Thursday, February 7, 2008

About Art and Craft work found in Assam


Assamese garments –Via Fashion Show

Assamese garments –Via Fashion Show

Assamese garments –Via Fashion Show

Assamese garments –Via Fashion Show

Bodo Dokhona Dress













The indigenous handicrafts that in other parts of the country are confined to professional castes were practiced as household industries in the valley of the Brahmaputra. In Assam proper, there is no dearth of raw materials. Indigenous manufacturers consisted of thread and fabrics, cotton textiles, brass utensils, oil extracted from mustard or til seeds gur or molasses, jewelleries, articles of ivory and agricultural implements. Every family in Assam proper had looms to meet the requirement of the household. The looms were in fact the centre of domestic economy, the only hope of salvation in an hour of distress or despair. Cotton manufactures- churias, chaddars, barkapors, khania kapor and gamochas- were entirely in the hands of women of all classes, although women of respectability and position usually prepared only the finest fabrics- asu or asuli poreah, gunnah, kotah, gai bonkara- resembling the muslins of Dacca.

From time immemorial, the people of Assam have traditionally been craftsmen. The magic of art of Assamese craftsmen is a common passion inspiring the deep senses with its’ age old simplicity and sophistication. Though, Assam is renown for its exquisite silks, bamboo and cane products, several other crafts are also made here. The colourful Assamese Japi (headgear), terracotta of Gauripur and various decorative items bear witness to the craftsmanship of this land. Assam Handloom is indeed noteworthy offering a mosaic of colours and contours with pleasing motifs and designs. The Eri, Muga (Assamese silk dresses) and typical tribal attires are a treat to the eyes of the beholder.

Dance, music, woodwork, pottery, sitalpati or the art of mat making have survived through centuries with fewer changes since it remained an integral part of the locals. The advent of modernity, indeed, has brought a change in the everyday lifestyle of the tribals, yet the basic arts and crafts, and their technique of production has not changed much.

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Sericulture in Assam
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Assam’s handloom industry is basically silk oriented. The salubrious climate of Assam is suitable for sericigenous flora and fauna. Four varieties of silk worms and their host-plants, mulberry, Eri, Muga and Oak Tassar are popular and important for economic and commercial purposes. Sericulture is an important cottage industry of Assam. Eri and Muga have been producing silk traditionally since long back. Muga is the pride of the Assamese ladies. Oak tassar was introduced in Assam only in 1972. Nearly 90% of the silk produced is from the mulberry sector only.
Sericulture is a state concern and is done in four steps
1. The cultivation of the host plant, i.e. som and soalu, requires an ordinary method of cultivation.
2. Strains of silk worms, developed at the central silkworm feed station at sibsagar, provides large quantities of moth eggs. The eggs are kept in cold storage until they are hatched. To avoid any danger of epidemic diseases, only pedigreed strains of silkworms propagated from cultures determined to be disease- free are used.
3. Rearing of silkworms is a laborious process. An important aspect of sericulture is that it requires great skill and patience. Muga reared in the open air, needs to be protected from birds and bats. The female moth lays eggs on the kharika, and when these are newly hatched, the kharika, along with the worms, are hung upon specially selected twigs of young plants. The tiny worms immediately crawl up the leaves to start feeding. After the last moult, the worms feed even more voraciously. At night, they climb down the trunk of the tree, which makes the task of collecting them relatively simple. To spin cocoons, they are put on bundles of dry leafy twigs called tali and taken indoors.
4. The treatment and disposal of cocoons involves unwinding cocoons to make raw silk. The pupae are killed inside the cocoons before they emerge as adults. This is done either by exposing them to the sun or by heating them in a special drying chamber. The cocoons are sorted out for reeling. Before reeling, the muga cocoons are cooked in an alkaline solution of soda ash for an hour. This helps to soften the natural gum, serecin, which holds the filaments together. The true end of the filament is found and a number of cocoons are transferred to the reeling basin containing tepid water. Two methods of reeling are prevalent-the traditional, which involves two persons, and a recent one that employs a fast operating machine with the operator using both hands for reeling. Half of the silk in each cocoon is considered reliable and the remainder, used as silk waste, noil, is transformed into spun silk. After the reeling, the muga threads are dried in the shade for three-four days, following which then they are wound into skeins on a sereki. The sizing of the skeins involves the application of a mixture of powdered rice and water.

