Unique weaves of the East – I
There are very few places in the world which have a unique charm of their own. Assam, in India, is one such place, whose natural beauty is so enchanting. The first thing that comes to my mind when someone utters Assam, is – lofty green valleys, majestic rivers, lush landscapes and the humble people residing there.
One Sunday evening, a thought just crossed my mind. I wanted to know more about Assam. Since I am a textile enthusiast, I was keen to figure out the fabrics of Assam. That is when I figured this beauty called – Muga Silk and it’s amazing combination with the Mekhela.
Muga Silk is considered to be one of the rarest silk in the world! That itself makes it sound so amazing. The meaning of “muga” is yellowish in Assamese. This silk is produced only in Assam and nowhere else. One of the amazing things about Muga Silk is, its longevity. There are times the silk outlives its owner! It is one of the most expensive forms of silk.
Few unique features of the Muga is – it’s golden lusture increases with age; any kind of thread embroidery can be done on the Muga silk; though it has a natural yellowish golden colour and does not need to be dyed, yet it is compatible with most dyes.
A little background: It is the Garo community who engages in the production of Muga silk. It’s bulk production mainly happens in the west Garo hills of Assam. Some of it is also done in the west Khasi hills of Assam, which is home to the silk worms – Som and Soalu, which generate Muga Silk thread. What is interesting to note is that it takes about 1000 cocoons to generate 125 grams of Silk and around 1000 grams of Silk is needed for a saree.
The Muga silk is used to make various things like – hats, scarves, sarees, bridal wear, stoles, quilts and upholstery.
This shoot has seen the amazing combination of the Muga silk and the Mekhela Chador. Mekhela Chador is a traditional attire worn by the women of Assam. It is a beautiful concept. It is a type of Saree comprising two pieces of cloth, draped on the top and bottom. The bottom half of this unique saree is called the Mekhela (as shown in the picture above). The mekhela is folded into pleats to the right around the waist and is tucked in. The chador on the other hand is tucked into the mekhela’s upper portion at one end and the other end is draped around the upper portion of the body, like a palla. (Source: Utsavpedia).
However, I have put a contemporary twist to the Mekhela Chador. Instead of using it like a palla, I have used it as a stole which is worn over the neck and shoulder and has been held together with a trendy metallic belt. A belt provides support as well as represents a modern twist to this gem of a traditional outfit.
Mekhela Chador is usually the daily wear of women in Assam. But it has got global recognition and has been used in various fashion shows. Modern urban women also wear the Mekhela is various important occasions like a wedding or office party.
It is the women weavers of Assam who are the real people behind the production of the Mekhela Chadors. The main hub of these Mekhela Chadors is a tiny town called Sualkuchi. The Mekhela Chadors made in this small town are highly sought after by women in Assam and the rest of India, alike. Sualkuchi is also known as the Manchester of Assam.(Source: Utsavpedia).
Few interesting facts about the Mekhela: (Source: Utsavpedia)
- The mekhela is tubular in shape and is worn above the petticoat from waist downwards with its pleats folded to the right and tucked in.
- The Mekhela Chadors are mostly made from Muga Silk, Pat Silk, Eri Silk or Cotton. The Muga Mekhela Chadors are so durable in nature that they are often said to outlive their owners.
- The Mekhela Chador, unlike the Ghagra or the Pavadai Dhavani, is being worn by women of all ages.
I am completely in awe of this beautiful combination of Muga silk and Mekhela Chador. I am glad that India has such beautiful handlooms which is yet to get its due credit. I hope after this a few of you’ll will go and pick up a muga silk or a mekhela chador.
Tip: Wear the saree with a twist. Do not use the chador as a pall. Make it work like a scarf or a stole ( that is what I have done).
Drape a beautiful story of Assam’s richest fabric and make heads turn.
Wardrobe – My own