Assam. The name resonates with limitless scenery, gorgeous colours, Bihu dance and Muga silk traditionally known as Muga Paat. Among a plethora of contributions Assam has made to the multicultural aura of India, Muga silk is one of the most prominent ones. Recently, it has been trending amongst the high and mighty in elite Indian society – it looks like Muga silk has finally got its due.
Needless to say, silk was one of the major trading commodities with a number of European countries in the past. It has become a definitive trait of India’s rich database of fabrics, handlooms and weaves.
What is Muga silk?
Muga is one of the rarest silks, the highest quality of which is slightly yellow in colour. The scientific name of the silk worm used in the process is Antheraea assamensis. What makes Muga silk expensive is its lustre and durability. With time, this silk gets more lustrous, thus making it more precious, and any type of embroidery can be done on it. As it has a gorgeous yellow coating, it does not require any dyeing. But it is compatible to any dyes when required.
Dancers wearing Muga Silk
Where is it made?
The history of Muga silk dates back to 1228-1800 during the times of Ahom rulers. They patronized Muga silk and ordered all the royals to adorn garments made in Muga. For several centuries, Muga looms were managed by the royals and were called ‘Rajghoria looms’.
Muga silk is primarily made in Assam in the West Garo hills. Every farmer follows the equation of producing 125 grams of silk for every 1000 cocoons. It takes about 1000 grams of silk to make a single sari and, owing to the intricate technique involved, a single sari takes minimum two months to make. Traditionally, Muga was used to make ‘mehleka-sadar’, a traditional Assamese attir,e but with changing trends, Muga is used by a number of designers to create contemporary outfits. Assam received a Geographical Indication (GI tag) for Muga Silk in 2007.
A model in Vaishali Shadangule
Actress Rituparna Sengupta
Muga Silk saris
Muga silk in contemporary fashion
There are a number of Indian designers who have played with Muga silk, at the forefront of whom is Mumbai-based Vaishali Shadangule. She creates some of the most playful silhouettes and cuts when it comes to Muga silk. Other ace Indian designers who are known to incorporate Indian fabrics in their cutting-edge collections are Abraham & Thakore and Payal Pratap.