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Assam: A Journey Through Textiles

Shaheen Desai (Author) Savitha Suri (Author) Krishna Sarma (Author)

For centuries, Assam has been a melting pot of peoples—a ‘living museum of man’. Northeast India is an ethnic mosaic consisting of different tribal groups of various ethnic stocks, each with their own dialect, traditional customs and practices. Bodos represent nearly half of the tribal population, followed by Mishing, Karbis, Rabha, Sonowal Kachari, Lalung, and Deoris. The other smaller tribes are Chutia, Moran, Sonowal, Mech, Tiwa (Lalung), Garo, Sarania, Hajong, Tripuri, Deori, Thengal, Hojai, and Koch. In this multicultural constellation, textiles are an important point of reference. The spinning and handloom weaving tradition has a deep history and ancestry in Assam. The silks intrinsic to Assam (muga, eri, and paat), the typical handlooms and backstrap looms, the distinctive woven designs, and the characteristic modes of dress are expressions of the intangible heritage of Assam. The traditional dress of Assamese women is the two-pieced Mekhela and Chador and for ceremonial occasions, a third item called Riha. For formal occasions, people wear a headdress like the Bodo Joki. The ubiquitous Gamosha (white with red design) can be used both as a headdress as well as a utilitarian scarf. While written records are sparse, the oral traditions, folklore, music and the continuing and living traditions are testimony to the vibrant weaving practices and distinctive design heritage of Assam. Assam: A Journey Through Its Textiles serves an invaluable purpose in documenting through a meticulously researched text and more than 150 stunning photographs, the history of the textiles and tribes of this Northeastern state. 

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About the authors

Shaheen Desai

Shaheen Desai is an avid traveller and while her interest in photography stemmed from her numerous trekking and birding expeditions, her expertise in creating portraits has helped her connect with the communities she works with. She has, over the past couple of years, developed a niche area of textile photography cap. 

Savitha Suri

Savitha Suri works in the area of documenting textile traditions and history. Her work extends to creating awareness and access to handcrafted traditions for buyers as well as imparting digital literacy to independent weavers and artists, helping them access the online marketplace. 

Krishna Sarma

Krishna Sarma is a lawyer and managing partner of the New Delhi-based law firm Corporate Law Group (CLG). Since 2016, she has been the convenor of an initiative of professionals from Assam in Delhi called ‘Axom: New Horizons’ and as part of this she has authored two publications: in January 2017 on the Assamfloods and on 22 June 2018, a White Paper on the National Register of Citizens (NRC).   

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Bibliographic information

Title Assam: A Journey Through Textiles
Format Hardcover
Date published: 14.10.2019
Edition 1st ed.
Publisher Speaking Tiger
Language: English
isbn 9789389231397
length 400p., Illustrations.