Age-old tribal art of weaving in Tripura dying

Agartala: The age-old art of weaving threads from cotton and knitting clothes practised by the indigenous tribes of Tripura is dying slowly unable to face the challenge of modern textiles and their myriad designs.

Today`s youths, who comprise the bulk of buyers of clothes in any society, are much more attracted to modern garments than their hand-knitted counterparts, experts in tribal designs say. "The youths are very much influenced by styles that come from western countries, which pose a big challenge to attempts at preserving the traditional designs," Deepali Debbarma, an expert in indigenous designs and knitting clothes, said.

Keeping this in mind, some textile designers of the state are now trying their traditional designs on new fabrics to attract buyers, specially the youths, she said.

The art of exquisite weaving in Tripura goes back in time. An ancient king Subrai Raja, or Trilochan Maharaj, is said to have first actively promoted the art of weaving designs on cotton clothes. Subrai Raja was so fond of good designs that, going by popular folk tales, once he announced that he would marry the women who could create excellent textile designs.

This is a fairy-tale, but it is true that the indigenous people of the state knew the process of making threads from cotton and knitting clothes since time immemorial, Debbarma said.

A septuagenarian Kramfru Mog, a tribal woman belonging to Mog community, who is an expert in weaving and knitting clothes by indigenous methods, said, Production of cotton in jhum fields is almost nil because the area under jhum cultivation (Slash and burn method) has reduced with the change of the traditional lifestyle.

The government also does not encourage the slash and burn method in order to protect the environment. She said the tribal people now directly buy threads from the market and knit their own garments. However, Mog said, the tribals still like their own garments. Though the youths like modern clothes they wear traditional wears during festivals and marriages.

Tapasi Debbarma, a textile designer and painter, recently organised an exhibition here on the indigenous tribal designs which was inaugurated by Chief Minister Manik Sarkar recently. She said, "The textile designs of the tribals are mainly done with threads on clothes, but now I am painting these designs on non-tribal clothes like Sarees, Salwar-Kurtas or Punjabis."

Debbarma said she was also painting the designs on the covers of sofa, bed cover or door or window curtains and trying to make it popular through the internet. She also plans to organise such exhibitions in Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai because the response in Agartala was very good.