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Handlooms
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Assam is the home of several types of silks, the most prominent and prestigious being muga, the golden silk exclusive only to this state. Muga apart, there is paat, as also eri, the latter being used in manufacture of warm clothes for winter. Of a naturally rich golden colour, muga is the finest of India's wild silks. It is produced only in Assam.
The women of Assam weave fairy tales in their looms. Skill to weave was the primary qualification of a young girl for her eligibility for marriage. This perhaps explains why Assam has the largest concentration of Handlooms and weavers in India. One of the world's finest artistic traditions finds expression in their exquisitely woven 'Eri', 'Muga' and 'Pat' fabrics.

The traditional handloom silks still hold their own in world markets They score over factory-made silks in the richness of their textures and designs, in their individuality, character and classic beauty. No two handwoven silks are exactly alike. Personality of the weaver, her hereditary skill, her innate sense of colour and balance all help to create a unique product.

Today, India exports a wide variety of silks to western Europe and the United States, especially as exclusive furnishing fabrics. Boutiques and fashion houses, designers and interior decorators have the advantage of getting custom-woven fabrics in the designs, weaves and colours of their choice. A service that ensures an exclusive product not easily repeatable by competitors.

The Tribals on the other hand have a wide variety of colourful costumes, some of which have earned International repute through the export market.
Weaving in Assam is so replete with artistic sensibility and so intimately linked to folk life that Gandhiji, during his famous tour to promote khadi and swadeshi, was so moved that he remarked : "Assamese women weave fairy tales in their clothes!"

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Weaving and Spinning
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Weaving and embroidery is one of the main industry of Assam. Some of the Assamese traditional garments like Mekhela - Chadar, two piece Assamese ladies apparel have beautiful designed borders. Cotton, Muga silk, Paat (Silk), Eri silk are common fabrics widely used for weaving. Images of animals, human figures, creepers, flowers, birds etc. are embroidered on handloom products. Sarees, shawls, jackets, gamocha (Assamese Towel), table spreads, mats and napkins are the common products. Cachar district and Sualkuchi (Silk weaving centre) are the main handloom weaving centres of Assam.
Fibre is also weaved on a loom made of wood and bamboo poles in Batadrava area of Nagaon district and Gauripur of Dhubri district. Seats, mats and cushions are made with fibre.

Assam has a glorious tradition of Handicrafts. Handloom weaving is a way of life in Assam. Almost every household in the village has a prized possession of a loom. Cotton, Muga, Paat (Silk) and Endi are common fabrics widely used for weaving. Images or caricatures of animals, human figures, creepers, flowers, birds, cross borders etc. are favoured motifs embroidered on these handloom products.

The traditional garments with beautiful designed borders are mekhela-chaddar, Riha and Gamosa (Towels). The Laichangphi quilts in Cachar district are an industry by itself of Assam. Sualkuchi being the biggest silk production center is called as the 'Manchester of Assam'.
Handlooms : Assam is the home of several types of silks, the most prominent and prestigious being muga, the golden silk exclusive only to this state. Muga apart, there is paat, as also eri, the latter being used in manufacture of warm clothes for winter.Of a naturally rich golden colour, muga is the finest of India's wild silks. It is produced only in Assam.

Handloom weaving is a way of life in Assam. The number of looms in the State stands at around eight lakhs which works out to around 16 per cent of the looms in the entire Country. More than thirty thousand looms operate exclusively in silk. Cotton, muga, paat (mulberry silk) and endi are the basic raw materials for hand-woven fabrics in Assam.

Sualkuchi is the biggest centre of silk production and weaving in the State. There are more than 3,000 weavers in and around the township. Sualkuchi is known as the Manchester of Assam.Muga silk has a natural golden colour and rare sheen that becomes more lustruous with every wash. Eri is a warm silk suitable for the winter.The designs used in Assam are mostly stylised symbols of animals, human figures,creepers, flowers, birds, channels, cross borders and the galaxy.

Each ethnic group of the State has its own distinctive design and style. Assamese weavers produce beautiful designs on the borders of traditional garments such as the mekhela-chaddar and riha and on the gamosa (towel) .The Laichangphi, produced traditionally by the weavers of Cachar district, is a popular quilt sought after because of its warmth and softness. The tribals make beautiful shawls.

