Thursday, 1 April 2010

Tradition of Handloom Industry in Assam

Bharti Panday
Research Scholar, Ant. History Deptt., University of Allahabad.

Handloom industry is the part of Indian culture and tradition as far as the Assamis are considered; it is deeply attached to the culture and had become a part of their life. It is a common belief that the life of an Assamees damsel is not complete without her proficiency in domestic looms and while visiting Assam during Swadeshi Movement, Gandhi ji was so moved by the artistic esibility of  the handloom products that he had warmly applauded by his remarks that Assames women weavs fairy tales in their cloth. The special trait of Assamees women in handloom is more prominent displayed in production of clothes made of silk which is kenown as “The queen of fabrics”. This costly fabric produced in the industry by the |Poor people. Glamourous Brocades, namely ‘Kinglap’, ‘ gomseng’, ‘karship’,’Bankara’ and ‘sirupat’ etc. not only adorned the royal families, but used as the comon attire in the aristocratic house hold of Assam.
Assam was known as a country of cocoon rears in the time of Ramayan period. There is a reference made in Kiskindhyokanda, as to the countries one come across while heading towards the eact, mention being made of Nagadha (south Bihar), Anga (Bhagalpur), Pundra (|North Bengal) and the “country of the cocoon rears”.1
The Arthasastra, while giveing a description of textile commodities known as dukula says that the product of the country Suvarha Kudya is red as the sun, as soft as the surface of  a gem, being woven while the threads were very wet, of uniform or mixed texture.’2
Kautilya has also made a mention of the varietics of fibrous garments known as patrond and staes that the one which is produced in the country of suvarhakudya was the best: “Toearm Sauvarnakudyaka”.3
In the seventh century A.D., when a chinese traveler |Hiuen Tsang visited Kamrupa during the reign of Blaekar verman who was a historical figure and ruled over the kingdom of Kamrupa extending up to Bihar on the west and |Pragjyoti Shpuro was his capital. Emperor of the northern India, who was one of the protest and most powerful of the Hind Moranks in ancient India was ‘contemporary of Bhaskaras. According to Harshacharitra, Bhaskar warman was a mighty king and the only peer in the whole of India of the heart Harsha. We confined evidence of gifts being preented to the Emperor Harsh by Bhaskarvarman as a symbol of mutual friendship. The royal presents by Bhaskarvarman which Hamsavega carried to Harsh included ‘Silken cloths piece as the outumn moon’s light’, ‘soft loin cloths smooth as birch bark’, ‘sacks of woven silk’, ‘wrappers of white bark silk’ and various kinds of smooth –fignred textiles.
Bana has also made a mention about the ‘Abhoga’ umbrella sent to Harsha by Bhaskavarman ‘The umbrella sent to him was in the call made of (Dukula) white silk”. He also printed certain other gifts which included a variety of patta clath eaches tacke of silk, woven out of pattasutrd5.. According to Chudhary the gifts included all the best epecimens of endi, muvega and pat6.
There is also a reference by Bana of a precent to Hiven Tsang by Bhaskarvarman which was a cap make of ‘Coare skin lined with soft owl and was designed to protect the pilgrim from rain, whilst on the road7.
In 1`954, Chatterji white delivering the lectures in Guvlati University also observed. “The Assamess people through the ages above always aboven high wdistic skill. Assam textiles were already famous in the 7th century AD, as we can see from their inclusion in the presents sent by Bhaskarverman to Harsh-Vardhana. In medieval times, Assam silk cloth of various kinds used to form distinetive objects sent out as presents to kings and nobilities.”8
‘There is a reference of the exitence of the class of the weavers’ community known as ‘tanti’ in the early history of weaving which was responsible for supplying the requirements of the royal family. Gate alea makes a mention of  Tanti while tracing out the history of the cact systems in Assam. We ma also refer to tradellogues written by the foreign travellers on Assam. ‘ where in mention was made made of a class of people associated with the out of weaving known differentlly such as ‘tati’ (weaves), “Katoni’ (spinning workers) and people engaged in duty.9
In this context, There is also a reference by Hunter to the tantis, a Hindu weaving caete who manufactured various kinds of country clothe. There is a mention of ‘Jugi’ and ‘katoni’ coets, by Gnabhiram Barooath, and their occupation was cecoom rearing and weaving.10
Arthasastra gives an impartant reference of ksuna, dukula and patronma fabrics from suranakudya and other places in kamupa. The trading centre of the ancient Assam was most probably surannkudya . According to Chudhary, the modern sonkudla in Kampur stans for suranokudya.11 Bwa point out that the pieces was famous as accomeriol certre and ‘must love then contained a settlemento;’ merhants who traded not only in silk but also in fabrics from fibres and fragrant establisent.12
It is sitraded in the present district of Kampua, by the side of napi-Nalbari road, and only at a distance of 24miles from sualkoni, the prestn famous production centre of pat, munga and eri clotes in Assam, this references lead us to belief that ‘Assam even in the fouth century AD. was celebrated for dukula for to be sept in the poyal treawry’.13
The evidence form the Arthasastra, the harshacharita and the classical writers among other parts that in the art of the reaving of silk cocoone and the weaving of the finect silk textiles, the weavers of kamrupa lad a reputation at par with those of chira. At present Assam a occupires a prominent place in the production of silk and silk clothes in India.
In this connection certain observation made by later writers regarding silk writers can also be taken into concideration According to oazinm, ‘silk of Assam were very exellent resembling that of chra’.Tanvnier whose views has also been referred to try Chawdhary abng with those expressed by Quzim that, “ the silk of Assam was produced on trees and the stuffs made of them were very brilliant.”15
In the ancient Assam, Various methods of clying teachingques were provalent among the people, come of which we can eas at present weaving centres of Assam. It can be seen in some casses the threads before for clyed before it cones to the loom for weaving. For the manufacturing of variously coulared clothes . but in certain called the finished garments were dyed. mostly the clothes were dyed in red, black, yellow, blue and the like ‘ The making used in dying clothes were not onlt lac and the indigo (called ‘ rumdys’ in Assam,. but were also made from various roots, leavers and books of trace. “Some common dyeing making used are reported to be babla (a cacia orabica), khayar (acacia catechu), supari carecatechu), loc (coccus lacca), Kusum (carthamus tincterious) and other ingre dents which made fast and dazzling clolurs’.
Thus it may be concluded, keeping in view all the above references that the people were accoustomed in use of simple and colur garment along with the cost of weaving from early period, which opened the way for the establishment of allied industries associated with handloom.

