The very symbol of Assamese culture, the Gamosa has been around for centuries. It is generally a white hand-woven piece of cloth of cotton or silk of around 2 feet in width and 5 feet in length, with red woven patterns or motifs on two sides and red stripes on the long border.
Here are facts that many of us are unaware of.
Gamosa is no way a body wiping towel. Confusion in this regard stems from the fact that the literal translation is something like this…Ga=body, Mosa=to wipe. However, the origin of this word is from the Kamrupi word gaamsa, a piece of cloth used to cover the Bhagavad Purana at the altar.
The gamosa has a very old history. Its for sure that this is not something which was incorporated from any other part of the India. According to Dr. Lila Goigoi, Gamosa has been used since the Ahom Kingom. According to the book “A History Assam” by Edward Gait the price of one gamosa during 1739 was around 6 paisa.
The gamosa finds varied uses in the daily life of any Assamese individual. This ranges from being used to cover the alter at a prayer hall to being used as a waistcloth or a loincloth. Guests are offered the gamosa as a sign of respect and earlier, it was also thrown over the shoulder to signify social status!
There are actually different types of Gamosa and they are not all alike. There is the Paani Gamosa, Tamul Gamosa and Bihuwan. Not to forget another kind of Gamosa from lower Assam, the Anakata.
The Gamosa is used equally by one and all irrespective of ethnic and religious backgrounds. It has a huge cultural significance and connections with Bihu is something we all know of pretty well!
A gamosa of 1455.3 metres (approx 1.5 km) length, made by Dr Abhijit Baruah from Jorhat and 11 other weavers of Jorhat, entered the Guinness Book of Records in 2013.
Vikramjit Kakati, a research scholar at IIT Guwahati, has taken the Gamosa 60 feet under the Bay of Bengal to celebrate Bihu under water in 2014.
US astronaut and Son-in-law of Assam, Mike Fincke, had taken the gamosa to space during a space mission!
(Suggested inputs from MagicalAssam)