Textiles of Assam

Assam comprises of both tribal and non-tribal populations. The Assamese tribes include the Boro-Kachari, Mishing, Mech, Lalung, Chutiya, Dimasa Cachari, and Karbi Anglong. Just as the bamboo craft was once a male bastion in Assam, textiles were exclusively a female occupation. This trend is still in vouge in many parts of Assam. For domestic consumption a throw-shuttle loom is used in the non-tribal lowlands while commercial weaving is done on fly-shuttle looms with the aid of a jacquard device.

Fabrics from Assam include the hand-woven fabrics of cotton, muga, pat (mulberry silk) and eri (endi). Muga has a natural golden texture, mildly warm and prticularly suited for winters. Zari work on Muga silk fabrics were woven for royalty, but today zari has been replaced by multicoloured cotton threads. Cotton textiles include bedspreads, furnishing material, mekhala, chaddars, shawls and saris. The lasingphee produced by weavers of Cachar district is extraordinarily warm and soft with excellent craftsmanship as it is woven by using colourful staple yarn with cotton or bamboo inserted between the wefts for warmth.

The weavers from Assam weave beautiful designs on the borders of their mekhlas, chaddars, rihas (traditional garments used by the women) and gamosas (towels). The patterns generally involve animals, human figures, flowers, birds and diamonds. The designs in Assam are symbolic of the different tribes and ethnic groups of the area.

Women weavers work from a graph of small designs which are generally geometric patterns embellished with floral tracery in between coloured strips and is woven on a loin-loom with traditional colours.

As per custom, the young woman in Assamese society has to present a self-woven bihuan (gamosa or towel) to her beloved as a token of love, and to elders as a symbol of respect on Bohag Bihu (New Year's Eve). These towels are white with patterns at both ends with stylised forms of birds, animals, humans, flowers, foliage and geometric motifs.

The beautiful tribal mirijim work is commonly done on blankets, mattresses and floor coverings in honour of guests and visiting dignitaries. The work is known for its great beauty, excellence of traditional designs and durability.