautifully designed hand-woven baskets. He loves to share his knowledge with others; Mrs. Sharma explains, “At times school kids and teenagers come to us and ask us to teach them traditional weaving. We feel extremely happy to see such interest in young people, and of course, we help them out happily.” People who ask them to make traditional handicrafts either for decoration or utility buy their products at very reasonable prices. It not only makes them happy but provides a bit of help to buy household necessities.  

Mrs. Sharma and her husband are not the only people who want to preserve the tradition of Sikkim in their family; her 52-year-old nephew, Dilliram Sharma, is also fervent about it. Living a kilometer away from Mrs. Sharma’s home, Dilliram has established a small museum at his home. He has weaved local handicrafts of Sikkim in small sizes and placed them for display at his house. People who want to come and see them are always welcome. Dilliram Sharma says, “I feel that everyone should learn and see the traditional handicrafts of Sikkim. Since we do not use them as utility today, they have started to vanish, and we should never forget where we have come from. These handicrafts are some of the gems of Sikkim.” Dilliram Sharma also wishes for more people to come visit his home and see all the items that he has made.

Some traditional artifacts kept for display by Dilliram Sharma at his home

These simple villagers of East Sikkim are more than happy to tell stories, origins and facts about traditional handicrafts of Sikkim, and teach people to weave. It is now time to encourage more locals to understand the importance of traditional handicrafts and let them see why it is an important part of Sikkim’s culture and tradition.

Contact us if you want to visit this village where you can gain some knowledge on handicrafts, learn the craft, and even give back to the villagers by buying their products.

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