Turtle survival rides on handmade towel in Assam

Activists are banking on the ‘gamosa’, woven with images of endangered turtles, to spread the message

November 26, 2019 01:44 am | Updated 01:58 pm IST - GUWAHATI

For a cause:  Women of Puranigaon in Biswanath district  with their turtle ‘gamosa’.

For a cause: Women of Puranigaon in Biswanath district with their turtle ‘gamosa’.

The multipurpose Assamese gamosa , a ubiquitous, white cotton towel, has been assigned a new function — conservation of rare freshwater turtles.

Few cultural symbols are as utilitarian as the white handmade cotton gamosa, with its characteristic red border of woven motifs. It is valued as a gift for visitors, used as a scarf, anti-dust mask, wrapped around the head as a turban.

Conservationists are now banking on this cultural icon to carry forward the message of turtle conservation, with gamosas woven with turtle images.

“We had no idea that our routine weaving at home could be part of a conservation initiative,” said Mrinalini Das, a weaver from Puranigaon village at Biswanath Ghat, about 250 km northeast of Guwahati.

She is the secretary of Kaso Sakhi (Friend of Turtles), a self-help group comprising 60 women formed a week ago at Biswanath Ghat. Ms. Das is also one of eight members of this group who wove 36 ‘turtle scarves’ as an experiment under a project initiated by the Wildlife Conservation Society/Turtle Survival Alliance and funded by the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund and Phoenix Zoo’s Conservation and Science Grant’s Program.

Parimal Chandra Ray of Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) said about 800 women of Puranigaon were motivated join the conservation programme because restrictions on fishing had hit their husbands hard.

“Biswanath Ghat is located on the northern banks of the Brahmaputra, which flows through the Kaziranga National Park (KNP). Its high biodiversity led to the 401.5 sq km Biswanath Wildlife Division becoming a part of KNP. This was beneficial for animal species that depended on the river, but affected the income of the fishing communities drastically,” Mr Ray said.

Turtle specialists thought of the Kaso Sakhi idea to offset the negative impact. “It is good to save animals, but we need to survive too. We have been given ₹350 per gamosa , though we have sought more,” said Pranali Das, another weaver of Puranigaon.

“We intend to sell the Kaso Sakhi-branded gamosa and other handloom products for generating revenue,” Arpita Dutta, TSA’s centre head, told The Hindu . A part of the money would go to conservation of rare turtles such as the Assam Roofed Turtle ( Panghshura sylhetensis ).

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.