GUWAHATI, April 14, 2017: The humble and exquisite Assamese gamocha is a symbol of Assamese identity during Rongali Bihu, but commercialization of the Assamese cloth under power loom manufacturing has altered the real significance attached with the gamocha.
The rectangular silk or cotton gamocha, traditionally made by handloom, is primarily white with attractive red (there are different colours on the patterns as well) motifs on two opposite sides and red stripes skirting around the border of the gamocha. They have different names, with different motifs and designs meant for different purposes. The gamocha that is given on Bihu to the elderly and dearest of kith and kin is called Bihuwan.
Experts on authentic Assamese textiles and fabric blamed the rapid onset of power loom manufactured gamocha for altering the placement of traditional motifs, designs, size, weight and shape of the traditional gamocha.
Mrinal Kalita, an official from the state-run handloom and textiles department who has penned books on Assamese textiles said, “The number of ends around a gamocha that is made on a power loom is less than those made on a traditional handloom. The weight of a gamocha is less when made on power loom. When an authentic gamocha woven on a hand loom is worn around the neck the ends of the gamocha fall few inches below the navel. This is significant and people should look out for the intricate differences.”
The standard size of a handloom-woven gamocha is 1.5 m in length and 70 cm in breadth, in contrast to the 33 cm breadth seen in gamochas made on power looms. To make quick profits commercial producers of the gamocha have altered the placement of the original flower motifs. Bihuwan, Tiyoni gamocha, Telosh gamocha and galavastra all carry one-sided flowery motif.