Muga is a fibre a mere touch of which gives a feel of its purity, quality and magnificence. The Raigarh’s kosa from Chhattisgarh, Bihar’s raw silk and Bengal silk are also wild silks and muga-like tough and enduring but they do not reveal the same level of grace or lustre as does Assam’s muga. Unlike Bihar’s raw silk fibre, the muga fibre maintains a uniform level of thickness, and is hence more smooth in weaving, and reveals greater finesse. Apart, while other fibres, Raigarh’s kosa or Bengal silk, have taken to dying, Assam still continues with its tradition to have its fibre in such fibre’s natural colour. Muga, as also kosa, Bihar’s raw silk and Bengal silk, are best wears for winter and regions with cold climate.
In its design-pattern every Assam textile, a sari, shawl, sheet, or whatever, reveals folk touch and rare ethnicity. However expensive the fibre, the motifs and design-patterns woven on it are taken broadly from folk traditions of the region, and it is in such synthesis of the tribal and the elite that the real worth of an Assam sari lies. Highly stylised, such motifs are forms of birds, animals, humans, flowers, foliage, geometric designs and architecture-motifs. In a pure Assam sari borders are rarely woven. Instead of, repeat patterns of pallu designs are woven in extra length in separable stripes which its wearer might cut and stitch over the parts which, when worn, get more projected. This facilitates the wearer to better project her textile’s more ornate part according to her height-condition, modus of wearing it and the like. However, if someone prefers wearing it sans border, she does not need stitching such stripes on it.
This textile length is obviously a perfect example of Assam sari. Its base colour is the muga fibre’s natural colour. The field has strewn over it a uniformly designed and highly stylised tree motif, rendered in two colours each, lower half in one colour, and upper half, in the other. They consist of four colour combinations : half red and half black; half red and half green; and, half black and half green. The pallu and its repeat patterns are more elaborately conceived. It combines a number of forms of different realms. A tree form, which also has a shrine’s look, comprises its axis. It is flanked on either side by a pair of parrots-like looking birds. This tree-trunk rises with geometric forms, the variously positioned squares and others, and has on its upper sides two flowers with four petals each flanking it. The expanse of the tree’s foliage, an angular formation with a square centre, has reflections of architecture. In the intersecting space there is a large balloon-like looking large roundish flower with a three-leaved motif on its bottom.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.
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