SHILLONG: Khasi women wear a special attire called ‘Dhara’ or ‘Nara’ during special occasions or grand ceremonies. The traditional attire worn by the Khasi women is a costly silk material woven out of Mulberry silk yarn. Though simple in their designs, they come in various colours and border patterns.
However, with the passage of time, the simple traditional designs of Khasi Dhara have evolved into modern ones which come in vibrant designs. The Benaras Dhara is one example of the modern Dhara today, and they are easily available in the market at affordable prices.
Like the typical Benaras sarees, the Benaras Dhara is also made of finely woven silk decorated with intricate designs and because of these imprints they are relatively heavier and louder in design. The traditional Khasi Dhara, on the other hand, is mostly plain in design with simple border patterns. The material, unlike the Benaras saree, is also much lighter.
Comparing the two types of Dharas, the Benaras Dhara really stands out with its finest silk material and rich embroidery. Today, most Khasi women owns atleast a piece of the Beneras Dhara and would prefer to wear one and why not? They come in attractive colours and vivacious designs with beautiful imprints that would tempt any woman to purchase it.
However, since the advent of the Benaras Dhara, there has been a decline in the production of the traditional Dhara, thus, losing the original traditional touch. The production of these machine made goods has taken over the weaving industries in the region. With modernity changing the interests of the people and fashion being one of the objectives, there has been a great demand for these Benaras Dhara.
Sequentially, this has affected the market in a huge way. Moreover, with no proper textile industry in the region, the production of Khasi Dhara is miniscule. The Khasi Dhara is hand woven and mostly comes from small cottage industries in the rural areas of Ri Bhoi and Jowai District- these cannot meet the demands of the people.
Today, most Khasi boutiques sell both types of Dharas in order to run their business as there has been lesser demands for the traditional Khasi Dhara- a threat to traditional weaving and the business of Sericulture and Weaving in Meghalaya.
However, with renowned local designers like Daniel Syiem who works along with the traditional weavers of the region enhancing their capability while at the same time, sustaining the traditional and indigenous identity and knowledge of the Khasis, hope of keeping the original tradition and identity of the Khasi Dhara lives, else with the evolution of fashion and time, the traditional Khasi attire will gradually give way to cheaper machine made goods and the genuine, traditional one will slowly cease to exist.