Friday, October 8, 2010

A Trip To Sualkuchi -- Manchester Of The East

(In the picture :the entrance gate of Sualkuchi )
A week back we took a trip to Sualkuchi ,the silk village of Assam.It is one of the world's largest weaving village often called the Manchester Of The East. It is situated on the north banks of the river Brahmaputra and is approx. 35 kms from my city Guwahati.It is a thickly populated village.Weaving is the major occupation of the people of this village.In Assam weaving comes next only to agriculture in terms of employment generation.The purpose of my visit was to buy few Mekhela Sadors ( Assamese traditional attire for women) and also to show my kids what weaving is all about.We have a fly shuttle loom at our house ,it is my mom-in-law's.Presently it is disassembled as the weaving room is still under construction.
(In the picture-our regular shop from where we buy our stuff)
One can easily find a vast range of silk in Guwahati itself ,but buying from the shops in Sualkuchi is all together a different experience ,you can even order a saree /mekhela sador in colors and designs of your own choice.One more important thing is that the stuff is cheaper here than the other places.
(In the picture : display of shop-owner's favorite designs )
The golden muga,white paat and warm eri are three unique varieties of silks that Assam produces .The aesthetic and artistic sense of the weavers here is remarkable.On Jan 9 1946 ,Mahatma Gandhi visited this village.One artist presented him a piece of pat cloth where his face was woven-the weaving was so fine that his smiling face showed even his two broken front teeth .Mahatma Gandhi remarked that weavers could weave dreams in their cloth.Mr.A.P.J. Kalam is the first President of India to have visited this place on 17th Oct 2006.
(In the picture - Dipu the salesman showing me a 100% pure paat -muga mekhela sador)
I wanted to buy a 100% pure pat-muga mekhela sador .Dipu showed me this one -i really loved the design and the texture but wanted few color changes .I ordered them one as per my choice .This particular piece is expensive because of its purity of the silk yarn used.Unlike other silk it can be hand washed and has got a muted glaze.I was surprised to find a very high rise in prices this time.I was told that it is due to the price rise in the silk yarn at Bangalore (silk exchange) from where the mulberry silk is supplied to Sualkuchi.The tassar yarn comes from Bhagalpur (Bihar)and Chattisgarh (Jharkhand).
Here are few colored paat-silk sets. 
My daughter was not happy with my color choice ,she wanted me to buy one of the pinks and dark blues.

(Here are few more mekhela-sador sets )
The lack of a government policy of supplying raw silk yarn to weavers here through a controlled market network has pushed the local weavers into the grip of both middlemen and the business men who control the entire raw silk yarn market.It is very sad that many loom less weavers are now loosing their job. Because of a sudden decrease in purchasing capacity,master weavers have decreased the numbers of loom they keep .
(One of the set that i bought that day.)
After good one and half hour we finished shopping.Later we requested the shop- owner to take us to their factory .Dipu ,the salesman wanted us to wait for one more hour as all the weavers were on their lunch break. He said that kids would enjoy the trip more if they see weavers in action .It was already too late so we decided not to wait for the weavers.We all followed Dipu-a narrow lane took us to the factory which was almost 100 mts away from the shop.
After 10-15 minutes walk we reached there - it was a three storey building.We climbed  the first floor and reached this room where there were 15 nos of looms.The second floor had another room containing 20 looms.

This sight welcomes you through the main door.Honestly,the room was cramped and extremely hot.Dipu gave us a guided tour of the room. This is a traditional fly shuttle loom.
Silk thread spools (mohura is the assamese word for it) were spread all over the floor .
Some more colored silk yarns ...
Look how closely packed are all the looms ...
Thees are shuttles(maku is the assamese word) made of buffalo horn .
Paat silk thread basic spread ,on which designs are created.
These are hard paper cards on which different patterns are marked - these are used as guides for weaving the designs on cloth.
This is a bridal wear ordered by an NRI  couple for their  son's wedding .

Finally Dipu explained and demonstrated how weaving is done on the loom - my kids looked very attentive while my son was excited by the sound of the loom my daughter asked Dipu few questions .The trip had made kids tired and hungry.I always carry home made lunch packs, Dipu took us to this food-joint and left for work.We invited him for lunch but he was in rush .We all thanked him for giving us his time.

(Park Fast Food Joint .... the board looked pretty interesting )
This is Hotel is a small fast food joint ,we had  our lunch and also some rolls  from the joint .The place was clean and the snack we ordered was good too. The joint doesn't serve any tea or coffee but  we had a flask full of home made tea and disposable cups with  us. After an hour we left for Guwahati.We bought some local vegetables on our way back.If you ever visit Assam, i highly recommend a visit  to this silk village .


  1. Beautiful shots of the place. I love the way those colorful Saree's are neatly folded. I hope this industry survives against the modernization.

  2. Fascinating post, Kavita! Where was the red sari you wore in your photo made? I like that color and design on you the best.

    When I was in Thailand back in 1969, I bought some Thai silk clothes and found the silk fabric to be very hot. It also got very wrinkled when I sat down. Maybe, Thai silk is not as soft as Indian silk, I don't know.

