Acres of lush tea plantations, historic temples and pleasant weather all year around make Assam a hidden jewel tucked away in the North Eastern part of India. Assam has a rich culture, tradition and history. Today, let us explore the distinctive styles of dress which are worn by the Assamese people, especially during festive times.
What do Assamese Men Wear
A gamosa is a cotton or Pat silk cloth which has a rectangular shape. It is predominantly white in colour, with a red border on three sides and woven motifs on the remaining one. It is traditionally used to wipe the body after a bath. It can be tied around the waist, wrapped around the neck or can be used in the prayer room as well. A dhoti is usually a white cotton cloth which is tucked around the waist, and covers the legs.
Related: Traditionally Yours, Assamese Costumes!
What do Assamese Women Wear
As the name indicates, this beautiful style of clothing has two parts. The first part, Mekhela, is wrapped around the waist and pleated in the front like a sari. The Chadar, is the second or upper part, which is tucked at the waist and then draped over the shoulder like a sari pallu. The major difference between this dress and the pavada-dhavani (South Indian) or half saree is that the tucks at the waist are made with a triangular fold. The material used for the Mekhela Chadar varies according to the occasion. Woven silks in bright colours are worn for weddings and festivals.
Related: Dimasa women love to weave and wear!
Festive Attire In Assam
Bihu is the most important festival celebrated in Assam. It is held thrice a year and marks significant seasons of harvest. These include the Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu held in April, the Kati Bihu in October and the Magh Bihu in January. Out of these, the Bohag or Rongali Bihu is celebrated with much fanfare. The Bohag Bihu is considered the start of the harvest season. It is also the first day of the Assamese New Year.
For the Bohag Bihu festival, a special Bihu dance is performed by both men and women. The traditional Bihu dance costume for men includes a cotton dhoti and the gamosa. The gamosa is either circled around the waist or worn on the head like a turban and tied into a knot. The women are vibrant and colourful in Mekhela Chadar, usually in beige and red. They wear red flowers in their hair as well as matching neckpieces and bangles.
The Bodo Tribe of Assam, also celebrate the Bohag Bihu festival with much aplomb. They call it the Baishagu festival and perform a special “Bagarumba” or “Butterfly” dance for their God, Bathow. This dance is performed by young girls wearing dokhnas (draped skirts) and Chadar, along with colourful shawls. The colours used for their dress are yellow, green and red. The Bodo men play traditional instruments as the women dance.
Assam is a largely unknown state with a lot to discover. There are many tribes which originate in this state, and each has its own individuality, style and way of dressing. Textile materials used here range from the locally produced Moga silk to the simplest cotton. The attire worn by the people of Assam truly reflects the warm personality, humble background, innovative spirit and the innate creativity of the people who live here.