Fabrics and Attires of the Communities, Lower Assam
Concentrated mostly in the districts of Goalpara and Kamrup, the Rabhas weave very bright textiles of different colours like blue, green, red etc. The fabric woven is usually very soft cotton used for making a range of garments. The Riphaan worn by the women is wrapped around their bodies covering right from the chest area to the feet. Around the upper body, on top of the Riphaan is Kambung cloth, and the Pajar is worn as a shoulder scarf.
The Khodoban is the fabric that covers the head. The Rabha men cover their head with a cloth known as Khopon and their upper bodies with a shirt-like garment called Buksil. The Pajal is a knee length loin cloth that covers the lower body. The motifs on these fabrics and clothes are carefully woven with thread, depicting local flora and fauna, and various geometrical patterns.
The Bodos are a major tribe of Assam and are known for their handloom skills, mostly weaving a range of cotton and silk fabrics. The Bodo women wrap around their bodies the Dokhona. This brightly coloured (traditionally yellow) garment has beautiful motifs with threads of different hues on it. To go with the Dokhona a finely woven stole or Jwmgra is put around the shoulders.
The Bodo males cover their lower bodies with a wrapper called Fali and hanging around their shoulders is the beautiful scarf or Arnai.The Fali is in fact a type of chequered Gamocha, which is not just used as a loin cloth but also as a towel, handkerchief etc.
The Arnai on the other hand is a symbol of respect and is often gifted to people to express the same. In the winters, an eri shawl of Endi Shi is used to keep warm. It is decorated usually with floral motifs of bright colours.
The Hajong women of Assam wears a long, vibrant cotton wrapper or Pathin, covering both their upper and lower bodies. To go with the Pathin, a shawl called Pasra or Argon is worn. The men wear a dhoti as a loincloth and take a Gamocha usually to go with it. The Gamocha is also worn as a waist cloth with shirts.
The Phaguri is the woven fabric wrapped around the head by the Tiwa men as a turban. The Thagla is a jacket, mostly in black used to cover the upper body, and the Tongali is wrapped around the waist like a girdle. Tiwa women also wear Tongali. Covering their upper bodies is the Phaskai, while the Kasong is used as a lower garment.
Gamocha, used all over Assam
A Gamocha can be literally explained as something to wipe the body with ('ga' meaning body, 'mocha' meaningto wipe). While it is used regularly for this purpose in the Assamese households, its cultural significance is far too great for it to be simply understood as a towel. Typically, a rectangular, white piece of fabric with red borders, Gamochas are usually made of cotton. However, with respect to the purpose of its use, expensive silk Gamochas are also produced abundantly.
It is used as a symbol of respect while offering it to an elder or accomplished member of the society. When gifted to each other during festivals like Bihu and other celebrations, Gamocha becomes an expression of love and friendship.
A Gamocha which is specially meant for exchange during Bihu is commonly known as Bihuwan.
The Gamocha is further used as a signifier of reverence while decorating altars or covering religious books with it. In the day to day lives of people, besides being used as a towel, it is also used as a handkerchief, a girdle and for a range of other purposes. The Gamocha is undoubtedly a significant part of Assamese identity.
Fabrics and Attires of the People, Hill Districts
The skirt worn at the waist by Karbi women is called the Pini, similar to a Mekhela. As a Chadar, the Pekok is tied on the right shoulder, and the Wamkok is a waist girdle to hold the attire in place. The Karbi men tie the Poho as headgear and the Rikong as the loincloth. A striped jacket or Choi is used to cover the upper body. Traditionally, the colours white, black and red were used in Karbi textiles though now the range of colours have diversified. The motifs on the fabrics are inspired by local plants, flowers, animals, etc. and the material used for making these different garments is typically cotton and sometimes silk.
Covering their bodies from chest to knees, the Dimasa women wear the Rijamphain. The Rigu, on the other hand, is the wrapper worn from the waist to ankles. Above the chest wrapper, a muffler or Rikhaosa is worn. This muffler is also worn by the Dimasa men. The men wear a knee-length dhoti called the Risha or an ankle length dhoti called Gainthao. A Rithap is an Eri shawl worn by men and on their heads they tie a Phagri or turban.
