Upasna Bhandari | upasnabh@gmail.com

Primary Tales of Textiles in Assam: Folklores of Dimasa and Karbi Tribes

Guide Aarti Srivastava
Sponsor National Institute of Design
Keywords civilisations;lifestyle;oral narratives;tribes

The advent of development and industrialisation is gradually showing its impact on the lifestyle of communities in Northeast India. This project focused on studying the textile traditions of the tribes residing in the state of Assam. It aimed at preserving and promoting the rich design resources there.

The first part of this project mapped out the tribes and their textile traditions in the districts of Cachar, Hailakandi, Dima Hasao, and Karbi Anglong. The second phase of the project recorded the oral narratives behind the textile traditions of the regional tribes of two districts of Assam—Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong; these tribes are Dimasa and Karbi, respectively. The project aimed at recording these oral records in a literal form and also tried to build the context with the traditional textile practices prevalent today.

These civilisations, politically termed as “tribes”, have evolved with time and grown to develop a culture of living that is self-sufficient. The natural resources and skills polished with time alone, have cohesively designed a lifestyle that catered to their needs. Apart from need-based design solutions, they also impart values of metaphors and cultural connotations that justify the effectiveness of these designs to have survived and travelled across generations. Textiles are observed to be an important element in their lifestyle; hence, forming a tradition affecting it; textiles are cherished and are treated with respect; they also form the identity of each community.

This project helped understand that somewhere these fabrics became the medium for connecting with the supernatural. The civilisation and its craft provide an ocean of learning; the connected oral narratives simply added to the depth of the work done through this project.
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