Handicrafts of Assam
The tribes and peoples of Assam have eked out a rich and colourful heritage of crafts from what may seem a sparse existence.
Cane, Bamboo and Reeds:-
The variety of canes and reeds, as well as the bamboo native to the region has dictated a range of eco-friendly essentials. It is not just the bamboo doors, chances are if you can think of an use around the house, these tall grasses have already been put to it. The hollowed bamboo mugs and containers and the cane basketry and furniture are perhaps the most popular, coming in myriad designs. However, your best buy may just be a set of striking bamboo masks. Also notable among woodcrafts are animal figures, such as the rhino or water birds, and root sculptures.
Assam is renowned for its silks. The ‘muga’ is most prized of these, but there is also ‘endi’ and ‘magar’, as well as the more usual ‘mulberry’ silks. These are woven into beautiful sarees and furnishings. However, the must-buy has to be a set of the traditional ‘mekhola chador’, preferably in muga silk. Pick out geometrical tribal motifs inspired by the Bodo or Missing communities, or go for an intricate traditional floral pattern. For budget gifts, you can pick up the red-and-white cotton ‘gamochas’ which make lovely light wraps. In recent years, jute textiles have been taken beyond furnishings to hand-made accessories, luggage and footwear.
Apart from the range of tribal jewellery native to this state, you can keep an eye out for the region’s enamel-worked and jeweled gold ornaments. Craftsmen still make use of traditional motifs as well as forms, and these could well become precious heirlooms.
Metal - Craft & Regional Specialities:-
You will find both brass and bell metal- beaten and moulded and graven- cast into ‘thalis’ (plates), bowls and ‘serais (covered goblets) that have been in use in this region for ages. Though more contemporary uses include votive offerings and decorative pieces, it is these more heritage-laden articles that catch the imagination. And nothing captures the spirit of this hill state better than the woven cane hats decorated with threadwork, appliqué and ‘shola pith’ or bamboo, the ‘japi’, often displayed with the decorated ‘jathi’ spears.