Bamboo is a tribe of flowering perennial evergreen plants belonging to the grass family. It is one of the most versatile grasses found on Earth. This amazing grass, which grows very fast and in clumps, can be grown anywhere. Bamboo grows naturally in the northeastern and southern parts of India, where the geographical conditions have always been suitable for it to grow in abundance.
For centuries now, the local people have been using bamboo for almost everything from food to construction. The best place to learn more about this ‘woody grass’ is at India’s one and only Bamboo Museum, found in the premises of the Institute of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology (IHBT), one of the many research laboratories of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research of India, based in Palampur, in Himachal Pradesh.
The Bamboo Museum is built using various species of bamboo. The walls, the floor, the ceiling, the entire exterior, the doors and even the furniture inside are made using bamboo alone. Numerous handicrafts made out of bamboo are displayed in the museum. Seeds of bamboo as well as sweetmeats and pickles made out of bamboo are available for visitors to see and taste. To add to the beauty of the structure, along the exterior walls, varieties of bamboo are planted in pots.
The Bamboo Museum was first opened to public on September 30, 2011. The museum was the brainchild of Dr. Anil Sood and a few of his scientist colleagues, who have done decades of research on this plant family. The aim behind establishing a museum like this is to educate all the visitors on how just one family of grass, with over a thousand species, can take care of all our requirements.
There are about 125 species of this perennial evergreen plant found in India and around 50 of them are grown in the institute at Palampur. Bamboo comes in various colors, sizes and girth.
Bamboo is stronger than steel, earthquake-proof and an extremely effective erosion control agent. There is a strong and thorny variety of bamboo that can be grown along the international borders of the country, making a natural fence that is sturdy and very difficult to get across.
Bamboo can be used as a wood substitute for construction work as well as for making strong and sturdy furniture. Bamboo as activated charcoal can be used in water filtration plants and in wineries. We can make paper, handicraft items, weapons and musical instruments from bamboo.
Bamboo shoots and other tender parts of the grass are used to make pickles and other food items. Bamboo candy, as discovered in this laboratory, is rich in vitamins, proteins and fiber and is said to have the capacity to reduce cholesterol if consumed regularly. The food and nutrition department at the institute has been working on introducing bamboo noodles, bamboo nuggets and many other snacks made of bamboo. Different species of bamboo in pots add to the external beauty of the museum.
After reading all the information provided at the museum about the ‘Green Gold of the Forest,’ one realizes that bamboo is one of those grasses that will reduce the problem of food, clothing and housing in the entire country. Bamboo can be grown anywhere and since it grows very fast, it can be harvested and put to use within four years of it being planted.
There is no requirement to destroy bamboo forests for industrial requirements. All that is required to be done is to grow this grass on barren land, which will help in afforestation and reduce soil erosion. In a clump, the older shoots are found on the inside, while the younger shoots are found on the periphery. If the shoots are cut systematically for human and animal consumption, the clump will never be lost.
The IHBT laboratory specializes in plants found in the Himalayas and though Bamboo is not a natural grass found in these mountains, the scientists here promote the research on this plant family and are doing their best to spread information about this grass tribe. These scientists hope that the government and the citizens of this country will understand the importance of growing bamboo extensively and making the best use of it.
The museum holds a great significance as means to educate, create awareness and promote use of bamboo in India. Moreover, it’s very cheap as a raw material and you can eat it, make clothes, fuel or use it as construction material.
How to get there: Palampur does not have an airport. Nearest airport is Gaggal airport in Dharamsala which is 25 km away. There are regular buses from other major cities of the country to Palampur.