Assam silk – A traditional dress material – unparalled!
I love Mekhela Chador. Usually I wear it for office, on various occasions etc. Many a times, I am asked by my non-Assamese peers and colleagues, what it is called, what material it is, what are the costs, where to get etc. So, I thought of writing few lines on Assam silk today.
Assam silk signifies the three types of indigenous wild silks produced in Assam—golden Muga, white Paat and warm Eri silk.
Muga silk is the product of the silkworm Antheraea assamensis unique only to Assam. The larvae of these moths feed on som (Machilus bombycina) and sualu (Litsaea polyantha) leaves. The silk produced is known for its glossy fine texture and durability.
Due to its low porosity the Muga yarn cannot be bleached or dyed and its natural golden color is retained. This silk can be hand-washed with its lustre increasing after every wash. Very often the silk outlives its owner.
Assam is the largest producer of this golden silk across the globe.Assam has received a geographical indication for the production of Muga.
According to the records of Assam Government, about 2625 hectares of land are utilised for production of Muga Silk, in Assam. Approximately 30,000 Assamese households are associated with Muga Silk production. There are 15 Muga Silk Reeling units in Assam.
Paat silk is produced by silkworms which feed on mulberry (Morus spp.) leaves. It is usually brilliant white or off-white in colour. Its cloth can dry in shadow.
Approximately 40,000 families of the state are engaged in the production of Mulberry Silk. The total area under the cultivation of food plants for the mulberry silkworms is about 2300 hectares. In Assam, the Mulberry Silk Worm culture is practised on a large scale in the districts of Upper Assam, like Lakhimpur, Sibsagar, Dibrugarh and Jorhat districts etc.
Eri silk is made by Samia cynthia ricini which feed on leaves of Castor oil plant (Ricinus communis). It is also known as Endi or Errandi silk. Because manufacturing process of Eri allows the pupae to develop into adults and only the open ended cocoons are used for turning into silk, it is also popularly known as non-violent silk. This silk is soft and warm and is popular for Eri shawls and quilts.
The total area under the cultivation of food plants of Eri Silk Worm in the state counts for about 2993 hectares. Currently, the state has 21 Eri Silk Spinning training centres. Approximately 1.28 lakh families of Assam are linked with the rearing and production of Muga Silk.
Another variety of silk is Paat Muga, which is very popular in Assam. It is the mixture of both Paat and Muga silk.
There is another type of silk which is close to Assamese ladies’ daily lives – called as ‘Kesa Paat’
The weaving style of Assam is very unique.Although, silk is produced in many districts of Assam, Sualkuchi is the main silk weaving centre of Assam. Half an hour drive from Guwahati, Sualkuchi is also called as the ‘Manchester of the East.
Few pictures from my family occasions:
My Sister in Law (cousin’s) – Recently got married:
Me with my sister Ashapurna on my marraige :
My Mom and me :
With my Sister, Aunts on my Brother’s marraige: