Textiles of the North East

17 Days : Kolkata > Kolkata

  • Kolkata
  • Dibrugarh
  • Dibang Valley
  • Dihing River Camp
  • Dimapur
  • Kohima
  • Khonoma
  • Majuli Island
  • Guwahati

Textiles of the North East

Trip Code: AITTNE

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  • Introduction

    This 17-day journey through the North East of India showcases the region’s textile traditions.

    Beginning with three days in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, this tour then journeys into three of the states of North East India – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland – to explore their unique textile traditions.  Observe the work of Assamese silk weavers, the traditional weaving of Nagaland and hand loom work in Mishing tribal villages.  A highlight is a visit to a Sualkuchi weavers’ village, where nearly six million metres of white and golden Assam silk is produced annually.

    History, culture, cuisine and transport by ferry on the mighty Brahmaputra River all feature in the journey through this beautiful region. For those who travel at the right time of the year there is also a chance to attend the Hornbill Festival, an annual cultural event that showcases the food, songs, dances and customs of the tribal communities of the region.

    Notes:

    •  You will need to start this tour around 22 November in order to have it coincide with the Hornbill Festival.

     

  • Day 1 Kolkata

    You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Kolkata was established on the banks of the Hoogly River as the trading post for the East India Company in 1690.  The capital of the British Raj until 1911, it grew to be the biggest colonial trade centre in Asia, earning it the name “Jewel of the East.” Today it is a multicultural, cosmopolitan city with a population of just over 14 million (India’s third largest city) and the main business, commercial and financial hub of eastern India. [Image: Avrajyoti Mitra].

  • Day 2 Kolkata

    Begin your exploration of Kolkata with a full day city tour. Some of the sights that you might like to cover include: Dalhousie Square, the ‘European’ area with its rich and varied architectural styles; the Victoria Memorial and the Maidan, ‘the lungs of the city’; Park Street, the pleasure capital of the British empire, with its restaurants, watering holes, hotels, churches, colleges, stately homes and its famous burial grounds; Sovabazar, the vital hub of traditional Bengali culture, containing a fascinating cosmopolitan blend of architectural forms (from Islamic to Baroque, from Victorian to Bengali).

    End your day with a relaxing, sunset cruise on the Hooghly, sailing upriver to Belur Math, the international headquarters of the Ramkrishna Mission and Dakshineswar, a unique Kali temple.

  • Day 3 Kolkata

    Today’s activities focus on the unique and diverse textile traditions of India – particularly the Eastern designs and textiles.

    Spend this morning exploring one or two Bengal villages.  Famous for their fine muslin cloth as well as their various hand-woven patterns, each village produces superb fabric in its own unique weaving styles. There will be opportunities to visit homes and observe and interact with locals busily engaged in various acts of cloth weaving.

    This afternoon visit the Gurusaday Museum, which showcases the folk and tribal arts and crafts of undivided Bengal as well as India; it has a rich collection of over 3,300 exhibits. The Museum’s Textiles Collection is famous for its early 19th to early 20th century Kanthas or embroidered wraps. Used in Bengali village households as wraps, light quilts, bedspreads, etc, they were originally made by hand stitching several layers of old and used saris or fine cotton cloths and then embroidering them with floral, animal, human or geometric folk motifs.

    You may also like to visit Kumartulli, known for its skilled artisans who craft beautiful idols – particularly of the goddesses Durga and Kali – from straw and clay.  It is fascinating to see how these images are created and where their materials are sourced.  (These workshops are particularly busy during September and October, in preparation for forthcoming festivals).

    End the day with visits to two of the city’s iconic textile stores. [Image: Auyon].

  • Day 4 Dibrugarh

    Transfer to the airport to fly to Dibrugarh. A local guide will meet you on arrival and transfer you to Mancotta Heritage Tea Bungalow. Built over 162 years ago, when the British were establishing their tea estates, it is located in the middle of a working estate.  The view from the veranda across lawns, flowerbeds and gravelled path, looks over some of Assam’s lush tea plantations.

