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A Gamosa made from Pat silk with intricate designs.

The Gamosa is an article of great significance for the people of Assam.

It is generally a white rectangular piece of cloth with primarily a red border on three sides and red woven motifs on the fourth (in addition to red, other colors are also used). Although cotton yarn is the most common material for making/weaving gamosas, there are special occasion ones made from Pat silk.

Origin of the name

Literally translated, it means 'something to wipe the body with' (Ga=body, mosa=to wipe) however, interpreting the word gamosa as the body-wiping towel is misleading.[1] The word gamosa is derived from the Kamrupi word gaamasa (gaama+chadar), the cloth used to cover the Bhagavad Purana at the altar[citation needed].


Bihu dancer wearing a Gamosa around the head

Though it may be used daily to wipe the body after a bath (an act of purification), the use is not restricted to this.

  • It is used to cover the altar at the prayer hall or cover the scriptures. An object of reverence is never placed on the bare ground, but always on a gamosa.
  • It is used by the farmer as a waistcloth (tongali) or a loincloth (suriya); a Bihu dancer wraps it around the head with a fluffy knot (see picture).
  • It is hung around the neck at the prayer hall (naamghar) and was thrown over the shoulder in the past to signify social status.
  • Guests are welcomed with the offering of a gamosa and tamul (betel nut) and elders are offered gamosas (referred to as bihuwaan in this case) during Bihu.[1]

One can therefore, very well say, that the gamosa symbolizes the life and culture of Assam.

Cultural significance

Significantly the gamosa is used equally by all irrespective of religious and ethnic backgrounds.

At par with gamosa, there are beautifully woven symbolic clothes with attractive graphic designs being used by different cultural sub-systems and ethno-cultural groups as well.

A Gamosa border with a traditional handwoven motif called gosa

There were various other symbolic elements and designs traditionally in used, which are now only found in literature, art, sculpture, architecture, etc. or used for only religious purposes (in particular occasions only). The typical designs of Assamese-lion, dragon, flying-lion, etc. were used for symbolizing various purposes and occasions.

There are efforts underway to have the Gamosa registered with the Geographical Indication.[2]

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Gamocha". Retrieved April 3, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Ray, Sanjoy (2008-03-23). "Assamese gamosa, Naga shawl registration likely". The Assam Tribune. Retrieved 2008-05-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links