The Barpali Days

This blog is the Facebook of Barpali which picturise its "life" and "culture". It was a "palli" or a village a century back where the all time great Oriya poet swabhaba kabi Gangadhar Meher had taken birth. Now this bustling little town is renowned world-over for the weaving of Sambalpuri ikat handloom fabrics. Agriculture is its prime economy. And when you happen to visit this little town don't miss to taste Chaul bara.


Feb 21, 2012

Khus khus [ବେଣା ଚେର]

Khus khus are  the roots of a kind of grass which grows in wild profusion in the meadows and  barren lands, spread across the interiors of  India. The botanical name for Khus Khus is Vetiveria  Zixanoides.

It is not cultivated on a commercial scale. Nevertheless, its value be undermined. The roots of this grass is the ideal answer to fight the tropical heat of Indian summer. Once the roots are harvested, they are made into door and window screens with the support of bamboo frames. Water is sprinkled on the khus khus whose natural fibres absorb the moisture and retain the dampness  for  longer  hours. The hot summer winds passing  through these screens, get cooled and what is  more, a distinctly,  mild fragrance is released gently. This  has a very soothing effect on all who enjoy this natural form of air-conditioning.

[The Khus khus grass]
At first glance this grass could be dismissed for some wild growth. But in reality, its value is not to be underestimated. Khus Khus has been much valued from  time immemorial, that it was used  in palaces and royal courtyards, and  even in humble abodes to combat the searing heat of the Indian summer. Since the ‘80 Khus Khus has received a new lease of life.  Around this time the Indian durable market was flooded with air coolers for the first time. Till then khus khus roots were made as screens, which were then hung up  outside doors and windows. Overnight, its potential was utilized in an unique way. Rectangular frames of khus khus were inserted inside the air coolers. Thus it served a dual purpose. While the air was cooled it gave off the pleasant scent of khus khus.
In Odisha, khus khus grows in wild profusion in its outlying districts. Once the grass is dug up, its roots are crafted by hand without the aid of any kind of tools, into door and window screens. Bamboo is used to make the frames for these khus khus screens. However, the bamboo frame does not last long due, as insects cause irreparable damage.

Till the last decade the tribals tied the khus khus roots together with jute fibre. But recently they found that plastic threads are a more durable option. But to get the best out of khus khus screens it is advisable to change them every summer. Khus khus however cannot be used in coastal regions. When the saline air of this area comes in contact with the wet screens, it leaves behind a   salt residue which gets embedded in the screen and  thus causes irreparable damage to the screen.

[a close-up view of Khus khus roots]
When you travel 8 kms south of Bargarh town you will reach a small hamlet by the name Nileswar. In this village many families, over several generations have been engaged in  the making of khus khus mats. In this village the entire Nariha Tikra street, is dominated by the families who make these khus khus mats.

 Locally khus khus is referred to as bena chera.  Around the time Dusserah festival is celebrated, the tribal folks of Lakhanpur Dungri of Bargah district are engaged in digging up this grass from which they extract its unique roots. In the month of October a quintal of bena chera can fetch upto Rs. 1,400/- INR. But in summer the prices soar and touch Rs. 1,800/- to Rs. 2.000/- per quintal. Soon after Dushera these tribal folks get down to making the khus khus mats. The sale of these mats  commences during the Hindu calendar months of Phagun and Jeth which coincide with the months of April and May. The workers have to sell all their stock during these two months, or else, the surplus stock will prove to be a liability for them. The khus khus production has not received Government recognition as a cottage industry. It is a  disheartening situation, as several families are engaged in this cottage industry, without Government aid to face fluctuating market conditions. 

Every summer, in Nileswar it is a common sight to find  the craftsmen loading up  their  bena chera mats on to their cyles and heading for the neighbouring towns of Bargarh and Barpali  to sell their wares. At  Kannauj ( Uttar Pradesh) perfume is extracted from khus khus the end product of which got  wider application in the  sweet Supari and the Gutkha industry.  The Khus Khus perfume has a unique fragrance, which is  much appreciated the world over. Its oil has sedative properties. It also aids in controlling negative emotional outbursts such as bouts of  anger, anxiety, nervousness, as well as epileptic and hysteric attacks. 
[a lady using a hand fan made with khus khus roots]
With the rapid advances made in the  technological field, traditional arts and crafts are dying a slow death. But surprisingly, Khus Khus still has a loyal following among those who value traditional and natural products. The corporate executive who is ensconced in the confines of an air conditioned office will never know the benefits of air which is cooled in the traditional way with the help of khus khus mats.

Each summer, Gurudev Sahu  of Nileswar village, with the help of  three other adult craftsmen of his family, nets barely Rs. 20,000/- INR selling these khus khus mats. For all the toil put in the reward is but a mere pittance. In Oriya there is a saying “bhuka gai bena khae”. So in essence, only a hungry cow will eat the khus khus grass despite the fact that it  has got sharp blades that too which are actually inedible.

Note : The profile picture of a cottage with the khus khus screen is a unit of  the residence of this writer.

Fans, coolers, air conditioners, AC, exhaust fans, air blowers
E. KIRAN MOHAN(The Writer)
C\o. Dr.E.R.Rao (MD)
Main Road, Barpali-768029
Dist-Bargarh, Odisha, India

Ph- +918249314972 (Cell)


  1. Is there a way that we can buy khus khus root mats from these people.

    1. Srinivas,
      thanx for expressing your willingness to buy khus khus mats. You need to speak with me over the phone or mail me. I unable to contact you since dont have your email id.

      Since these are low end products it is not viable to transport to distant places.


  2. Hello Sir,

    My name is Srikanth - From chennai.

    Can I order some mats for my home ?

    My phone no. : 93630 34163, email :

  3. Hello

    I would also like to buy these khus mats for my windows. Contact details -, 9322297944

  4. Hi,
    I need 50 kg of khus khus grass root in mat format , please reach me at for kore detaol..i can be regular customer from Bangalore.

    1. Namaskaram. You were asking for the Khus khus mats of 50kgs. Rather mats are sold in square feets. You need to tell the length and width of your need and how many pieces you are looking for? The question is how will you take delivery of the stock?
      Cell # +918249314972
      E.Kiran Mohan(The Writer)

  5. Appreciate this post. Will try it out.

  6. Sweet blog! I found it while browsing on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I've been trying for a while but I never seem to get there!

  7. Hi there, just wanted to say, I loved this article. It was helpful.
    Keep on posting!

  8. Hi there
    Can you send to London if I made to order a khus khus blind for window for my home
    My contact information
    Many thanks

    1. Santosh,
      Greetings from Barpali, Odisha. You need to tell the size of the khus khus screen that you want to buy. I shall go to that village and ask the workers to make it for you. Since it is a bulk product we have to see if it would be viable to dispatch Offshore. I ask you to communicate with me on my WhatsApp number given below. What you do over there?
      WhatsApp# +918249314972

  9. sir,
    i am from bhubaneswar and everyone knows that the typical heat of bbsr can't be ignored at all.
    so i want to buy 5-10 benachera mats. can I get if I order it?
    is there any process to buy from u?

    1. Sovan definitely I shall help but speak me over the phone 8249314972

  10. Is it possible to deliver by bus/ cargo courier to bhubaneswar?
    Also I need the standard sizes( lengthxwidth) made by our artisans near bargarh.
    My email id (