Traditional Naga Weaving
People in Nagaland wake up with a thought of what to weave! Their passion for this art sets their culture on a high pedestal, and the entire community considers weaving seriously The Naga loom, used for weaving has an interesting pattern of working. The loom is a back strap one with a horizontal warp consisting of six sticks, performing functions of a warp beam, lease rod, heald stick, beating sword and extra warp beam. Just like the zealous Naga community, even the loom is always weaving, and associated with patterns, fabric and new trends. The motifs embossed on each piece of cloth are obtained by some unique combination of multi coloured threads in the warp and weft. There is a range of striking costumes and apparels such as wrappers and shawls, waistcloths and bodice, girdles, scarfs, skirts, aprons and lungis, lush with fine embellishments, patterns and hues.
It nearly takes 10 hours for a skilled weaver to finish a plain strip and 30 hours are taken to weave a complete cloth. Usual feature of a Naga shawl is that three pieces are woven separately and stitched together. The Naga’s value and judge occasions with the costumes worn on such ceremonies or festive seasons. Every tribe or community possess their own patterns with neat borders, stripes, squares and bands being the most traditionally printed motifs.
The warrior shawl Tsungkotepsu is one of the signature fabrics of the Aos. Exclusively for males, this shawl can be only draped by the one who has cut off heads in a battle or offered Mithun sacrifice (a feast of excellence performed in Naga society by the affluent men). This shawl is usually characterised with figures of Mithun symbolizing wealth of the owner, and elephant and tiger to represent the valour of men, human head to show success in counts of heads and also symbols like cock, spear etc.
The Angami Nagas are one of the biggest Naga tribes. A group of comely and industrious people who earn their sustenance by farming and hunting. The Angami women are skilled weavers. When there is no farm work to do, it can be noticed that they will be weaving, just confined to that world of art. Several varieties of clothes are worn by the Angamis, the predominant pattern with white, red and black bands being called Loramhoushu and black with red, yellow bands being called lohe. They just have one cloth different of social status named phichu-pfe, which are worn by the priest. A varied kind of shawl used by men and women for common, daily use is called ratapfe.
Lotha shawls exist in different designs to indicate the number of social gennas (A social ritual, that a Naga had to perform to attain a specific status in the community) performed by the weavers. The usual Lotha shawl is called Sutam, which is a white cloth with dark blue, horizontal stripes, worn by men and boys who have performed no social ‘gennas’. The phangrhup shawl can only be donned by men who have served the first social genna or the brave act.
The traditional Rengma clothing comprises of different kinds of clothes, which are symbolic of the status of the weavers. An individual or a man, who has been incapable, to offer a great feast, or has never killed an enemy, can only wear a common type of cloth called rhikho. Rhikho is a white cloth with four narrow black bands. The number of black bands, on the fabric varies with the age of the person who wears it. Moyet tsu is another ordinary fabric, worn by the young men of the tribe. It is a dark blue fabric with very wide and fine, median band and is embroidered with beautiful, zigzag patterns in red towards the edges.
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