    One of these days, I shall visit India and buy some silk there just to compare it with Thai silk.

  3. What a fun day for the children and for us. Those silks are incredible....just gorgeous! Thank you for sharing this wonderful day with us. What a kind and thoughtful man Dipu is!

  4. your post was Awesome!I felt like moving in nice to see localities and their products..the whole scene had its charm,before I forget ..those beautiful saris..neatly tied with threads Awesome!!

  5. Yet another enlightening post. The whole process of weaving a mekhela is interesting. Am drooling over the sarees...they look so awesome.
    Wonderful post! :)

  6. Fascinating, I've done some weaving and know how difficult it is to make patterns. Just beautiful!

  7. I thought they made silk sarees only in Kancheevaram! ;)

    You may not have noticed, but I was just behind you and your family,walking around in Sualkuchi!

  8. wow! you had gone prepared for a picnic lunch! lovely!!
    hope this art does not die off due to neglect by the authorities concerned..

  9. Wow.That was excellent.Like Balachandran said, I never knew they made Silk Sarees in Assam.Traditional weaving has almost died in Kerala.The neighboring state of Tamil Nadu,still has an excellent and growing industry.We get most of our Silk Sarees from Kancheevarom.

    You took as on a tour.Great.!

  10. U bring to us such important things Kavita. I bought a set sometime bk too from a North-east set and I luvvv it. I so want to buy a few more. U almost make me want to come to Sualkuchi to buy them :P :P
    Loved the pics, esp. that of the kids walking and the silk yarns :)

  11. awesome I need a whole year off from work to go to all these beautiful places that you show us on ur blog...

    I hope u make sure to take me to all these place :)

    wonderful.. maybe i can buy myself a silk shirt or something :)
    Thanks for showing all these beautiful places ...

    Bikram's Blog

  12. When you said how these weavers are suffering because of the middlemen, I remembered the award winning movie, 'Kaajeevaram' in which Prakash Raj has acted and won a national award. I really cried while watching the movie.

    Nice explanation of how the sarees are made and about the looms too! I love the saree you are wearing!

    I am sure Kalaam would have enjoyed his visit to this place. He likes to visit places like these.

    Everytime I read your post, I want to come there as early as possible, Kavita! It will happen one day!

  13. @Rajesh
    - right now it does look under threat,honestly the rise of price shocked me too (it was almost 25%).Thanks for liking the shots.

    @Gigi - that saree is made in Chennai (Tamilnadu),my husband bought it on a trip there.Thanks for the compliment:)

    Assam silk doesn't get wrinkled easily and is not that hot.You must have noticed that it is less shinier than other silks.

    You are most welcome to India - we will compare both the silks together :)Thanks.

    - it sure was fun day ,my kids like country side a lot and both me n Chandan too.Dipu is a very nice guy ,he was very polite and helping.I can't thank him enough.Thanks.

    - i am glad that you enjoyed the post.Sarees n mekhelas are tied very beautifully out here.You almost feel guilty when while displaying the designs the salesman
    breaks them. Thanks.

    Shilpa Garg
    - i am not an impulsive shopper but had tough time controlling myself.I love these sarees/mekhelas because these are completely hand made.Thanks :)

    @Lin Floyd
    - weaving is tough no doubt ,my mother in law does it too.Thanks for appreciating.

    @ Balachandran V
    - now that you know ,you must buy one Assam silk for your wife. Btw ,that handsome man was you ?? No wonder ,he looked so familiar.Thanks a lot for such a nice comment :)

    @Magic eye
    - I hope govt takes a timely action in this direction.I always carry some home made snacks and tea along while travelling outside the city.It was picnic like and i did notice other people in that food joint looking at our biryani greedily ,sacchi !Thanks.

  14. loved the post and all the clicks..very nice and colourful sadors you get there..I love India for its culture, beauty and talent..i wish they make such tops too as I don't wear sarees :)

  15. @Dr. Antony
    -Assam is known for its silk .In fact Muga silk is produced only in Assam .I hope you enjoyed the tour.Thanks.

    - I am happy that you found the post useful.I remember you once mentioned that you bought a mekhela sador from a NE trade fare.Thanks for your kind words.

    tcch , i should have paid some attention to men wear too. They had some nice silk men shirts and kurtas too.So ,when are you arriving ? thanks:)

    as it is the weavers of India work in pathetic condition and are underpaid .I hope that our govt takes a timely action,otherwise we will loose this beautiful art very soon.
    Kalam had promised some good fund to this industry here .I am not aware if it happened or not.
    I know you have been planning a trip to NE ..i am waiting for that day Sandhya :)

  16. @Neha
    -our fashion designers here are using this silk in modern wear too.You and Bikram gave me an idea of another topic for my future posts.Thanks :):)

  17. Thank you for this interesting and informative post. I love all those colours, so vibrant, so beautiful.

  18. Interesting. Thanks for sharing it with us. Your pictures speak volumes. Would love to visit the place sometime :)

  19. An awesome village and very eye catching sarees. It is good you have created awareness through ur post. Like Deepak i too feel that this art needs to be protected and its legacy to be passed on so that it never dies.

