Assam is a state endowed with varied cultures; the different tribes inhabiting the state have their unique cultural traditions and lifestyle. Each tribe has traditional attire peculiar to them. While dhoti is commonly worn by men of almost all these tribes, there is a slight variation in the shawl or gamocha they wear around their neck. The traditional dresses of the women of these tribes differ to a certain extent.
The native attire of the Assamese man comprise of the dhoti or loin cloth and the gamocha. The dhoto is worn on the lower part of the body along with a white kurta or traditional shirt woven from Assam silk or cotton.
The gamocha is a long rectangular cloth that adorned with a red border on each side and woven with red beautiful traditional motifs and worn around the neck. ‘Ga’ means body and ‘mocha’ means to wipe, hence gamocha means a cloth used in wiping the body. Male Bihu dancers also tie it around their waist, which is then known as a tongali. The gamocha is also a sign of respect and people gift it to each other to show their love and respect. It is also used to honour people.
Both gamocha and dhotis can be made from cotton or Assam silk, depending on the occasion it is worn by a person.
Assamese women dress in their traditional mekhela sador. The mekhela is draped on the lower part of the body from the waist. The sador is a long piece and is worn like to cover the upper body. While one end of the sador is draped like the saree’s pallu, the other end is tucked at the waist in a particular manner, giving it a very attractive look. The mekhela and sador traditionally was woven from different forms of Assam silk like paat, muga, eri, nuni paat, kesa paat. Beautiful traditional as well as modern motifs are now woven into these mekhela sadors. However, now these mekhela sadors are made from varied fabrics that include chanderi, kanjeevaram silk, etc.
The eri sador and seleng sadors are another important attire of Assam. There is a tradition of the bridegroom wrapping the seleng sador around his upper body during the wedding ceremony.
The men of the Dimasa tribe are traditionally dressed in a dhoti accompanied by a turban known as the sgaopha or phagri and a muffler known as the rigdo. The sgaopha is worn as a sign of respect and is usually yellow or green in colour. However, during weddings the dimasa bridegroom dons a white rigdo with a thread tied below the chin. The dhoti is again of two types - risha and gainthao. Whilr the risha is smaller in size and worn above the knee, the gainthao falls up to the ankle.
The Dimasa women also dress in their traditional mekhela sador, which is quite similar to that worn by their Assamese counterparts. They also wear the rigu, a long piece of cloth worn from the waist down. There is a particular rigu known as bathormai, which has only a single design on the whole piece. The bathormai is usually worn during the summer.
Young Dimasa women also adorn the rijamphain, a dress that is tied around the chest and fall till the knees. They are white in colour and worn along with the Dimasa mekhela and blouse.
The Bodo men usually wear the gamosa on the waist reaching below to their knees. Although they wear shirts woven with traditional motifs now, earlier men kept their upper bodies bare. The Bodo men can be distinguished from their traditional footwear that has a unique design. Although during the early days the footwear or sandals used to be made from wood, in the modern times they are made from different materials.
The Bodo women are attired in the traditional dokhna, a long piece of cloth that they wrap around their body. The dokhna is tied around the waist in a particular manner and reaches the ankles. The dokhna usually comes in bright colours and traditional motifs or agors are woven into them. Howvere a Bodo bride wears a dokhna sans the designs and is called salamatha.
There is striking similarities in the attires of Mising and Assamese. The Mising men too wear dhotis known as Gonru Ugon and they are tied on around the waist down. They wear their traditional shirt known as Mibu Galuk. They also adorn a gamocha around their necks, though the Mising gamocha dumer is different in colour and style than the Assamese gamocha.
The Mising women also wear the mekhela-sadors known as the Yakan Age-Gasar. It usually comes in black, green and red and maroon colours. These mekhela-sadors are usually woven and have beautiful flower motifs on them. The attire is very striking in design and colour.
The Rabha traditional attire too is colourful. The Rabha men adorn the traditional dhoti or loin cloth and wrap the traditional gamocha around their necks. Their dhotis can be white as well as in different colours, depending on their choice.
The Rabha women wear a swrap-round like skirt known as the Koum Kontong, that are woven with beautiful intricate designs. They wrap the Kambang, a piece of long cloth around their upper bodies. They also tie a belt known as the labok around their abdomen. The belt is decorated with beads, attractive shells and pearls.
Men of the Deori tribe wear a dhoti and a gamocha is woven motifs in the white and resd colours.
The Deori women wear a long sari like attire that is worn in a special manner around the entire body. A traditional gamocha is wrapped around the upper body and another gamocha tied in a bun on the head.