Handloom weaving forms a cultural constituent of the woman of Assam. In earlier days most of the cloth required for the family was produced in the family itself. There were of the plainest kind and none of the latest improvements had been introduced. The different local varieties of spinning and weaving had been used in different parts of the province and posted loom used in the plains were different from the hill tribes in which the warp was tied up in split bamboo to the ends of which were fastened a leather strap which passed across the weavers. Comparatively the Assamese looms were in an advanced stage and suitable for the production of finer quality of fabrics of all kinds. All manufactures were of course meant for the domestic consumption. In the absence of competition, largely quality produced was poor and export of cotton textiles was negligible.

Varieties and artistic ornaments distinguished Cotton fabrics turned out by the Assamese and some of the tribesmen. Amongst the Assamese fabrics, ornamentation were either knitted on the fabrics after the weaving or worked along with the weaving. Embroidery was done chiefly in muga silk or gold and silver wire (guna) by artisans called Gunaakatas but these workmen gradually disappeared with the arrival of gold and silver wires from Europe. The Assamese women knew the use of needle for ornamentation of various design and patterns from early times. They were also adept in the art of mixed raw materials; cotton mixed with silk. Endi or eri was woven with cotton. Rarely cotton was combined with pat silk, but often with muga; churi and riha of such materials were usually manufactured.
The number of looms in the State stands at around eight lakhs which works out to around 16 per cent of the looms in the entire Country. More than thirty thousand looms operate exclusively in silk. Cotton, muga, paat (mulberry silk) and endi are the basic raw materials for hand-woven fabrics in Assam.

Sualkuchi is the biggest centre of silk production and weaving in the State. There are more than 3,000 weavers in and around the township. Sualkuchi is known as the Manchester of Assam.
Muga silk has a natural golden colour and rare sheen that becomes more lustruous with every wash. Eri is a warm silk suitable for the winter. The designs used in Assam are mostly stylised symbols of animals, human figures, creepers, flowers, birds, channels, cross borders and the galaxy. Each ethnic group of the State has its own distinctive design and style. Assamese weavers produce beautiful designs on the borders of traditional garments such as the mekhela-chaddar and riha and on the gamosa (towel). The Laichangphi, produced traditionally by the weavers of Cachar district, is a popular quilt sought after because of its warmth and softness.

Now the scenes have changed totally in urban areas. Mill products are gradually replacing the homemade products. Home made cloths are Mekhla and Patani (lower garment of the women), chaddar (upper garment of the women), gamocha (towel), dhuti, bed sheet, eri (endi), etc. some of them have fly shuttle or throw shuttle and Assamese type loom. Throw shuttle loom antedates the fly shuttle loom. Villagers do generally not do spinning. They get mill-products yarn from the market. A few of them keep eri (endi) cocoons to produce eri (endi) cloth. The designs of the textiles are tradition of the Assamese culture and they are initiated at the base level by the Sipini (weaver women) of Assam.

Traditionally men folk of plains wear mill- made dhuties and small or big sized sola/fatua (shirt) and vest or eri-chaddar. In villages, rich men use headgear. They use japi (hat) while working in paddy fields. The young boys use dhuti, genji only on some occasions but they prefer using western dresses. The Assamese wear bare foot. The Assamese ladies enter the kitchen bare foot. The Assamese young boys use on occasions headgears with their gomacha, which they tie to their hip, especially when they are dancing in Bihu to cover the waist with the dhuti. Some young men use Khaddar clothes.

Assamese women use riha-mekhela-Sadar. The long flowing skirt up to the ankles is known as mekhela and the upper garment riha. The red coloured pattern at the end of the riha is graceful and symbolic. Designs are also found in the pari (border) of mekhela and riha. It is said that the dress of mehkela and the riha chaddar has been adopted from the Tibetan and Burmese women. Some are of the opinion that the long back saree was the dress of the Assamese women. The bride of lower Assam use saree in the marriage ceremony. However, some Assamese ladies have started using saree at home and outside, as it is cheaper than mekhela chaddar. Ladies of Goalpara, Gouripur, and Dhubri area prefer sari for both outside and for home. The Bodo ladies of Kokrajhar, Darrang, Sonitpur etc. use Dakhna which is different from Mehkela-riha-Sador. Generally, dakhna has yellow colour body with some design in brown colour etc. ladies do not use headgear.

