CULTURE - WEAVING
Weaving is an important aspect of the cultural life of the people of the Majuli Island. Every house irrespective of caste, creed and social status, has a loom. It is a traditional industry that can be traced back to very ancient period. In ancient times, kings are believed to be wearing clothes from Mezankori plant. This plant is used for rearing muga larvae. Weaving is practiced by the inhabitants of Majuli mainly for utility purposes. Traditionally, weaving is done by womenfolk. It is practiced by most of the communities residing in Majuli. Generally a family's requirement of cloth is met by cloth woven at home. The tools required for weaving are indigenous in nature, made from locally available bamboo and timber like looms, ugha, chereki, mako and neathani etc. Raw materials required by weavers are mainly cotton silk from cocoons and mulberry leafs etc.
The traditional process of weaving closely follows the annual seasonal changes prevalent in Majuli. Depending on the weather conditions- indoor or outdoor breeding is taken up. Working on the loom indoors or in semi-open or open areas also follows the weather.The mulberry leaves are cut for feeding the paat worm (bombyx textor and bombyx croeci) mostly fed and bred indoors. The endi worm (attacus recini) is reared entirely indoors and castor leaves are fed. The product is endi cloth. The muga silk worm (anthracoea assamoea) is fed on the leave of sum tree (machilus bombycina) and is semi - domesticated because it is reared upon in the trees in open air. However, rearing of worms is mostly practiced in the pre-monsoon period as the women are little less tied up with field work. The Yogi communities on the other hand continue to do the rearing and threading throughout the whole year. In the month of April, during the first day of the Bohag month (the goru bihu) preservation of the seed is done with turmeric and matimah (pulse) paste strewn over, and kept inside an airtight box wrapped with a silk cloth. This process can store the seed for a whole year or for a considerable amount of time. Whenever required the silk cloth is opened and the seeds start to fertilize. Usually the opening and closing happens on the goru bihu day. The paat silk is reared indoor with five moulting stages of 29-34 days for winter and 15-21 days in summer, on a bamboo sieve called chandarai with circular pattern for cocoons to breed. The cocoons are boiled in water and the threads/necha is pulled out, to be washed or bleached with water mixed with burnt dimaru scale (alkaline agent). A fine light yellow thread is produced from this paat polu.
A woman displaying 'chaador'
The women folk get busy in the setting of the weaving loom in the month of late February onwards with jatar, neothani etc. The activity gains momentum during late March for weaving cotton cloth (Gamocha -Bihuwan) which is presented to loved and respected ones during Post Bohag bihu the women get involved in paddy fields. Once the seedlings are transplanted, a few women get back to the loom mostly for teaching the technique to the young girls. The climate becomes hot and humid with maximum 86% of RH and temperature 37°C. The items woven are chadar, ribi gasheng etc.The yogis continue to rear the paat silk predominantly. Production of silk items such as kingkhap, Balichori,cheleng are done. The endi and muga need open air and not reared much as this is the high rainfall and flood season. During the post-monsoon season from October to November, the lesser occurrence of rainfall and receding flood waters helps castor seeds germinate. The castor leaves are fed to the endi worm indoors. Moulting takes place for 21 days in winter/cold and 14 days in summer. The cocoons are formed in dry banana or betel nut leaves indoor. The underside of the sum tree is cut clean of shrubby bush. The trees are clustered as grove in the backyard of a homestead. After cleaning the leaves, the air is smoked up with thatch to make it free from insects and ants. Prayer and offerings are made prior to the moulting and leaving of the larvae in the tree. The process of feeding continues for a month with five changes of moult. The cocoons are formed indoor on dry stalks of castor or other plants. There is again a little lull in the weaving activity during the start of the harvesting season starting in December. Womenfolk get involved in production of endi cloth (a warm cloth) from mid and late November. New seedlings are traded or brought from other places. There is fervent participation from the older and the younger women in weaving activities.