Silk Products, Sualkuchi
Located on the north bank of the Brahmaputra is the Heritage Handloom Village of Sualkuchi. It is said that back in the 11th century, under the Pala rule, more than twenty weaving families were brought to and settled in Sualkuchi from Taantikuchi (present-day Barpeta). The location was perhaps considered suitable due to its proximity to Pragjyotishpura - the erstwhile capital of the kingdom of Kamarupa, boosting patronage and production of these skilled weavers. Later, Sualkuchi received patronage from the Ahom rulers and eventually the region developed as a weaving village.
Today Sualkuchi is lined with numerous handloom units producing traditional Assamese attire. A range of clothes like Mekhela Chador (shawl and wrapper for women), Riha (a piece of fabric to be worn under the Sador), cheleng (shawl for men) etc. are produced here. Most of these are made of the famous Assam Silks - the beautiful white Paat, the warm and comfortable Eri, and the shiny golden Muga.
Both female and male weavers are at work here, and the frame looms used for weaving are usually made of bamboo and wood. On Muga and Eri, designs of flora, fauna and geometrical patterns are made predominantly with red threads with a hint of black here and there. But on the white Paat, the thread chosen is golden in colour. Silk dyed in various colours outnumbers their natural hues.
Fabrics and Attires of the Communities, Upper Assam
Weaving is a very integral part in the lives of the women of the Mishing community - one of the major tribes of Assam. The Mibu-Galuk is a jacket and the Ugon is the loin cloth worn by the men, along with a muffler or Erkog that hangs around the shoulder. The women wear a Ribi or a Gaseng as a chador. The Gasor and Ege are also garments worn as chador and wrapper by the women of the community. Black, red, green, yellow and other bright colours mark the Mishing textiles and fabrics, maintaining a sense of symmetry and colour coordination throughout. Geometrical patterns of different sizes are woven mostly on the borders and the body of the cloth, making the cotton (or silk) fabric look vibrant and attractive.
The Mishing people are also known for the Mirijim or Gadu that they weave. It is a very warm quilt that is furry and fluffy on one side. Made of cotton, this blanket is woven of thick warp and soft weft yarn. Most importantly, the Gadu is a symbol of respect, status and dignity. It is often also offered as gifts on occasions like marriage and others.
Tai Phake Attire
The Tai Phake men wear a turban of white fabric (mostly cotton) called Pha Ho, a shirt or Sho and use a checkered wrap around or Fatong to cover their lower bodies. The women wear a colourful, ankle-length skirt called Chin and cover their upper bodies with Nangwat. The younger girls use a white cloth or Fafek for the same. The elderly women often cover their heads with a piece of white cloth. The colour scheme of the clothes change with the age of the woman - the shades gradually turning darker as the girl matures.
The Deori men cover their lower bodies with an Ikhoon. The women wrap around their bodies the Ujadooba Igoon with a Jokachhiba acting as a girdle. They also often use a Gamocha or Gathiki to cover their heads. Varied ornaments are used to accessorize and adorn their bodies further.
The Skirt worn by the Sutiya women is known as Mekhela or Igu. Around the chest, they wrap around a rectangular piece of cloth called the Isa or Risa. They cover their heads with a Gamocha, also known as Gathigi. The Sutiya men use a Paguri as a turban and cover their lower bodies with a Dhoti or Churiya. Around their waists, they use the Tangali as a girdle, and on their shoulders, they drape the Cheleng and Bisuwan (basically a Gamocha).
Women in Traditional Bodo attire
A traditional Bodo scarf
Women in Pathin and Argon
A kambung being woven
Traditional Hajong Argon
Samples of Arnai
Traditional Hajong Argon in red
A traditional Rabha weave
Paat Silk Gamocha with red borders
A Gamocha being woven on the loom
A Gamocha offered as a sign of respect
Muga Silk Gamochas
A Cotton Bihuwan
Dimasa traditional attire.
A Karbi Man wearing a Poho and Choi
Paat Mekhela silk showing motifs with red thread
Muga Mekhela silk Chadar
Eri silk Shawl woven in Sualkuchi
A Frame loom made of bamboo and wood
Artisan at work in Sualkuchi
Sutiya women wearing a Gathigi, Igu and Risa
An elderly couple in Deori Attire
Tai Phake weaves
Traditional Mishing attire with a Mibu-Galuk in the centre.
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