Textile of Nagaland

Textile of Nagaland had always carved a niche for itself in the country. The textile in Nagaland consists of locally spun thread and natural coloring. Every woman in Nagaland is supposed to be skilled in the art of textile making. In Nagaland, textile making is an integral part of their tradition. It has been rooted deeply into the Nagaland Society and Culture from time immemorial.

The texture of the textile made in the state of Nagaland is different from the fabrics that are woven in the other states of India. The loom, which every house in Nagaland possesses, is a simple tension loom. Weaving, spinning and dyeing have always been the three important industries in Nagaland. The Lothas, Rengmas and Aos grow surplus cotton that they not only met their own requirements but also offered it to the neighboring tribes.

With the introduction of mill made yarn, which is easily available and inexpensive, the locally spun thread will face stiff competition, unless and until the Nagas do not find an alternative or if they do not switch over to the modern techniques. There are weaving training and production centers in Mokokchung and Dimapur. Two cottage industries, training and production centers have been set up in Mon and Aghunato.

Technique of Spinning

The technique of Spinning in Nagaland is known to every woman in the state and they are real experts at it. The art of spinning textile in Nagaland is an integral part of the northeastern state's culture and tradition. The twofold procedure of making the textile in Nagaland comprises the following:
  • Spinning
  • Dyeing
The method of spinning in Nagaland is primitive and involves some very simple tools in the whole process of textile making. Firstly, the seeds of cotton are taken out of it by rolling the cotton on a lat stone with a stick that is used as a rolling pin. The seedless cotton is carded by being brushed with a small bow. The cotton is then rolled by hand taking the assistance of a round stick over a plane stone.

The spindle is also hand made and primitive in nature. From the spindle, the yarn is rolled on a stick, which is double T- shaped. Then the thread is unwound and soaked in hot rice-water. Due to this, the yarn hardens as it dries. After it has completely dried, it is coiled onto a frame of light bamboo. Finally, the thread is encircled into a ball and the yarn is all ready for dyeing and weaving. This is the original and hand made process of yarn spinning in Nagaland. Now-a-days, spinning machines are also introduced in the state to increase the speed of the work, as the method of hand-spun yarn is time consuming.

Dyeing Technique

The dyeing technique of Nagaland is an art known to every woman in the state of Nagaland. Traditionally, textile-making in Nagaland was an entirely woman's affair. The method of dyeing cloths in Nagaland is completely endemic and hand-produced. The system of dyeing in Nagaland is an essential part of making textile in Nagaland. The people of Nagaland use fundamental colors like dark blue, red and sometimes yellow. The colors used are natural and are not chemical dyes. The Nagas obtain the blue dye from Strobilanthes flaccidifolius leaves. The plant is found on the village borders or in the patches in heavy jungles that have been deliberately created for the trees to grow. The leaves of this plant are boiled in water in a huge vessel and the thread is soaked in the colored water and is boiled for an hour and finally dried in the sun.

The red dye is used but not as commonly as the dark blue, since there are several superstitions centered around the usage of red color. Only the members of the Angami tribe dye the thread in a vibrant yellow hue. They obtain it from the woody portion of a plant named Athuo. Some tribes like the Rengmas prepare the yellow color from the yellow flowers of a tree. This traditional method of coloring thread in Nagaland is facing stiff competition nowadays due to the easy availability of the colored threads in the markets.

Weaving Technique

The most distinct feature of the weaving technique of Nagaland is its loom and curiously enough, textile weaving in the region is a monopoly of the women. The Naga loom is an interesting machine and is a type of Indonesian tension loom. The Naga loom is simple and has a back strap and the continuous horizontal wrap comprises of six sticks which serves the purpose of a beating sword, lease rod, warp beam, heald stick, and extra warp beam.

The process of setting up the loom is the most important and primary part of the weaving technique of Nagaland. At the very onset, the wrap beam is attached horizontally to a wall or any other support. After this a couple of bark string loops are slipped on it. The length of these loops are adjusted from a ready piece of cloth and the latter are set at a distance little extra than the length of the textile that is about to be woven. The cloth beam, which is also known lower bar is serrated on the either sides enabling the weaving belt to be attached to it. This belt is worn by the weaver or the operator of the loom and as she sits at a low elevation she can maintain the required tension on the wrap.

The most delicate part of the weaving technique of Nagaland is when the shuttle is shot through by hand. The woof is beaten up either with fine white powder or with wax. Different colored threads are used in the process of weaving technique of Nagaland in order to create different patterns and designs. The weaving technique is a time consuming procedure of making textile in Nagaland and it requires approximately 10 hours to complete one strip of cloth.

> Painting on Cloth

Painting on cloth in Nagaland is a conventional practice and an integral part of the culture of Nagaland. However, cloth painting in Nagaland is most prevalent among the Rengmas, Lothas and Aos tribes. The painting and technique of technique of making textile in Nagaland, followed by the Rengmas and the Aos is somewhat similar.

The most important example of painting on cloth in Nagaland is the white band of the warrior shawls of the Aos. These shawls can be worn either by victorious warriors who had cut off enemy heads in battles or by those who have organized the feasts of merit. The white band acts as the base and on it are painted the figures of dao, spear, human heads, elephant, tiger, cock and Mithun.

The color that is used for painting on cloth in Nagaland is made from the sap of a tree which is mixed with the ash of the leaves of the same tree and then diluted with strong rice beer. Painting on cloth in Nagaland is mostly done by the senior male members of the tribes who apply the colors with a sharp edged bamboo stick.

Nagaland Symbols and Design on Textiles

Nagaland symbols and designs on textiles are the identification mark of the different Naga tribes and it also reflects their social status. Textile in general and costumes in particular are an important part of all the ceremonies and festivities of Nagaland. The Nagaland Symbols and Design on Textiles vary from one tribe to another and often from village to village. An individual has to actually earn the right to wear particular Nagaland Symbols and Design on Textiles as it asserts his social status. The most traditional Nagaland Symbols and Design on Textiles are simple straight lines, squares or band patterns with diamonds shapes and lozenge shape.

The different tribes and villages of the region have their own distinct Nagaland Symbols and Design on Textiles. The special designs and symbols on textile of Nagaland used by the different Naga tribes includes:
  • Tsungkotepsu
  • Aomelep su
  • Rongsu shawl
  • Tiongkong su,
  • Azu jangnup su
  • Tabensa su,
  • Lungkhum subang,
  • Keyi su,
  • Sangtam Rongsu shawl
  • Loramhoushu,
  • Lohe.
  • Phichu-pfe
  • Supong
  • Akhum
  • Kechinger Ronfkhim
  • Sangkonglim khim
  • Aneadk Khim
  • Vihe-ashak
All these costumes of the different Naga tribes have varied Nagaland Symbols and Design on Textiles and most of them have very strong social implications. It is the Nagaland Symbols and Design on Textiles that often helps to distinguish one tribe from the other or even recognize the social standing of an individual.

Last Updated on : 22/06/2013