Apart from ensuring livelihood to humongous rural population, weaving is an indispensable part of Assamese culture. Handloom industry is a rural based industry and weavers play an important role in economic growth of Assam. Flagship product of handloom industry of Assam is Mekhela chadar followed by various others products such as sarees, gamcha or gamusa, shawls, stoles etc. Very interestingly, each weave has unique designs and motifs inspired from the culture, numerous ingenious tribes and flora and fauna of the region.
We present you with some of the major designs or weaving styles of Assam and the interesting story behind them.
Gamusa Design (Gamcha style) :
Gamusa is a term very synonymous to Assamese culture. It is derived from two words – ‘Ga’ means “Body” and ‘Musa’ means “Wipe” which is synonymous to “Towel”. Though the literal meaning is just a towel, gamusa is more than a piece of cloth for an Assamese. During various functions, Bihu, wedding, and more such kind of occasions, gamusa is gifted as token of respect.
The latest innovation of Gamusa/Gamcha comes in the form of a traditional Assamese Mekhala Chadar which is called Gamcha style Mekhela Chadar or Gamcha style Mekhela Saree. True to the Bihu colours, they are woven in red and white colours on cotton staying true to the Assamese tradition. The Gamusa design Mekhela Chadar also comes in different colour variations with white as the common colour in all of them.
The moment we think of taking a trip to Assam, the first thing that comes to our mind is the one-horned Rhinoceros of Kaziranga National Park. Thanks to our skilled artisans, now we can drape a piece of our memories in the form of Kaziranga design sarees and Mekhela chadars. They are the latest innovation to add to the long list of Assam handlooms.
Kaziranga sarees are also commonly known as Rhino sarees. They mostly come in pure cotton and mercerized cotton where the designs of rhino are woven on to the sarees in different colours. Thanks to our weavers, we can now buy them in different colour combinations, but the most traditional design comes on a cream saree where the rhinos are woven in red, green and black colours.
Brocade design is mostly one single design which is woven continuously one beside the other in many lines. They are generally contrast in colour to the fabric on which it is woven. These designs give a very subtle but a rich look to the outfit and is suitable for wearing for any events or functions.
The brocade mekhela chadars mostly come in staple cotton or nuni silk. They are mostly light weight and are a comfortable wear during summers.
Mishing is a tribal community from Assam. Weaving is an inherent culture among the mishing women who are trained in this art right from their childhood who are also very sound about the use of natural dyes.
It is very easy to identify a mishing mekhela chadar. The traditional tribal designs are woven on black coloured mekhela chadar with multi-coloured geometric designs handwoven across the border lining of the mekhela chadar as well as the blouse. Other major colors in Mishing design are red, blue, green and white.
Karbi is also a tribal community from the “Hills of Karbi Anglong”. The Karbi designs are one of the most commonly used motifs when it comes to weaving. The commonly used motif is called “Jamiliaman”, which means two birds sitting on a branch of a tree and looking at each other.
These tribal print clothing are these days being made into mekhela chadar, kurtas and skirts. The Karbi design mekhela chadar is being handwoven in staple cotton as well as silk.
The Rabha tribes are majorly from Assam followed by West Bengal and Meghalaya. They are believed to be a part of the Indo Mongloid group of people. They are very attached to their traditions and have unique designs and colourful patterns.
They have cris-cross patterns running across the border and have big colourful geometrical designs woven into them. Possessing a rabha design mekhela chadar is like owning one of the most intimate part of Assam close to your heart. It is mostly woven in cotton due to complex design.
Kingkhap Design is inspired from the Ahom dynasty and signifies the royalty and generosity of the kingdom. Kingkhap design Mekhela chadar consists of two lions facing each other.
Blog contributed by
Kavitha Sreekumar Baptist
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- Tags: Assam Silk Saree, Assamese traditional dress, Brocade design mekhela chadar, Gamcha design mekhela chadar, gamcha style mekhela chadar, Handloom, Handloom sarees, karbi design, Mekhela Chadar, Mekhela sador, mekhela saree, mishing design, rabha design