Married women cover their head with one end of the riha-sador and it is called orni or ghumta. The Hindu married ladies put vermilion on their forehead and on the parting of combed hair and wear bangles made of shell. Women wear mekhela covering waist and ankle. Riha cover the upper part. They wear sador to cover the upper part and use blouse and bodice. Assamese Muslims also use same dresses except vermilion.
The people of Assam have traditionally been craftsmen from time immemorial. Though Assam is mostly known for its exquisite silks and the bamboo and cane products, several other crafts are also made here.

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Assamese Vaishnavite Silks
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Although Assam is well known as a major area of silk production, complex weaving techniques and dense figural decoration are not features usually associated with the region. Tribal groups incorporate some simple extra weft geometric designs into silk cloths, but most of the silk textiles produced there have traditionally been plain, undeyed length. A complicated Lampa technique is carried out in Assam with the range of cloth discussed here.
The textiles of this group vary considerably in quality, but are all characterized by designs depicting scenes from the life of Krishna. Most of these relate to his exploits as a killer of demons in various animal forms (crane, the snake and others) or as a lover of the cowherds (gopi) with whom he passed his youth in the forests of Vrindavan.
Several of the pieces also show scenes from the Ramayana, which of course concerns another incarnation of Vishnu- Rama and some include depictions of other avatars, such as Matsya the fish, Kurma the tortoise and Narsimha the man-lion. In several of the more complex pieces Garuda Vishnu’s man-bird vehicle, is also shown. Almost all the pieces have woven inscriptions in Assamese which though not read yet in their entirety, seem to be mostly simple labels to the scenes or characters depicted: Rama avatar or Bali Sugriva. Other pieces especially those with black ground favour larger blocks of text, which may be quotations from the Bahagavat Purana, with which these cloths are closely linked.

This vastra was to perform unusual role in Vaishnavite worship. The drawing of the figures is fine and well conceived with an interesting variation of scale between rows. The only poorly woven section are the inscriptions which are barely decipherable as the names of the figures are in some cases reversed.

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Cane and Bamboo
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The best-known places for basketry and mats are Assam and Bengal. Assam, a state with abundant raw materials, has a large variety of beautiful products like baskets, mugs for rice beer, hukkas, musical instruments, floor mats, fishing devices and handles.
The Jappi, the traditional sunshade continues to be the most prestigious of bamboo items of the state, and it has been in use since the days when the great Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang came to Assam that visitors are welcomed with a jaapi.

Cane and bamboo products is another important industry of Assam. Assamese make beautiful furniture and roof tiles with cane. Common house hold articles like sieve, beer mug, winnowing pan, waterpot, small baskets and hats with colourful design and motif are made out of Bamboo.
Rich with cane and bamboo forests, Assam has not only the raw material but also the fine artistic sense of making the cane furniture which are highly appreciated all over the world. The Chalani (sieve), kula (winnowing pan), Khorahi (small baskets), the Japi (hat) with colorful design and motif made out of Bamboo strips enjoy enormous domestic demands. Cachar is famous for Sitalpati (mats) made out of Patidai or mohtra reeds.

Cane and Bamboo being quite common all over, are used to make a variety of products. Cane furniture of Assam is much sought after both in the national and international markets.
Bamboo is used mostly to make domestic products such as chalani (sieve), kula (winnowing pan), khorahi (small basket), etc. The fancy bamboo japi (hat) with its colourful design and motif is worn by the Assamese peasant while working in the field.

Cane and bamboo have remained inseparable parts of life in Assam. They are the two most commonly-used items to make a variety of products in daily life, ranging from household implements to construction of dwelling houses to weaving accessories to musical instruments.

Bamboo is used mostly to make domestic products such as chalani (sieve), kula (winnowing pan), khorahi (small basket), etc. The fancy bamboo japi (hat) with its colourful design and motif is worn by the Assamese peasant while working in the field. The Jappi, the traditional sunshade continues to be the most prestigious of bamboo items of the state, and it has been in use since the days when the great Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang came to Assam that visitors are welcomed with a jaapi.

Cane and bamboo furnitures on the other hand have been very popular in the domestic as well as the export market, while paati, the traditional mat has found its way into the world of interior decoration.

