Dera Mandawa, Jaipur and Dera Mandawa Farm, Naharsinghani Jod, Thesil: Nawalgarh, are very environment friendly places. As the owner, I always like to live close to nature, respect nature and using what nature provides us in a sustainable manner. If we loot and plunder natural resources we are criminals. If we respect nature and live off the land harvesting the resources without killing the plants then we do our duty to mother earth.
We use very beautiful comfortable chairs made from the reeds of this grass put together by ropes or fibers called munj. The chairs are called Mudha. The parts which touch the ground and the hand rests were braided with leather in the past and now by used bicycle tires.
Thatched roofs are made from the sharp edged leaves of this grass.
Kuntcha grass/sarkanda(sachharum bengalense) grows in many dry riverbeds which flow only in the monsoon season carrying the seasonal run of water during the monsoon rains and on riversides in the parts of Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh These grasses which bear beautiful white grey fluffy flowers in October and January February also grow and are used in Pakistan (Sind, Punjab & N.W.F.P.), North and Northwest India and Afghanistan. Farmers also plant it on the crest of sand walls(Dola) demarcating their fields for extra income. This perennial grass is harvested once a year and is a free renewable source for the farmer to make thatched roofing and chairs.
Garh Mukteshwar in Uttar Pradesh, Ajmer and farukhnagar Haryana in India are big centers for mudha chair production. Shops in gangori bazaar Jaipur also sell readymade mudhas.
I chanced upon very interesting history of how the mudha chairs got designed as a fall out of movement and camping of mounted cavalry units in imperial India courtesy a narration by Major General Jagjit Singh ji(Retd.) of Daspan. The British quarter master, at the then Babugarh grass depot, directed and instructed the conversion of the backless stool (pidhi) used in the cavalry camps at Garh Mukteshwar to be changed to comfortable chairs with a back called mudha. There is a entry of his name? in the history book of the Babugarh remount depot of the Indian army.
At a certain stage of history, some units of the armies of Jaipur and Jodhpur maharaja states were reorganized on the imperial lines resembling proper English order. Jodhpur lancers was raised on the lines of the imperial service core, a cavalry unit while the maan guards of Jaipur on the lines of the queen’s bodyguards. Jaipur Lancers which was on the lines of imperial service core was headed General Amar Singh ji while Devi Singh ji Chittora headed the Jaipur transport core with its headquarters on the banks of Amanishah Nala in Jaipur. This unit consisted in entirety of pony carts with the serving soldiers being all Punjabi musalmaans.
The Meerut brigade which was a mounted cavalry unit used to camp every winter on the vast expanses of the banks of river Ganges near Garh Mukteshwar. When the Jodhpur lancers unit was raised they were asked to join this camp which was a yearly event. The units would be engaged in cavalry exercises like pig sticking. This is around the year 1870. Large expanses of kuntcha/sarkanda grass grows on the banks of Ganges at Garh Mukteshwar campsite the local people use to make small backless low stools called pidhi which the forces would procure and use to sit around campfires and in the officers tents. Being backless they were not comfortable. Based on the entry in the history book of the Babugarh army unit we can definitely say that the present day mudha chairs were a innovation brain child created by instructions given to the local craftsmen by the british quartermaster to add a backrest to the pidhi and to increase the size of the seat for the better comfort.
It is very interesting to note how the Mudhas reached Rajasthan:-). On the last day of camp, around the camp fire when the bara khana and the party was ending the mudhas were thrown in the camp fire as fuel because carrying them back was thought to be very cumbersome! The Jodhpur Lancers which consisted of desert dwellers from Marwar who were judicious and wise found this to be foolishly wasteful. They quietly saved and stored their mudha chairs and brought them to Jodhpur.
THUS THE BEAUTIFUL MUDHA CHAIRS REACHED THE THEN BRITISH AND MAHARAJA TERRITORY OF RAJPUTANA NOW CALLED RAJASTHAN.
For over a century the hand crafted beautiful mudha chairs made out of the perennial harvest of the kuntcha grass have adorned the british officers bungalows of imperial India, Maharajas’ palaces, aristocratic homes and clubs I north and west India. It is an example of sustainable living wherein we harvest a renewable natural resource to create wonderful furniture with no harmful effect to the environment.
Following this principle we decide to use mudha chairs and stools at Dera Mandawa Jaipur and Dera Mandwa Farm, Naharsinghani Jod, Tehsi: Nawalgarh, Rajasthan. www.deramandawa.com
Durga Singh- Dera Mandawa, Jaipur