Friday, November 1, 2013

Assam Muga Silk – an heirloom fiber

Muga silk (Muga Paat) or the golden silk is not only a nature’s gift to Assam, but also a symbol of rich Assamese culture. It represents the brilliance of traditional attire of the region. The most significant characteristic of ‘Muga silk’ is its golden bright hue.

Its name is derived from Assamese word ‘Muga‘, which means yellow. The fabric is superior in every respect in comparison to the normal white silk that available all over the world. It is also much more durable

With time it only becomes more beautiful. Muga silk’s brightness improves with every wash. It’s no wonder that Muga silk is one of the costliest silks available in the world. Today, the cost of Muga silk is so high that for a middle-class woman in Assam it has become a prized possession, just as her gold ornaments.

Assam received the Geographical Indication (GI) tag for Muga silk in 2007. It was estimated that over 27,878 people were involved in the entire process of production of Muga silk and dress materials at that time.

Muga is produced from cocoons of ‘Antheraea Assamensis’ which is available only in Assam. Muga worm (‘Muga Polu’ in Assamese language) also has the same lifecycle as that of a silkworm.

Traditionally Muga silk is used to make mekhela – chadar for women/girls and kurtas for boys and dresses made of Muga silk is considered most sophisticated and are expensive in Assam.

Antheraea Assamensis moth’s eggs are laid out on the Som tree leaves to hatch out into caterpillars of about 2mm long. They grow rapidly, eat voraciously and grow as along as 30 mm in length after four to five weeks.

During this time, they change their skin four times. After the final skin change straw frames are provided, the silkworms make its cocoon in it.

The making of cocoon then takes eight more days. The worker interferes this life cycle at the cocoon stage to obtain the dream golden silk thread, which is used by the artisans to weave the enchanting Muga fabric.

The demand for Muga silk rises every year and cannot keep up with the amount produced each year, hence the high price tag of this amazing silk.

As you can see Muga silk is the least amount of silk produced in the world, making it the rarest and most expensive.

Muga silk can be washed with a mild soap and gets softer and even more beautiful with time. It is truly an heirloom fiber.