Textile, Dress

Exotic Weaves of Arunachal Pradesh

Weavers of Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh is famous for its traditional weaving technology of loin looms also referred to as back-strap or body-tension loom. It is one of the oldest devices for weaving cloth. Loin loom weaving is a legacy which has been passed down by the women folk to successive generations from age-old times and upholds their artistry and originality.

The Process

A continuous warp is stretched between two parallel bamboos, one end tied to a post and the other end held by a strap worn around the weaver’s lower back. The weaver moves backward and forward while weaving to regulate the tension of the warp with her body. Bamboo shed pole is strategically placed to separate the warp to create two layers. The heald stick, lease stick, and wooden rods are different implements, each serving different functions. Finally, the weft, which holds everything together is carried and beaten into place to weave the designs.

Woven Identities

The intricate motifs, designs, and colours woven by the women of different ethnic communities reflect the cultural and social identities of the people.

Weaves of Sherdukpens

The Sherdukpens are settled mostly in the small township of Rupa in the West Kameng district. Weaving has been a strong tradition, although the knowledge and practice have diminished over time. Their central motif is always a right-pointing swastika, around which a number of other patterns are woven. The colours are red, blue, black and sometimes green and yellow on a white ground.

Weaves of Miju Mishmis

It is fascinating how with simple loin looms, every community manages to weave and stitch their own styles and patterns into gorgeous attires. The Miju Mishmis had migrated from Myanmar, according to their oral histories. They mainly inhabit the Lohit and Anjaw districts in eastern Arunachal Pradesh. The Miju Mishmis are one of the most colourful communities with a wide repertoire of woven motifs, colours and patterns. Their dressing is quite elaborate with two pieces of wrap-around skirt, a top and a heavily decorated stole. The typical colours of Miju Mishmis are red, pink, white, blue, yellow and black. The essential design is of stripes and bands of contrasting combinations. Different geometrical shapes, especially diamonds constitute an important design vocabulary of their clothing. The Miju Mishmi men's jackets, aka 'Mishmi coats' are particularly mentionable because of their intricate weaves. Weaves of Idu Mishmis
One of the most stunning and diverse textile traditions has been sustained by the Idu Mishmi community, another clan of the Mishmis, since the age-old times. The women are highly skilled in weaving attires of both men and women. The textiles predominantly bear diamond and zigzag shaped designs which they have taken to the highest level of elaboration. Those are woven on shawls, skirts, coats and bags, with an arrangement of different combinations and patterns. The Idus believe that they migrated from Tibet. Their villages are located on the foothills and high grounds of the Mishmi hills in the Upper and Lower Dibang Valley districts.
In their pre-loom activity, they use a traditional thread mixer to twine multiple threads together before weaving on the loom. The thread mixer is operated with hand and is similar in shape to a spinning top toy.
They have brilliant sense of colours, and use a combination of thread picking, hand knotting techniques along with loom weaving. Idu men wear multi-coloured jackets of different styles and patterns.They also have traditional jackets woven in black and white which are known as 'war coats', worn during hunting too.

Weaves of Galos
The Galo community, who mostly reside in the Lepa Rada district, are expert weavers. Their ceremonial dresses are in black and white. Seen here are the women ready to perform their traditional harvesting dance. They traditionally wear a wrap-around skirt called Gale, with striped designs in the middle and a half-sleeve jacket called Tango with criss-cross patterned borders.
In more recent times the community has developed a Galo uniform to reinforce their identity which is green with white thread-designs on it.The pattern of their Gale is woven using two looms. One loom is used to make the base fabric. Another smaller loom is used to weave the patterned portion that is then stitched on the base fabric. They also weave a wide variety of designs, and play with different colour combinations according to their choices.

Weaves of Chakmas
The Chakma community women are well known for their exquisite weaves of mekhla-chadar - their traditional dress. Mekhla Chadar consists of two pieces of fabric - 'Mekhla the skirt, and 'Chadar' the shawl.
Nowadays, they have also started fulfilling orders with an amazing collection of weaves. Seen here is a combination of a blue Mekhla and a red Chadar.

Weaves of Akas and Mijis
The Akas and Mijis are communities who wear more intricately patterned jackets, with a large array of motifs. Their motifs are created with inspiration from nature and from their own imagination. Their typical motif is that of a flower with angular petals (Korophul).They use wildlife and nature motifs such as that of elephants, horses, mountains, etc.

Weaves of Adis

The Adis are expert weavers. They concentrate on simple lines but weave great variety of patterns.
Adi community is one of the most populous in Arunachal, residing in the temperate and sub-tropical regions of Siang, East Siang, Upper Siang, West Siang, Lower Dibang Valley, Lohit, Shi Yomi and Namsai districts. Adi Bokar is a sub-clan of the Adis.The bands on their textiles often carry a combination of contrasting stripes, and intricately woven patterns.

Weaves of Singphos
The Singpho community, residing in the Changlang district, also weave their attires at home. Traditionally the women wear a wrap-around skirt and a top with a fabric belt which is tied around the waist over the skirt. They also wear chequered head covers. Married women wrap a loose cloth around their chest, like a shawl / stole which has chequered weaves. The women's fabrics have floral motifs woven in different colours. The cloth which they tie around their waist usually has richly ornamented borders.

Weaves of Apatanis
Apatani women have a strong tradition of handloom weaving. Apatanis are one of the major ethnic groups of eastern Himalayas, residing in the Lower Subansiri district, and are settled in this region for centuries. Their usual wrap-around skirts have broad horizontal bands of contrasting colours. The jackets women wear have intricately designed vertical borders on the back, woven in the middle. Their typical colours are blue, red, white and yellow.

Weaves of Tagins
Another gorgeous community is the Tagin, primarily inhabiting Daporijo of Upper Subansiri district. Some are also settled in the Shi Yomi district.The women wear a red patterned Galle which is a wrap-around skirt. They adorn their dresses with a metallic waist band. One of their traditional motifs is the cowrie, which used to be a currency during their ancient trade transactions with Tibet.

Weaves of Tangsas
The traditional Tangsa attires have striped and chequered patterns. The community resides in the Changlang district of eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh, and are the indigenous bamboo tea-makers of India. They have rich knowledge of biodiversity and sustainable ways of living. Every Tangsa household has a loom and all Tangsa women have the knowledge of weaving.

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