1.        Barva, Dr. B.K. A Cultural History of Assam (Early Period, Vol.I), P.104, Bara. K.L. Assamiya Sanskrit (Assamees), Edl by Neog, N. and Gofoi, pa340. shara, Giridan (ed.).
2.        Shamasastry (tanslated), P10. Bwa, Dr. B.K. Op. Cit,, p.104
3.        Arthasatra, p 195, Bawa, Dr. B.K. op. cit, Sharam, Harsewar; Bastaribpan Ittibritta (Assamess), p 65
4.        Ibid, P.188
5.        Bawa, Dr. B.K. op cit, p. 143
6.        Bawa, Dr. B.K. op cit,. P 141
7.        Chatterjee, Dr. S.K. : The place of Assam in the History and civilization of India ( Guahati University, LtTo) p.60
8.        Sharma, Giridhar (Ed.), Assaiya Jatir Jtribritta (Assamess). P.56
9.        Hunter W.N.- A statistical Account of Assam, Vol.II, 1879. p. 303
10.     Bawah Guhabhiram Assam Buraniji Assam Prakashan Parishad 1972), P. 179.
11.     Chowdhury, Dr. P.C. op. cit, p. 341
12.     Bawa, K.L. : JARS VII, p.29,
13.     Bawa, Dr. B.K. ; op. cit, p 143, also seee chowdhary  Dr. P.C. ; p. 342
14.     Chowdhary, Dr. P.C.; op.cit, p. 343.
15.     Ibid.

16.     Watt: Commerricial Products of In