BRIEF HISTORY OF ASSAMESE TRADITIONAL JEWELLERY
Almost all areas of Assam had separate goldsmith’s villages and some like Ranthali in Nagaon and Tarajan Sonarigaon in Jorhat district have continued to exist even today. These goldsmiths were usually from the “Bania” community. In 1611, in the days of Ahom King Pratap Singha, many people were taken as captives by Bir Chilarai, (who was the General of Koch King Nar Narayan), and taken to Cooch-behar. These people were later released by the king and sent back to their homeland. Among those people, there were also goldsmiths, black-smiths and other artisans who had learnt new arts & crafts during their captivity. King Pratap Singha’s grand-son Rudra Singha had also brought from outside his kingdom many gifted craftsmen from various trades including goldsmiths and established them in his territory. These craftsmen and goldsmiths brought from outside had gradually merged with the Assamese society and local people. Each of them were experts in their own fields but did not create jewellery as per the original designs of their birth-places but started making highly attractive jewellery influenced by the culture of their adopted homeland. Assamese jewellery developed tremendously under the patronage of the Ahom Kings.
Assamese jewellery designs are very different in all respects from jewellery of other regions. Every item is unique. No two designs are the same. The jewellery of Assam is very simple & distinct and this is a reflection of the simplicity of the Assamese people. The dresses & cosmetics used by the ladies are also not too glamorous but depend on their natural tastes and habits. The simplicity of the Assamese people is influenced by the natural landscape, vast expanses of green fields, continuous blue hills and rapidly changing water colours of the ever- flowing rivers and streams. The natural beauty of Assam has had a significant influence on jewellery produced by its craftsmen. The local flora, fauna, culture & customs have also greatly inspired the designs, colours and raw-materials used in producing Assamese traditional jewellery. “Lac” which is an important part of almost all traditional Assamese jewellery, is extracted from trees. We thus have the “lokaparo” and “khenpatia” designs inspired from the pigeon & the eagle, the“thuria” & “dugdugi” influenced by the local flora and “dhol”, “japi” & “mridong” designs from local Assamese musical instruments and cultural items.
The uniqueness and beauty of Assamese traditional jewellery is unparalleled in the country. It had established itself on a high pedestal in the days of yore and continue to attract connoisseurs of beauty even today…