Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Traditional Dresses And Ornaments Of The Ahoms

The Ahom age is the age of ornaments and attires of several types. For every class of people particular dresses and jewelleries were being assigned and therefore, it is through the appearance of a person only, one could be identified without any difficulty. The dresses that were worn by the king or by the higher officials of the Ahom kingdom were not worn by a subject. For male and female both the genders, different varieties of dresses were available. Today I am here to take you to that age, the age of the Ahoms where you can see the royal behaviours, the royal costume senses and also the way of styling of people of that time.

In the early years of the Ahom rule in Assam, the Ahoms were seen to wear black clothes and it was only later on that they switched to the white coloured clothes. As I said earlier, the dresses and ornaments depicted the class of a person of that time and that was displayed better by the turban and a kind of scarf, which is known as the ‘Seleng Sadar’. The higher officials, queens, princesses and the King used to drape turbans made of silk (pat-muga) in their head. Certain attires that were quite widely used and worn by the higher officials and also by some classes of the subjects are ‘Riha’ (a kind of cloth draped around the body and the shoulder), ‘Mekhela’ (a wrapper kind of cloth worn in the waist) and ‘Sula –Suria’ (a kind of short shirts and clothes made of Assam silks like Golden Muga, White Pat and Eri Silk) etc. So, whatever, they used to wear basically were made of Golden Muga, Pat and Eri silk only. ‘Majankari’ and ‘Sopapotia kapur’ are also certain other types of clothes which are being considered to be the best of the best and were worn by the Kings, Queens (Kuwaris) or other higher officials in special occasions only. It is since that golden age of handmade silk, Assam till now is carrying its glory of being the uncrowned monarch in the silk industry.

Now let’s have a look at the particular type of dresses that were worn by the Ahoms. The females of the Ahom kingdom did not have to keep themselves under veils. In stead of that, they had to wear ‘Seleng Sadar’ in their heads like a turban and wore ‘Sula’ (a kind of one piece attire). Day by day these types of clothing changed and the Ahom females started wearing the ‘Mekhela Sadar’ made of Pat and Muga. Males used to wear ‘Suria’ (clothes covering from the waistline) and ‘Suti Sula’ (short shirts) and tied ‘Basual Tongali” (a kind of belt type strap) on their waist. These clothes were worn by both male and females of Ahom kingdom but the only difference was that based on the class of people, the materials and designs of these things varied.

So, after the dresses of the Ahoms, now comes the detail about the jewelleries and ornaments worn by them. The Ahoms were known for golden jewelleries. They were rich in gold and hence, you can see them wearing heavy jewelleries made of gold only. As gold was the recognition of the wealthy and royal families of Ahoms similarly, the people from lower strata used to wear jewelleries made of silver and bronze. However, some other poor natives wore brass-made ornaments too. The jewelleries were being designed and studded by colourful beads. Male and female, all used to wear various types of ornaments on various occasions but as it is very obvious, the females used to be ornamented more than the males. The jewelleries carried by the males were finger rings, ‘Hilikhamoni’ and ‘Motamoni’ (kind of chains worn around the neck), ‘Koriya’ and ‘Lukapar’ (ear rings) and ‘Baju’ (an armlet).

The females of Ahom kingdom, mostly from the wealthy and upper-class families were being designed and ornamented in such a way that each of them used to carry jewelleries weighing 20 to 30 tolas! The jewelleries worn by them include ‘Hirpota’ (worn in head, amidst hair); ‘Kopali’ (worn on forehead); gold and silver-made flowers in hair bun; ‘Keru’, ‘Thuria’, ‘Nejepota’, ‘Jangphai’, ‘Nejepota Jangphai’, ‘Uka Jangphai’, ‘Bakhrua’, ‘Long Keru’, ‘Boboiloga’, ‘Kaanphul’ and ‘Karnabaala’ in ears; ‘Naakphuli’ (nose ring); ‘Baju’ (armlet); ‘Muthikharu’, ‘Gaamkhuaru’, ‘Hosoruakharu’, ‘Potiya kharu’, ‘Mogormukhikharu’, ‘Guta kharu’, ‘Kangan’ and ‘Doliya Kharu’ (Bangles); ‘Siripota’, ‘Henepota’, ‘Jethinejiya’, ‘Parosokua’, ‘Mouranejiya’, ‘podumkoli’, ‘Barobirosa’, ‘Maas Bakoliya’, ‘Hirapota’, ‘Bakhorua’ and ‘Uka’ (finger rings) and ‘Chandrahaar’, ‘Kokali’, ‘Kardhoni’ and ‘Ghagor’ on waist.

In fact, it is in their neck only that they wore ‘Joonbiri’, ‘Dholbiri’, ‘Doriyabiri’, ‘Hilikhabiri’, ‘Parosokuabiri’, ‘Lotabakhoruabiri’, ‘Madoli’, ‘Mogormuribiri’, ‘Gejera’, ‘Bena’, ‘Dugdugi’, ‘Haat hori’, ‘Thupamoni’, ‘Sipat’, ‘Golpota’, ‘Hilikhamoni’, ‘Phusimoni’ and ‘Chadrahaar’. So, these are all those designs and varieties of ornaments that were once worn by the Queens and females of other strata. However, now also many of these jewelleries are found to be circulating from the predecessors to the successors and the new generations are also showing interest to get these back again. So, now it becomes quite easy for one to realize that actually how heavy and gorgeous an Ahom lady looked in all those jewelleries and attires.

Except for all those heavy and valuable ornaments, there are some other materials too which were quite widely used in the Ahom days. Actually such types of ornaments were used by those people who cannot afford to buy the golden, silver or bronze jewelleries. These are like the ornaments made of pig’s teeth, elephant’s bone and tiger’s nails etc.

As the Ahom community have been connected to several other communities of North-East like Manipur, Nora, Joyonta and Bhutan etc, one can see the influence of such cultures on it. The Ahom custom, tradition and even the lifestyle have more or less kind of similarities with such tribes.



An Ahom girl in the traditional Sadar and Muga-mekhela

Though not all dresses and ornaments are found to be in action but still many of those are still being found to be used by the Ahoms. Still Golden muga, silver and Eri silk is considered to be the clothes of major importance of the Ahoms and you can see an Ahom girl or lady looking fully ornamented and gorgeous in a ‘Pat-Muga Mekhala Sadar’!

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