The Muga silk sari from Assam is a symbol of dexterity and style
Among all the enticing varieties of bamboo artefacts and cane furniture on display at the ongoing North East crafts fair, the show stealer is the Muga silk sari. “It’s a symbol of opulence and style,” says Dani Das Borah, the stall owner. “The sari has a tradition of centuries. Silk weaving is one of the prime industries in Assam,” she says. “I learnt weaving from my mother when I was a child. I run a production house in Guwahati and the business spans generations.”
The muga silk, a humble looking cream-coloured variety of silk is one of the costliest in the world and a purest form of silk, according to Dani. “Muga is a high quality silk and can never be dyed. It never absorbs any colour and hence retains the creamish shade. The sheen of the sari enhances with age,” she says.
Holding a bridal sari with heavy thread work, Dani points out, “Originally, all bridal wears in Assam are two-pieces of sari called ‘Mekhala Sadar’. There is also a third piece called ‘reeha’, which is worn on special occasions like pujas, weddings and festivals. It is also a symbol of respect. But in modern cities as people don’t wear the mekhala sadar style, we have switched to making five-yard muga silk saris.”
A single sari with thread work motifs takes nearly a week or 10 days to finish. “The price of muga silk starts from Rs.10,400 and goes up to Rs. 50,000. Ever since, fake muga invaded the market, the demand and price for pure silk has gone up. One Kg of muga silk costs Rs.12,600 today as against Rs.2,000 just a decade back. Traders fetch pure muga from Assam and sell it to other countries at an exorbitant price and some others fake tussar silk as muga. At this rate, after 10 years, we may not even get muga in Assam,” rues Dani. “As the sari has slipped out of the common man’s reach, our production has come down considerably. In Madurai, only few people recognize the value of muga. There are few takers for the sari here.”
Traditional motifs used on the muga silk saris include Jappi (the typical Assami topi), Miri Gos Butta (a pattern of miniature tree motifs) and kabutar (pigeons). “These motifs are always geometrical in shape and have not changed over the years. Nowadays, motifs from Assam are being adopted in other states and textile crafts,” says Dani.
Kaziranga sari is a casual wear and bears motifs of the one-horn rhinoceros and mostly it is done on pure cottons or silk blends. Mulberry silk saris from Bengal and Bangladesh called ‘Pat silk’, eri and tussar silk are the varieties of saris available at the stall.
The crafts expo is on at the MADITSSIA Hall and is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. till March 11.