Much as we say that saree is the quintessential dress of India, there are nooks and corners of our diverse country where the 6-yard saree is not the day to day attire.
Welcome to the beautiful state of Arunachal Pradesh, that proudly hosts 26 distinct tribes and more than 100 sub-tribes. A state so rich and steeped in Indian culture that the weaves and fabrics of this pristine state, are worth a mention.
Adi, Aka, Galo, Bokar, Bori, Tagnis, Nyishi, and Apatani are some of the main tribes that till date weave their own clothes as also to sell or barter. Amongst these the Tannis, are best known for quality products and patterns that take your breath away. Jig-jiro and jilan, are two such examples that command a good price especially in the valleys of Panior, Khru and the upper reaches of Kamla.
It never fails to amaze how all our so-called old-fashioned ways of living, is entrenched in nature-surviving and thriving because of the Indian Artizans who have used and optimized their synergy with the forests, plants, and flowers.
To explain this further, the dictating colours of the Apatani and other weaves of Arunachal Pradesh are orange-yellow, red, blue and dark blue. While red-orange colour dyes came from plant Tamin, the brownish-yellow colour came from Sankhii. Yango was used to extract indigo blue.
Modern life though has managed to spread its tentacles into their lives too. The weavers are finding it monotonous and tedious to continue working with organic dyes and shifting their allegiance to synthetic colours and dyes. This has led to brighter coloured fabrics and compromising on the thickness of the threads. The essence of the local weave and rustic feel is clearly missing in these.
THE SAVING GRACE, HOWEVER, IS THAT THE ANCIENT ART STILL EXISTS BECAUSE THE TRIBAL STILL PREFER TO WEAR ETHNIC DRESSES IN THIS CONTEMPORARY WORLD OF FASHIONS.
THE PATTERNS AND THE REASON BEHIND IT
The patterns of the weaves of Arunachal Pradesh are distinctly angular and zig-zag in designs.
These are most popular with the Aptani, Adi, and Mishmi tribes. If you notice carefully, even the floral designs are angular in shape. Even floral patterns take on a more geometric form in fabrics of these regions. Stripes are common too.
The straight and unassuming lines, especially in the clothes of Adi and Aptani tribes, are indicative of a disciplined life.
There was a time when each household had a handloom and handloom production was a daily routine for the family and for barter deals. The colours used were beige and shades of white as the base with weaving in lovely artistic colours of blue, red, orange.
The traditional and still in practise weaving method of Apatanis.
Men wore jikhe tarii, a thick short sleeves cotton jacket and a loincloth called sarbe. Women wore adorned themselves in a kente tarii and kenti abi, that is a jacket with a wrap-around black and white skirt.
Kente pulye, kente taser were cotton shawls with blue and yellow lines and bands and were worn by both men and women. Tongo and Jilya pulye, were the winter wear made of homemade wool that was bartered or bought from outside.
THE SAVING GRACE
The apparatus used for weaving by the tribes who still haven’t moved on to power loom is a simple reed loom. A semi-curved bamboo tube is used for weaving, in an old-fashioned way. Each house has in the village still has its own indigenous weaving set. Fortunately, the importance of the traditional loin loom and products made from it have not diminished despite the introduction of the modern fly shuttle looms.
A true example of how the innate culture can be safeguarded can be learnt from the Indian artizans of the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh.
Read More: Which Is The Best Khadi Of Them All?
Leaving you with a beautiful short video on Apatani weaving filmed by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf in the 1970’s…