  20. The luxury and wealth of your country and your people are great, people have things they no one can steal it .... it is knowledge. This is a post that I will proudly show your friends. nice weekend

  21. Wow, this is amazing and, the photos are awesome! Wonderful post, Kavita.

    I’m popping in to say hello. I hope you had a terrific week.

    Have a great weekend!!

  22. @kavita ji ,This post was very beutifully presented.You not only shopped but went behind the scenes too.Now i undesrtand the difficulty in weaving these sarees and its worth its price!

  23. khoobsurat
    bahut maja aaya padhe... AANAND-VIBHOR.

  24. This is such an interesting trip. Gorgeous pictures. Namaste!

  25. Revelation!
    My knowledge with regard to silk fabrics was confined to Tamilnad, Kancheevaram.

    I always wonder if environmentalist and Blue cross will ever find something unethical about silk manufacture.

  26. Very nice post.
    Good to see such a informative and colorful post.
    I hope electric looms does not push out these handlooms and craftsmen out of their trade...... and out of business

  27. Silk village definitely looks very interesting...sure to lure women into buying over and across their capacity! The sarees look so elegant, some of them looked like traditional kerala sarees...great shots..loved the colored yarn pic :)

  28. Very well presented Didi - as I read through the description, it was like taking a tour with you through the silk village :)

    I read the comments column and it was so good :)

    Really beautiful Photos and a lovely description Didi :) Our Ma looked at the photos again and again, she is so interested to try out different variety of sarees, she has an almarah full of them, she is always ready for shopping again :)

    I'm so glad to be able to share some words here on this blog post, I miss your blog and all such interesting writings and photos, I'll visit more often now, so pleasing :)

    Cheers, Sai :)

  29. This post should be a MOVIE!!!

    wonderful visit to a great place & people. I wish I could wear those colors and fabrics.

    Warm Aloha from Waikiki

    Comfort Spiral

  30. Quite an informative post. Next time, I will make it a point to visit the village.

  31. I love it so much
    it's amazing
    Hope to see you soon

  32. kavita, actually, east, north-east or west, u r d besttttt....:)

  33. Excellent pics and post. The kids would have been amazed to see the loom:)

  34. The sari you were wearing at the shop is beautiful:)

  35. This was such an awesome post, one of your best I feel. The photos were lovely and so were the designs.
    I love the golden mooga, my mother had quite a few in her collection. I love the Assam silk sarees and mekhala for the graceful off white/red patterns.
    I have not been to Assam, your posts continuously inspire me to visit the state.

  36. woooo...wht bful n xpensive sreees ..

  37. I know India reasonably well but had no clue about silk town in Assam. Your clinical, step by step description of the place and the process is superb. Thanks for taking time to write. I am sure you had spend a bit of time to write this one. We know Assam better.

  38. The place looks like where you get genuine stuff.
    Like those loom and those old punch hole cards.

  39. the sarees look beautifull :D haven't been here... will plan a visit :D

  40. This is very interesting and I enjoyed the pictures. Have a nice week.

  41. Thank you for this great post. All the best wishes to You,
    Grandma's scrapbook

  42. Beautiful shots. Wish I could visit the place..

    I like the way you narrate too. quite interesting..

  43. The street scene in Sualkuchi could be a back street in Hilo, Hawaii, where I live.
    The silks look fantastic, too. Not something I know much about, so this is very educational. I have a friend who has traveled a lot in India, buying silks in places like this workshop.

  44. Hi Kavita! Glad to visit your room. Facinated by what I see around. If only you had a link to where to buy these pretty sarees, I would have gone on a shopping spree... - did I mention window shopping mostly :)

    ~ NRIGirl

  45. loved the pictures... this is stuff i never get to see. thanks

  46. Wow.It is fabulous post with wonderful pictures.I will ask my two daughters to see as they can relate better.My major part of career was in Bengal and the pics brought nostalgic memories

  47. hello,
    glad to read ur post mam, i am a student of symbiosis institute of design and i have to do a project on muga silk in the month of april.

    so if u could help to give me the number of a person whom i can contact in the village.
    we are set of 12 students doing fashion design.

  48. Hello Ma'am, i have been to Sualkuchi myself to get mekhela-sadors for my wedding and my brother's too...loved reading your post...keep up the good work!!

  49. Thanks Prarthana ,i am so glad to hear from you .Thanks a lot for your appreciation.

  50. I myself am from Sualkuchi and have written quite a lot about Sualkuchi in blogs and papers! But I loved the way you kept it simnple, and yet very interesting! KUdos! :)

  51. Hello ma'am! ....I am actually researching on sualkuchi and its up gradation for my final year dissertation project to keep the tradition alive. Your wonderful description gave me a lot of new ideas and thoughts. I am still to go there myself for a detailed study but your brief photos and talk helped me a lot.

  52. HELLO ma'am, I am doing a research on upgradation of sualkuchi for my thesis project. Your simple and beautiful explanation gave me a lot of ideas. Though I am still left to go there and do a detailed study, your brief photos and talk helped me. Thank you!!!