Rice - crafts

More can be done with rice than simply eating it. A range of crafts based on rice grains have developed in South Asia including painting and garland-making.

Paddy crafts

Paddy crafts are small figures, garlands, fans and baskets made from chains of unhusked rice. Each piece of rice is carefully knotted to the next with coloured thread to make long chains. These chains are then formed into shapes and pieced together to make the figures or other objects. Rice is a symbol of prosperity, so a popular figure is Lakshmi; the Hindu Goddess of material and spiritual wealth. Only a few families from the Ghand tribes of Orissa still practice paddy craft.

Rice paintings

An illustration dating around 1725 - The background depicts two women drawing a floor design in rice paste.
Image: This illustration dating around 1725 shows two women drawing a floor design in rice paste.

Chittara wall paintings are an ancient art form made by women of Malnad in Karnataka. White paint is made using rice which has been pounded up into a paste. To make black paint the rice is burnt first. They usually have geometrical patterns and show stylised shapes like the lotus or coconut. The paintings were made for festivals and household ceremonies. Recently this tradition has been revived, although now paintings are also made for sale and are painted on paper and objects such as pots. Other traditional paintings in South Asia are drawn on the floor using rice paste. These include rangoli paintings in Maharastra and alpana in Bangladesh.

Other crafts

Ancient texts have many descriptions of rice being used in rituals and ceremonies. Occasionally there are hints at more unusual craft uses. The Garu da Purana describes cleaning pearls in boiled rice and lime juice, while Buddhist verses of the Khuddaka Nik_ya mention dipping arrows in sour rice gruel before straightening them.