If we talk about the traditional dresses of Assam we have to talk about the majestic “Riha” and “Mekhela Chador”, which have been a sign of prestige of the Assamese society since ancient times. The industry that produces this great symbol of honour is situated in Sualkuchi; which is also called the “textile centre of Assam”. Muga Silk, paat Silk, eri Silk and endi cloth from this region is famous for their quality. The traditional “gamosa” made from this indigenous materials are in demand throughout Assam as well as other parts of India.
Sualkuchi is situated on the North bank of the river Brahmaputra, about 35 Kms from Guwahati and it is a block of Kamrup district. This Marvel land has attained the name “Manchester of Assam” due to the existence of large number of cottage handloom industries in the area.
Sualkuchi holds in itself a potential market of cottage handloom industry which has been lately hampered by rapidly decreasing supply of raw materials; due to which the cost of raw materials have increased to the wonderment of the manufacturers to a much higher rate. For example: 7 years back paat was brought by the manufacturers at Rs 2000 per Kg which has increased to Rs 4000 per Kg in the present date.
If we are talking about the Sualkuchi Handloom industry we must know about the famous “taat-xaal” let’s try to scatter some light into its operations and parts. Alike a living being, the taat-xaal also operates with a heart known as the “Dubi Machine” which is fitted at the top of the taat-xaal. Then comes the “Card”, which are manually designed for designing patternson the clothes (Ful-Bosa). Thirdly, there are two “noros” which act like the two hands of the taat-xaal. The noros are fitted one at the front of the taat-xaal and the other at the back of it. The other organs or parts of the taat-xaal are “nasoni”, “bo”, “jaki”, “goroka”, “sal”, “ras”, “bomin”, “mohura”.
Alike the body of a living being, the taat-xaal also needs a soul. Without the soul a body cannot function and the same is applicable in terms of taat-xaal too. The souls of the taat-xaal are the weavers (Sipini) who are hired from the nearby villages of Sualkuchi of Nau-Para, Nakatadol, Sarikhuta, Mastul, Golden, Bhatipara, Rajgarh, Tilokson Pahar, Keutpara, Tamulpur, Dhekiajuli, Boroma, Gureswar etc. This job of sewing needs a lot of hard labour and this could be understood from the fact that to make a single piece of “Sador” and a piece “Mekhela”, it takes six days and two days respectively.
With the changing times, selling of Sualkuchi clothings through internet have also come into use. For example, a shop named Silkalay situated in GS Road in Guwahati, has been selling Sualkuchi clothes through the internet. Another milestone in Sualkuchi is the establishment of the Sualkuchi Institute of Fashion Technology, which offers a six months course to its students and provides encouragement to make this business livelier in the hands of youths.
In the present hour the famous handloom and cottage industry of Sualkuchi has been forced to waddle, due to some wacky businessmen who are running a parallel market of duplicate silk products made from “Tosok” threads. These clothes are look-alike of the original silk clothes but are half the price of the original clothes. We can see that the cost of the original Sualkuchi clothes are somewhere around Rs 6000-7000, but these Banarasi duplicate clothes cost a megare Rs 3000. So, it is definitely affecting the traditional market of Sualkuchi and due to which recently riots took place in Sualkuchi on March 29, 2013.
It’s a great threat to the Assamese culture as the clothes of Sualkuchi have been a symbol of pride for the people of Assam. If on any day the black market of this product succeeds to rip into our tradition, then that day would be the day when the last nail will be put into the coffin of muga, paat, eri silk products.
Courtesy: by Spondon Kaushik Bhattacharya