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Metal Crafts
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Brass and Bell Metal products of Assam are also famous for their beauty and strength of form and utility. Brass is an important cottage industry with highest concentration in Hajo of Kamrup district. The Sarthebari area of the same district is well known for its bell metal craft. The principal items of brass are the kalah (water pot), sarai (a platter or tray mounted on a base), kahi (dish), bati (bowl), lota (water pot with a long neck) and tal (cymbals).
Gold, silver and copper too have formed part of traditional metalcraft in Assam, and the State Museum in Guwahati has a rich collection of items made of these metals. Gold however is now used only for ornaments.

The entire population of two townships near Guwahati - Hajo and Sarthebari, are engaged in producing traditional bell-metal and brass articles. They have also used their innovative skills to design modern day articles to compete with the changing times.
Gold, silver and copper too form a part of traditional metal craft in Assam and the State Museum in Guwahati has a rich collection of items made of these metals. Gold however is now used only for ornaments.

Brass and Bell metal products are famous for their beauty, strength and utility. In Hajo of Kamrup district Brass is an important cottage industry. Sarthebari in the same district is famous for bell metal crafts. The artisans prepare Kalah (water pot), Sarai, Kahi (dish) Bati (bowl), Lota and Tal (cymbals) out of this material.

Hajo and Sarthebari in Kamrup district of Assam are famous for brass and bell metal crafts respectively. The main products are Kalah (water pot), Sarai, Kahi (dish) Bati (bowl), Lota and Tal (cymbals) etc.
Bell-metal and brass have been the most commonly used metals for the Assamese artisan. Traditional utensils and fancy articles designed by these artisans are found in every Assamese household. The Xorai and Bota have in use for centuries, to offer betel-nut and paan while welcoming distinguished guests.

The entire population of two townships near Guwahati - Hajo and Sarthebari, are engaged in producing traditional bell-metal and brass articles. They have also used their innovative skills to design modern day articles to compete with the changing times.
The Sarthebari area of the same district is well known for its bell metal craft. The principal items of brass are the kalah (water pot), Xorai (a platter or tray mounted on a base), kahi (dish), bati (bowl), lota (water pot with a long neck) and tal (cymbals).
Gold, silver and copper too have formed part of traditional metal craft in Assam, and the State Museum in Guwahati has a rich collection of items made of these metals. Gold however is now used only for ornaments.

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Toys
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The toys of Assam have been broadly classified under four heads : (i) clay toys, (ii) pith, (iii) wooden and bamboo toys, and (iv) cloth and cloth-and-mud toys.

While the human figure, especially dolls, brides and grooms, is the most common theme of all kinds of toys, a variety of animals forms have also dominated the clay-toys scene of Assam. Clay traditionally made by the Kumar and Hira communities, have often depicted different animals too, while gods, goddesses and other mythological figures also find importance in the work of traditional artist.

Pith or Indian cork has also been used for toy-making since centuries in Assam. Such toys are chiefly made in the Goalpara region and they include figures of gods, animals and birds, the last of which again dominate the over-all output.

Wood and bamboo on the other hand have been in use for making toys for several centuries , and like the other mediums, come as birds, animals and human figures.

Toys of cloth as also with a mixture of cloth and mud too have constituted part of the rich Assamese toy-making tradition. While the art of making cloth toys have been traditionally handed down from mother to daughter in every household, the cloth-and-mud toys are generally used for puppet theatres. Among the household toys, the bride and the groom are the most common characters, while the other varieties have animals and mythological characters as the plays demand.

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Pottery
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Pottery is probably as old as human civilisation itself. In Assam, pottery can be traced back to many centuries. The Kumars and Hiras are two traditional potter communities of Assam and while the Kumars use the wheel to produce his pots, the Hiras are probably the only potters in the world who do not use the wheel at all.
The Hiras make household articles using the compression method. Among the Hiras, only the women folk are engaged in pottery work, while their men help them in procuring the raw materials and selling the wares. The Kumars use their potters wheel to make images for worship and clay dolls and toys. The most commonly-used pottery products include earthen pots and pitchers, plates, incense-stick holders, earthen lamps etc, while modern-day decorative have also found place in their latest designs.
Assam also has a body of artists specializing in pottery. Their products are exquisite examples of immaculate craftsmanship. Household articles, toys, dolls and images of worship are the favorites of the pottery artists in Assam.
West Assam has long been proficient in the craft of terracotta. Asharkandi, a village in Goalpara district is famous for its graceful clay dolls.

