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Retelling the Mising textile story

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This article is written for Heeya by Guest Author Rini Barman







Retelling the Mising textile story


The richness of Mising folktales was my first key to unlocking the extremely

versatile textile traditions in Assam and the Northeast. Their stories are full of

their dwellings as an agrarian community and they share an intimate

relationship with nature. In the Brahmaputra valley, Mishings have intermingled

with the Assamese speaking community and this has allowed much diversity to

flow in the expression of textile motifs. The power of handicrafts in the making

of a distinct identity is very subtle, much like the power of storytelling that

allow spaces for experimentation while keeping an eye with the traditional



Along the stilted huts (“Sang ghor”) of the Mishing tribes, weaving forms an

integral way of daily living. The Mishing tribes are now being collectively

referred to as the “Tani” people although formerly they were known as the Miri

tribes. They inhabit around riverine areas and today recurrent floods have had

an adverse affect on their handloom businesses. The Story of Tu-sig Matsig is a

tale of the tribal migration from the Siang valley to the plain areas of Assam.

Nature has always determined the labour force, food habits, and festivals that

the Mishings celebrate. The focus towards an elemental attachment with natural

motifs make their textile heritage very eco-friendly.


Motifs often speak volumes about the cultural exchanges that encourage

expertise and skill. Usually in the past, the women were bound to weave to find

the right match for her weddings, but the trend in the contemporary times is

changing. Women are increasingly becoming aware of the aesthetic value of

their creativity and most of them are coming forward to learn more about the

skill of weaving. The woven Piba or the baby carrying cloth is helpful for

women in the rice fields where toddlers accompany their mothers! Ribi

Gacheng is supposed to cover the breasts of unmarried girls (gabhoru) while

men also use it as a turban at times. Carpets or rugs are made out of cotton

collected from one’s farm and then spun well. These covers often used on beds

are known as Gadoo or Miri-jim- they add to the prestige of Mishing

households. Among mulberry silk and others, endi is very popular among tribes

in Assam, interesting parallels can be drawn between the commonalities of

Bodo, Tiwa, Khasi patterns as well. Dyeing processes are naturally procured

with barks, leaves and roots enhancing the effects of colour. In occasions of

wedding and funerals, hand-woven cloth acquires a special dimension- they tie

the tribes with their ancestors in their final journey.


Misings who are accustomed to a simple way of living celebrate two main

festivals; Ali aye-Liyang marking the agricultural season and Porag which is

their post-harvest gathering of merry making. Keeping their animist legacy alive

through textile motifs is a legendary one.  Heeya attempts to represent

the true fervour of the Mising weavers and provide them a platform for

enormous cultural engagement. Mising motifs have inspired many of the saree

designs that you can browse through at


A bit about our guest author Rini Barman:


Rini Barman has completed her Masters in English Literature from Jamia Milia Islamia and has graduated from Lady Shri Ram College in the same field. Her writings have been published in Muse India, The Northeast Review, The Seven Sisters' Post,, The Bricolage-An independent Arts and culture magazine, The Thumbprint News Magazine, Newsyaps, the Eclectic and several other dailies of the North-East.


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