    In the afternoon visit an Assamese silk weavers’ village.  Handloom weaving is a way of life in Assam and is deeply linked with Assamese culture and heritage. In fact, it is the state’s oldest and largest industry (it has the largest concentration of handlooms and weavers in the country).

    Assam’s silk – muga, endi and pat silks (produced by different species of silkworms) are renowned.  Muga silk is known for its glossy fine texture and durability; due to its low porosity the muga yarn cannot be bleached or dyed and its natural golden colour is retained. This muga silk ‘Mekhela Chadar’ is still the local dress of the Assamese.  Pat silk is usually brilliant white or off-white in colour, whilst eri silk is soft and warm and is popular as shawls and quilts.

  • Day 5 Dibang Valley

    Depart Dibrugarh today and drive two hours to Soikhowa ghat, where you board a ferry for a fascinating cruise across the headwaters of the Brahmaputra River. The journey enables you to observe life on the ghats, which have been in operation since the British period and connect all the important river routes of northeast India.

    On arrival at Sadiya ghat, take a picturesque two-hour drive though beautiful rural Assam and Arunachal to reach your accommodation, the eco-friendly Dibang Valley Jungle Camp.  Set idyllically in the middle of an orange orchard, it has commanding views of the Dibang river basin and the densely forested mountains.

  • Day 6 Dibang Valley

    Spend today visiting Mishmi villages to observe textile weaving.  In these villages (as in most of the north east of India) it is the women who do the weaving, unlike in the rest of India, where men predominate the weaving profession.  It is said that many of the tribes in this region have a taboo which prohibits weaving by a man who, it is believed, would lose his virility were he to follow this craft.  The men here make beautiful basketry items of bamboo and cane.

    The Mishmi women create very elaborate designs in their weaving. The warp is black cotton, with the designs woven in maroon red, deep pink, (with a touch of green sometimes), outlined by a silver thread; the main body of the cloth is patterned with geometric designs.  [Image: ahinsajain].

  • Day 7 Dibang Valley

    Today you can opt for a day long hike in the mountains along with an evening cooking session, which will give you an understanding and appreciation of the unique Mishmi cuisine.

    Other activities on offer here are bird watching, nature walks, jungle trails and village walks.  Alternatively, you can simply relax and enjoy your pleasant accommodation.

  • Day 8 Dihing River Camp

    After breakfast, transfer to Dihing River Camp – a quaint riverside camp on the Dihing River – where you will spend the night in bamboo huts on stilts.

    Visit a traditional Assamese tribal village where in the evening you can enjoy a traditional cultural program by a campfire and try fish cocktails with fresh fish netted from the river.

  • Day 9 Dimapur

    Visit a nearby silk worm plantation this morning, where you can observe the processes of silk production, before departing for Dimapur. The gateway to Nagaland, Dimapur is the state’s main commercial and trading centre.  [Image: Satyakamd].

     

  • Day 10 Kohima

    Depart for Kohima this morning.  After checking in to your hotel, you will be taken to Kiphama village – the Hornbill Festival ground where you will be introduced to this unique cultural extravaganza, in which sixteen major tribes participate.

    Activities include cultural dances and war dances, folk songs, indigenous games, music, a fashion show (cultural and modern), handloom and handicrafts, local cuisine and drinks such as zutho and thutshe. After attending the festival, return to your hotel in Kohima for the night.  [Image: Loyalu].

  • Day 11 Kohima

    In addition to enjoying the events at the Hornbill Festival over the next two days, you will have an opportunity to visit several villages in and around Kohima to observe the various types of weaving traditions of Nagaland.

    There are around sixteen tribes in Nagaland and each has its own distinctive design and colour combinations, with simple, clean lines, stripes, squares and bands being the most traditional design motifs.  Spinning, dyeing and weaving is performed by women (every Naga woman is supposed to weave the cloths of her family) and they are great experts in the choice and combination of colours.