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Woodcraft
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Woodcraft : Assam has always remained one of the most forest-covered states of the country, and the variety of wood and timber available here have formed a part of the people's culture and ecomony. An Assamese can identify the timber by touching it even in darkness, and can produce a series of items from it.

Woodwork is an ancient Assamese craft. Exquisite wood carvings are seen mostly on doors, walls, beams, ceilings and the splendid carved sinhasans used in prayer houses. Decorative panels in the royal Ahom palaces of the past and the 600-year old sattras or Vaisnavite monasteries are intricately carved in wood.

A special class of people who excelled in wood carving came to be known as Khanikar. The painted woodwork of Golaghat is a folk art. Modern-day khanikars have taken to producing articles of commercial value, including figure of one-horned rhino and replicas of the world-famous Kamakhya temple --- two items heading the list of demands from visitors.
Pith or Indian cork has also been used for toy-making since centuries in Assam. Such toys are chieflymade in the Goalpara regionand they include figures of gods, animals and birds.
. While decorative panels in the royal Ahom palaces of the past and the 600-years old satras or Vaishnative monasteries are intricately carved on wood, a special class of people who excelled in wood carving came to be known as Khanikar , a surname proudly passed down from generation to generation.

The various articles in a satra and naam-ghar(place of worship) are stiff cut on wood, depicting the guru asana (pedestal of the lords), apart from various kinds of birds and animals figuring in mythology.

Modern-day Khanikar have taken to producing articles of commercial values, including figures of one-horned rhino and replicas of the world-famous Kamakhya temple - two items heading the list of demands of a visitor from outside.

Wood is in abundance in Assam, which has largely enriched the woodcraft in the State. Exquisite woodcarvings are seen in the doors, walls, beams, and ceilings and also in the temples. The decorative panels in the royal palace of Ahoms and in the Vaishnavite monasteries testify to the skillful artistic hands of the Khanikars. The painted wood work of Golaghat signifies the folk art of the state.

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Wood Carving
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Wood is a traditional craft of Assam. Exquisite wood carvings are seen in the doors, walls, beams, decorative panels and ceilings in houses, temples, monasteries and royal palace. The painted wood work of Golaghat signifies the folk art of the state.
Exquisite wood carvings are seen mostly on doors, walls, beams, ceilings and the splendid carved sinhasans used in prayer houses.

The various articles in a satra and naam-ghar (place of worship) are stiff cut on wood, depicting the guru asana (pedestal of the lords), apart from various kinds of birds and animals figuring in mythology.

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Kuhila Koth
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Kuhila Koth or fibre weaving is a famed handicraft of the Batadrava area of Nagaon district. Kuhila is woven on a simple loom-like gadget made of wood and bamboo poles to produce seats, mats and cushions. Kuhila craft is also an important cottage industry in the Gauripur area of Dhubri district in Lower Assam.
Pith or Indian cork has also been used for toy-making since centuries in Assam. Such toys are chiefly made in the Goalpara region and they include figures of gods, animals and birds.

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Masks
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With tribal art and folk elements form the base of Assamese culture, masks have found an important place in the cultural activities of the people. Masks have been widely used in folk theatres and bhaonas with the materials ranging from terracotta to pith to metal, bamboo and wood.
Similarly, among the tribals too, the use of masks is varied and widespread, especially in their colourful dances which again revolve chiefly around their typical tribal myth and folklore. Such traditional masks have of late found their way to the modern-day drawing rooms as decorative items and wall-hangings, thus providing self-employment opportunities to those who have been traditionally making them.
Ivory products such as combs, bangles, walking sticks and smoking pipes were made in the district of Barpeta. Their production has however been stopped since a ban was imposed on making and selling of ivory products as a conservation measure. Combs made of the horn of oxes is also a speciality.

