Assam is one of the seven northeastern states of India. Like all her sisters, this land is also known for its abundance of natural resources. The lives of the people of the state are immensely touched by the nature. A visual treat of such inspiration of nature can be found in the designs of traditional Assamese jewellery.
Flora, fauna, traditional musical instruments, etc are intricate parts of the designs. They are so beautiful and never really go out of fashion. They are evergreen. Each piece has a name that describes and indicates the shape and decorative work done on it. Many of the designs are exclusive to this state only.
From wild habitats and ancient temples to jewellery styles inspired by nature, Assam has it all. Assam jewellery is crafted with hands by the skilled artisans and workers of Assam. Here’s everything you need to know about the traditional jewellery of Assam.
While some scholars believe that the word ‘Assam’ is derived from the Sanskrit word Asoma which means unparalleled, the majority of the academic circles believe that the term has come from the original name of the Ahoms kings, who ruled Assam for about six hundred years.
It was during the Ahom dynasty, Gold-washing along with the Manufacturing of Gold Ornaments flourished in Assam. Even though Gold dust was abundantly found in the sands of different rivers of the state, the major quantities were taken from the river Subansiri (one of the major tributaries of the Brahmaputra).
It was during the rule of the Ahom kings that the gold-washing on the banks of the Subansiri became the major profession in Assam. Ever since then, Assam has been famous for its traditional Gold jewellery.
In olden times, the different metals and materials used for the making of ornaments were gold, silver, copper, brass, bronze, amber, rhinoceros horns, and ivory. Well, the traditional Assamese jewellery designs are simple but gemstones such as ruby, pearls, and diamonds are also used. The most popular pattern used in Assam Jewelry is black, green, and red enamel which is done on gold jewellery.
Traditional Assamese Jewellery
Traditional Assamese jewellery is made with hands by Assamese artisans. Inspired by nature, most of the styles include motifs of birds, animals, and musical instruments such as dhol, drum, pepa, etc.
Designed and crafted by artisans, Assam jewellery features exquisite craftsmanship.
An ancient piece of Assamese jewellery, Dug-Dugi is an ornament for a woman’s neck. With its name still being a mystery, Dug-Dugi is a heart-shaped pendant. This ancient jewellery comprising of heart-shaped neck locket, ring, and earrings might be great to look at but the name is still a mystery today.
Crafted in a round shape, Kerumuni has a hollow pendant called “Keru”. The strands of this necklace consist of Pearls or Moti. Initially, this type of design was only used in earrings but as the trends have evolved, it is now being used in pendants as well.
This exotic ear ornament, made in gold, was largely popular among the locals. Previously the design was only used in earpieces but it is now used in pendants too.
These are the traditional Assamese earrings that are adorned by aged women of Assam. The traditional Thuriya has a very unique shape. It consists of a front side that looks like a flower, a thin middle portion, and a wider bottom portion.
Its design helps the earrings to stay intact in the ears. These are gold earrings worn largely by older Assamese women. They are notable for a special studded gemstone.
This is a chunky bracelet/bangle made of silver or gold. Adorned by Assamese women, Gam-Kharu is one of the most beautiful jewels of Assam. It can be opened with a golden knot attached to it and therefore, it can fit anyone.
Gam-Kharus are broad bracelets with clasps previously worn by males only but now very popular amongst females. The gold gamkharu has a lovely floral pattern inscribed on it. This Assam Jewelry is worn on occasions such as marriages and Bihu. In previous times, men used to wear silver gamkharu.
Loka-paro: Bridal Assamese jewellery
“Paro” means pigeons!
In Loka Paro, the pendant is embellished with identical pigeons, positioned one after the other, and attached to a string containing gold beads. The pigeons embossed on the Loka Paro necklace are adorned with a wide variety of gemstones such as Rubies, Emeralds, Amethyst, Rose Quartz, etc.
It has two pigeons placed back to back in gold and rubies. It was originally worn by high-profile dignitaries of the royal Ahom dynasty. You can buy such designs of Assam jewellery online.
An ornament without which no quintessential Assamese bride’s look is complete – loka paro – consists of a pendant and a pair of earrings embellished with identical pigeons (‘paro’ means pigeon). These are made of gold and rubies and were originally worn by dignitaries of the Ahom dynasty. When you closely look at loka paro, you’ll notice it is enameled (made by fusing a thin layer of glass with gold).
Jonbiri: Assamese jewellery on Festivals
In Assamese, Jon means the Moon and Biri is the surrounding designs of Jonbiri. This is an eye-catching accessory that is adorned by the beautiful women of Assam.
Its design is inspired by musical instruments, nature, and household goods of Assam. which is a crescent moon-shaped pendant and earring with gold and rubies in the front and enamel coating behind.
Inspired by Dhol (a musical instrument), the traditional Dholbiri comes in a dhol shape. It is considered one of the most popular decorative ornaments for Assamese women.
Gal means neck and pata is the flat design of Gal-pata. Adorned by the beautiful women of Assam, Gal-pata is a traditional choker necklace made of Gold. It is embellished with intricate floral designs. This Assamese jewellery design is made of gold. Stuck around the neck, it has different floral designs on it.
Japi is a traditional conical hat that inspires a popular design element for neck and earpieces.
It is a hornpipe musical instrument that is used in traditional music in Assam. It is usually made with the horn of a buffalo. This design of a hornpipe instrument is also used to make jewellery.
Muthi kharu: Assamese gold jewellery
A solid and sturdy gold bracelet made purely of gold, muthi kharu is also an integral ornament in an Assamese bride’s jewellery box. Owing to its sturdy make, muthi kharu gives the look and feel of a cuff bangle. Apart from weddings, you will see women of Assam wearing muthi kharus at festivals like Bihu and Durga Puja.
Making of Traditional Jewellery of Assam
Traditional Assamese jewellery is crafted by a group of Artisans known as “Sonari”. Most of the jewellery styles contain silver or lac as their base metal and Gold foil as their coating.
However, as the trends are evolving, people have started to prefer Gold base over silver or lac base. As a result of which, Assamese jewellery now comes in 3 types of metal variations.
- The frame is made with Gold and the filling is done with Silver or Lac metal. The styles that contain Gold as their base are known as “Kecha Sonar Gahana” or pat Sonar Gahana.
- The frame is made with Silver or Lac and the filling is done with Gold foils.
- The frame is made with Silver and the filling is also done with Silver metal. The entire piece is then coated with gold metal.
- Once the frame is ready, the jewellery piece is then adorned with Kundan and Meena stones. Originally, artisans used to embellish the piece with precious gemstones such as Rubies, Emeralds, and Garnets but due to the high cost, the demand for such pieces decreased. However, there are a few Artisans who make jewellery encrusted with precious gemstones.
- You can buy such styles of Assam jewellery online or at the Ranthali village of Assam.
This traditional art is attracting more youth in the state to take up jewelry-making as a profitable profession which is an encouraging sign for the economy of the state. Hope that the exquisite and unique jewelry of Assam gains popularity outside the state too and occupies a place of pride in its possessor.
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