  • Day 12 Kohima

    Continue to enjoy the Hornbill Festival and visit nearby villages today. Nagas are versatile artisans and this can be seen, not only in their textiles, but also in objects of everyday use.  These range from the decorations of their weapons (daos and spears) to  bamboo drinking pots embossed with various cultural motifs, and woodcarvings on massive doorways and village gates.  You may like to end your day with a stroll through Kohima Bazaar, a very lively open market.

  • Day 13 Khonoma

    After breakfast visit the Nagaland State Museum which has a rare collection of articles from different tribes and portrays the history and culture of the Nagas. Exhibits include ancestral weaponry, carved gatepost, status pillars and traditional costumes and jewellery.  Also visit the Deputy Commissioner’s Bungalow where for more than a month in 1944, Japanese troops fought British and Indian troops. The clash, known as the Battle of the Tennis Court, was the turning point in the fight against Japan. The ‘Tennis Court’ is now part of the Kohima War Cemetery.

    This afternoon travel to the tribal village of Khonoma, home to the Angami tribe, which lies 20 kilometres west of Kohima.  Shielded by mountains on all sides, it is sometimes called the ‘hidden village’. A two-night stay here affords you an opportunity to experience village life. [Image: PP Yoonus].

  • Day 14 Khonoma

    Spend today exploring the picturesque village of Khonoma.  Take a morning walk along old stone pathways and steps to the terraced rice fields carved out of the hill slopes surrounding the village; the unique soils and field elevation enables about twenty types of rice to be grown here.

    The ecologically conscious villagers of Khonoma have established it as a ‘green village’ – that is, logging and hunting are banned here.  In 1998 they also set up one of the few community-conserved areas in India, the Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary (KNCTS). It covers an area of over 70 sq kms and is privately owned and managed by the village community.  The sanctuary is the habitat of a number of endangered and rare species of plants and animals, but is best known for the Blyth’s Tragopan (a rare type of pheasant).

  • Day 15 Majuli Island

    Travel to Majuli Island, India’s largest river island, on the mighty Brahmaputra. The journey includes a ferry cruise through a landscape of unparalleled scenic beauty that includes glowing rice fields and water meadows bursting with flowers.

    In the afternoon visit a Mishing tribal village to observe hand loom weaving, a major occupation among the women of the villages.  Their exquisite and intricate work features various indigenous designs and motifs, using a variety of colours and textures of cotton and silk, especially Assam’s famous Muga silk.

    Continue on to visit a mask painters’ workshop and a potters’ village. Pottery is made by hand from beaten clay (not on potters’ wheels) and burnt in driftwood-fired kilns; this is said to be the same method used by the people of the ancient Harrappan Civilisation.

    In addition, if you are interested, Majuli Island is a bird watchers’ paradise; it is home to nearly one hundred species of birds, including many rare and endangered species, such as the greater adjutant stork, pelican and the whistling teal. [Image: Suraj Kumar Das].

  • Day 16 Guwahati

    Transfer to Jorhat airport this morning and take a short flight to Guwahati, the bustling capital of Assam located on the bank of the Brahmaputra River.  This ancient city boasts of several important temples, spiritual and sacred sites and monuments, including the famous Kamakhya Temple – a centre for Tantric Hinduism and Sakti worship and an important pilgrimage destination.

    After lunch visit a Sualkuchi weavers’ village in the Kamrup district. The village has become a major centre for the commercial production of indigenous fabrics such as Pat and Muga silk. Sualkuchi has a population of nearly 50,000, most of whom are engaged in hand loom work. The village has an estimated 25,000 handlooms and produces nearly six million metres of white and golden Assam silk annually. [Image: Satnath].

  • Day 17 Kolkata

    Transfer to Guwahati airport for a flight to Kolkata and international departure or further travel in India.

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