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Jewellery
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Jewellery : Gold has always constituted the most-used metal for jewellery in Assam, while the use of silver and other metals too have been there for centuries. Gold was locally available, flowing down several Himalayan rivers, of which Subansiri is the most important.
Jewellery has been a tradition in Assam. Gold was available in many of the rivers flowing down from the Himalayas.
The Assamese jeweller (sonari) make exquisite lockets (doog-doogi, bana, jon-biri, dhol-biri) earrings (thuriya, loka-paro, keru), bracelets (gaam-kharu), necklaces (gal-pata), etc.
Jorhat in Upper Assam is one place where the traditional Assamese form of manufacture of jewellery is still in vogue, and people flock to Jorhat to get the exquisite Assamese jewellery. Assamese jewellery include the doog-doogi, loka-paro, bana, gaam-kharu, gal-pata, jon-biri, dhol-biri and keru, all of which have also encouraged the modern jewellers to producing similiar designs mechanically.
Jewelry, particularly of gold is a tradition in Assam. The Sonowal Kachari tribe collect gold from the birds of the rivers flowing down the Himalayas. The jewellers known as Sonari make exquisite Doog-Doogi, Bana, Jon-biri, Dhol-biri type lockets; Thuriya, Loka-paro and Keru earrings; Gaam-kharu bracelets and Gal-pata necklaces.
While gold (followed by silver) has always been the most used metal for traditional jewellery, ornaments made of clay and lac bangles are also popularly used in Assam.

The jethi poti is a broad band of cloth on to which is placed a row of small medallions with a central pendant. The most interesting piece of Assamese jewellery is an ear ring that resembles an orchid known as kopo phool. It has the appearance of two small shoes hanging together and attached to a floral portion on top. This is connected to a chain that goes around the ear and is generally made in 24 carat gold. Lokaparo is another typical ear ring, which has two birds placed back to back in gold ruby and mina or enamel work. A broad bangle with a clasp called gaam kharu is made in silver with gold polish. Bana or jonberi is a crescent-shaped pendant filled with lac for a cushioned effect. The front is studded with rubies while the back always has enameling.

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Terracotta
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Terracotta as a medium has dominated the handicraft scene of Assam since time immemorial. The tradition itself has been handed down from the generation to generation without break. Today we have the descendent of such families engaged in improvised terracotta versions of various common figures of gods and goddesses to mythological characters, while toys, vases, etc have also found a new life.
Assamese terracotta products are exquisite examples of immaculate craftsmanship. Household articles, toys, dolls and images of worship are the main products. Gauripur is the centre for terracotta products in Assam

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Traditional Paintings
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The tradition of painting in Assam goes far back and can be extended to the Puranic time. Of course the evidence of that tradition we only obtain from a legend. In that beautiful legend a lady, named Chitralekha, was endowed with a great talent in portrait-painting. We get the earliest literary evidence in Banabhatta's Harsa Charita Where mention has been made of the gift from Bhaskara-Varman, the King of Kamarupa of 7th century to Harsavardhana. The gifts included coloured or painted cloth in the pattern of jasrnine flower, and carved box for keeping paints and brushes. The Kalikapurana also mentioned about decorated cloth which were used for offering to the deity. in the Babruvahana Parva of Harivar Vipra (19th cent.) we get reference of the paintings on walls. Besides these, we have in our possession three historical relics which, 1 believe, may be the earliest evidence of the art of drawing in this region. There are of course rock engravings. At Umatumoni, near Biswanath, on a huge boulder some engraved drawings of animals and geometrical designs have been noticed. It is also clearly visible from the style of these drawings that they belong to two distinctly seperate phases. The style of the earliest phase consisting of the drawings of birds and animals, reminds us of primitive rock art, discovered in the different parts of the world. But besides the style, we do not have any other material evidences to ascertain the date of these drawings. The other two we get in two cut-out stone slabs collected from Lanka Davaka respectively, now preserved in the Assam State Museum.
In the first slab, below some scripts there are two animals carved in lines. On the other stone there are some human and animal figures which are also engraved in fives, along with some script. Then until the 16th century, we do not have any other material evidence of this tradition's continuation.With the rise of the Neo-Vaisnavism under Sankardeva from16th century onwards, we get a host of concrete examples that can be called painting in its real sense, that flourished until the last part of the 19th century. These polychrome paintings, popularly known as manuscript painting, done on sancht pat or tulapat, were the illustrations of the stories of the Bhagavata, the Puranes, the Ramayana, the Mahabhorata, etc., which contained written descriptions along with there paintings. At least more than one hundred such manuscripts, each containing on an average forty such paintings, have been discovered so far. From these paintings it is apparent that both their form and spirit are traditionally integrated with the basic aesthetic concept of the Indian painting tradition. For example in almost all these paintings the Hindu spirit of religious fervour is clearly visible.

