In the medieval era, the Royal families of Assam, India produced Muga silk fabrics. During the time of the Koch Dynasty (Historical Koch Country), Muga silk from ancient Pragjyotishpur and Koch Behar became an integral part of the trade with Bengal, Bhutan, Tibet, and the Mughals. Most households in Assam weave cloth and every girl child in the household acquires weaving skills at a very young age from her mother. In Sualkuchi, a town in Assam, there are approximately 6,872 female weavers. These weavers are very concerned about the preservation of traditional handloom weaving as they feel that over time the skills required for this could disappear. They feel that they are unable to work as efficiently in their old age as they had in their youth. The automated machine seems to be a sign of hope for them, but at the same time, they have a strong attachment to the traditional handlooms. Quite recently, the traders have started procuring traditional garments manufactured from cloth made by automated machines. This is a threat to the local weavers since these garments are sold at a lower price, and this poses a challenge to the traditional handloom fabrics of Assam. A sustainable model needs to be incorporated to improve the conditions of the local weavers. The introduction of modern techniques and business strategies will help to empower the weavers. Muga is a noninflammable, anti-bacterial, natural, lustrous gold fabric which absorbs UV rays from sunlight. Pat silk is hypoallergenic, and it contains sericin, which reduces allergic reactions in the skin. Eri is antifungal, and this makes it a unique fabric for face masks, baby clothes, undergarments, blankets, quilts, medical uses, mosquito nets or special attire to protect one from UV rays, fungus, bacteria, and insects. The full range of the unique qualities of the fabrics of Assam should be widely publicized to increase the consumer demand for these handlooms. The area also has the potential to make castor oil out of the castor plant (Ricinus Communis Linn), which is a fed to the Eri Silkworm.
Singha, Ranjit and Singha, Surjit
Women’s Empowerment through the Silk Industry of Assam, India, and its underlying Economy.
Journal of International Women's Studies, 21(5), 9-31.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol21/iss5/3