Friday, 21 February 2014

Stunning Assam Silk!

Muga silkworm
 Assam is blessed with three indigenous varieties of silk. The golden Muga, white Pat and warm Eri.

The world famous Muga silk of Assam, starts its journey from the Antheraea assamensis variety of silkworm. This variety of silkworm is endemic to Assam. The silk produced from this silkworm has a beautiful glossy golden hue and its lustre improves with age and washing. It is said that this silk, very often, outlives its owner! 

Reserved for the royal families of Assam during the yester years, Muga silk is now woven into beautiful, intricately designed, mekhela chadar (traditional Assamese wear for ladies).

Muga mekhela chadar
This traditional ladies wear is treasured by both the old and the young and worn only during special occasions! Though the cost of this apparel is extremely high, but that is not a prohibitive factor for owning one. It is a must have for an Assamese lady!

The next variety of Assam silk is the Pat silk. This silk is produced from Bombyx textor silkworms that are grown on mulberry trees and is sometimes also known as 'mulberry silk'.

Pat silk sarees
Although Pat silk is light weight and delicate in texture, it is in fact very durable! This variety of silk is woven into sarees in vibrant bright colours, but the favourite are those in white, which stand for purity. With traditional motifs, which include flowers, human figures, animals etc, woven around the border, the Pat silk sarees perfectly compliments the Assamese bride!

Eri silk fabric
The third variety of Assam silk is the Eri silk. This is produced from the Samia cynthia ricini silkworm. The Eri silk is darker and heavier than the other silks and due to its thermal properties, makes a warm, comfortable cosy shawl during winter months. Due to its low cost, it is often known as the 'poor' man's silk and is widely used in the region. Eri silk products are a favourite among "Gandhians" and those that propagate the culture of 'non-violance', as the silk is extracted without killing the silkworm! Besides shawls, this variety of silk is also made into jackets, blankets, bedspreads, curtains, cushion covers etc. 

Although the silk industry of Assam dates back to the early 20th century, the method of production is still loom based and is concentrated in a small town called "Sualkuchi"!

But more about that in my next post!

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