Though in the later period the Mughal influence become evident, yet it had been able like the Rajasthani and Pahari School to synthesize that influence to its own advantage, and thus had been able to maintain its distinct regional entity. In the paintings of the manuscript of the Shankhachuda Vadha, the Hastividyarnava, Kumara Harana, we experience the highest manifestation of this assimilation. On the other hand, in the paintings of Chitra Bhagavata we experience something very original in its vigorous lines, contrast of colours and uniqueness of composition, which very well establishes its distinct identity. Some of these manuscripts are preserved in the Historical and Antiquarian Department, Assam State Museum and Kamarupa Anusandhan San-dty, while the rest are in private collection. So, at last, when in the thirties of this century, after such a long stretch of time, the painters again started their works they created some strange paintings, unique in both their form and content. These painters had accepted the new idioms of culture that invaded the land in the wake of the British.
The painting, higher to an intergral part of religion, resurrected itself in the western art institutions and academies with an independent entity. Under the influence of this concept there emerged in Assam during the thirties painters like Mukta Bardoloi, Pratap Barua and Suren Bardoloi. These painters used oil for the first time in Assam and their work also bear the mistakable influence of Ravi Varma. The subject matter of their paintings included still life, landscape, portraits, rural life etc. The portrait of Radha Kanta Handique painted by Suren Bardoloi is perhaps the best product of this period. With the beginning of the forties, Tarun Duwara and Asu Dev had made their first appearance on the scene and produced some beautiful paintings. Sobha Brahma and Benu Mishra made their appearance during the fifties. Both these painters live in Guwahati and are still active. The beginning of the sixties is marked by the arrival of four important painters. They are Pranab Barua, Gauri Barman, Pulok Gogoi and Neelpavan Barua. While Pranab Barua has his studio in Nagaon the rest are working in Guwahati. The beginning of the seventies is an important era and is marked by the emergence of a good number of painters. Much activities also have been noticed during this period which is generated around two art organisations, etc.

The Assam Fine Arts & Crafts Society and Gauhati Artists' Guild, both situated at Guwahati. In Jorhat also the Jorhat Fine Art Society occupies are important position away the artists of the upper Assam and has been playing a significant role.Though in other North Eastern States also a few artist are engaging themselves in the persult of fine art, yet it is only in Manipur and Mizoram where the artists have been able to create a distinctive visual idiom of their own. landscape is the recurring theme of the artist of Mizoram. Through their works they are trying to capture the beauty of their wonderful hilly regions. In contrast the artists of Manipur are busy in translating the myth, legend and folklore of their people in their works.
The tradition of painting in Assam can be traced back to several centuries in the past. The gifts presented to Hiuen Tsang and Harshavardhana by Kumar Bhaskara, the king of Kamrupa, included a number of paintins and painted objects, some done on exclusive Assam silk.
Assamese literature of the medieval period abound in references to chitrakars and patuas who were expert painters . Locally available material such as hebgool and haital were used for painting.

Ahom palaces and sattras and naamghars are replete with brightly coloured paintings depicting various stories and events from history and mythology.
The tradition of paintings in Assam can be traced back to several centuries in the past. Ahom palaces, satras and naam-ghar etc are replete with brightly coloured paintings depicting various stories and events from history and mythology. In fact, the motifs and designs contained in Chitra-Bhagavata have come to become a traditional style for Assamese painters of the later period, and are still in practice today.

The gifts presented to Hiuen Tsang and Harshavardhana by Kumar Bhaskara, the king of Kamrupa, included a number of paintings and painted objects, some done on exclusive Assam silk.

Assamese literature of the medieval period abound in references to chitrakars and patuas who were expert painters. Locally available material such as hebgool and haital were used for painting.

5 comments:

annamaraju said...

excellent info. update with some commercail information. it will be useful to localers.

c.srinivaasa

srinivasa@itsri.org

It's said...

thans for this info.......
now, i know about the richness of assam........

It's said...

classic info.........
the whole assam infront of my eyes....

TEESTA DAS said...

hey!txs for the great incite!it is really motivational for ppl like us who would want to know more about assam but never really find enough....would you know any NGOs working in assam looking for someone to do a craft documentation for them??

Prayanka Borah said...

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