CHAPTER : V
                                                     INDUSTRIES

Old time Industries    :-

   The finesse and exquisite workmanship of a wide variety of industrial products of ancient Assam earned universal acclamation,as is evident from many literary and historical records. In all branches industry and craftsmanship like weaving and sericulture, or metal, ivory, wood, leather, clay, cane, bamboo works and the like,the reputation of Assamese artisans was equal to that of the craftsmen of other parts of contemporary India. The ancient kingdom of Kamrupa was noted for many old times industries. In the pre-British period where there were independent rulers in Assam, a number of old times industries especially cottage industries got the patronage from the kings and nobles and naturally the propagation of such industries constituted one of the important features of the cultural life of the Assamese people. Self sufficiency had been the key-note of Assam's economy in early medieval time,and various cottage industries formed,therefore,an inalienable part of her culture. To a large number of the people these cottage industries had been,as it were,a way of life rather than mere source of living.
    Historical evidence bearing on Assamese old time industries are not scanty and references that we have in historical and other literature of Assam are sufficient to point to a high standard of industrial efficiency that the people obtained in Assam in early times. Assam produced almost all that was necessary for life in the light of the standard of living prevalent in those days. Dr. E.A. Gait in his 'A History of Assam'  has stated that the industry was highly developed in Ahom period. There are references to weavers, spinners, goldsmiths, potters and workers in ivory, bamboo, wood, hides and cane. According to the Muhammedan historians, the people were very skilful in weaving of embroidered silk cloths. According to records, Momai Tamuli Barbarua, a minister of king Pratap Singha, made it compulsory for every adult able bodied female to spin a certain quantity of yarn every evening. The Assamese were excellent carpenters who made their boxes,trays,stools and chairs by carving these out of a single block of wood.

a. Old time Cottage Industries and their modern position   :-

               The principal old time industries in the State were weaving in country looms, pottery, blacksmithy, bell-metal and brass-metal works, goldsmithy, village carpentary, bamboo and cane works,spinning of endi,muga and mulberry silk,vegetable dyeing,wood carving,hand pounding of rice,manufacture of ivory products,etc.

    Some of these industries are now in decaying stage due primarily to (a)lack of capital and technical know-how,(b)competition from machine made goods at cheaper rates,(c)lack of marketing facilities,etc. We may mention the following old time industries that had been in vogue in the State of Assam.

    (i)Weaving : Assam had a high reputation and early traditions in manufacturing cotton clothes required for her use. 'Harsa Charita' mentioned one kind of dukula cotton which was sent as a present to king Harsa by King Bhaskaravarman of Kamrupa. This Dukula was made from fine hand-spun white cotton yarn by the Assamese weavers. Cotton weaving was and still is one of the most common industries in Assam. In fact,weaving in Assam is characterised by its distinctiveness,and although most of the products are for purely utility purpose,some of them which are used for certain occasions are of exquisite beauty,durable quality,delicate weave,dainty design and delightful colours. The beautiful handloom fabrics shows the creative genius of individual weavers whom tradition has made brilliant artisans. Traditionally,the skill in the art of weaving and spinning has always been held to be one of the highest attainments of an Assamese women. Even in a marriage proposal,proficiency of the would-be bride in Bowa-kata,i.e.,skill in spinning and weaving is counted highly. During the rule of the Ahoms,elaborate arrangements were made for keeping in the 'Royal Store' sufficient quantity of clothes of different varieties for presentation to foreign courts and dignitaries1. In similar references,it is also found that until the beginning of the present century the whole of the cloth requirements of every Assamese family were secured from the family handloom. But with increasing competitions from mill-made cloth,the family handlooms now supply only special varieties of clothes for women and for social and religious purposes. Even then in rural areas,women still depend on home-made clothes woven from mill made yarns. As handloom clothes cater mainly to the family needs,there is very little trade in hand-woven clothes therein. The Weaving Department of the State Government is trying to help weaving by organising co-operatives and supplying yarns,fly shuttle looms and providing facilities,etc. The Weaving Institute at Guwahati is also training students in various new designs and processes.

    Example of references of handloom weaving that flourished in Assam in the past are found in many epigraphic,literary and foreign accounts. The Kalika Purana of the 10th century A.D.and Harsa Charita shows that fine cotton garments were used in Assam. The Kalika Purana also refers to woolen garments,Kambala used and manufactured in this country. During the Ahom period,handloom weaving was at the peak of its glory. It was rare to find an Assamese family without a loom. Momai Tamuli Barbarua,a minister of kin Pratap Singha,ordered that before the sunset every woman must spin a certain number of hanks of yarn. This rule was scrupulously followed in the Ahom kingdom to avoid punishment. In his book 'An Account of Assam',

J.P.Wade observed:''Warlike cloth is made in the following manner. At midnight the cotton is ginned,passed into rollers,spun into thread,manufactured into cloth and worn by the warriors in the morning.'' It is an old custom that the mother gives three pieces of silk garment to er daughter at the time of the latter's marriage and complete silk dress to her son-in-law when welcoming him. From early times,Eri cloth has been serving the purpose pf woolens  particularly amongst the less affluent section of the Assamese people. Muhammedan historians observed that Assam silk was excellent and it resembled those of China. Travernier refers to Assam silk as one ''produced on trees'' and confirms that the stuff made of them was very brilliant. Like the nobility of japan,the Ahom kings in Assam took personal care and interest in the silk industry and the royal patronage contributed a lot in attaining the high degree of its perfection. The fabrics prepared out of muga,eri and pat (mulberry silk)became the national dress of the Assamese and formed a common costume of the women of the Assam valley.
    With the downfall of the Ahom kingdom and the advent of the British came the dark era of handloom weaving in Assam. The British did not evince any interest in the development of this national industry. They were keen only to find markets for their Lancashire products and as such weaving industry faced keen competition from the mill-made cheap goods which dominated the markets situated even in the remote areas. The traditional weavers could not withstand the competition  and left their age old occupation to find employment in other sectors. However,the industry was so deeply rooted in the substratum of the Assamese life that it could save itself from total annihilation in spite of the competition that throttled its growth. It still continues to be an important occupation,especially of the womenfolk. Every girl is expected to know the art of weaving. It is still customary among the Assamese,that on Bihu occasions a grown-up girl makes presents of self-woven Bihuan, (Phulam Gamosa)to her near and dear ones as a token of love and respect. It is in this context that Mahatma Ganshi once remarked,''Assamese women are born weavers,they can weave fairy tales in their clothes.''
    The Assamese women,as in the past,pursue the industry as a part-time occupation to produce the cloth required by each family,but they detest production on commercial basis. Among the immigrants,however,professional weaving is not rare. The articles of production generally include mekhela,chadar,riha,churia,cheleng,borkapor,gamosa, and piece cloth,etc. The implements of weaving  which were and still are common in almost all the Assamese families are quite few in number,Besides various types of looms,ugha,chereki,mako,spinning wheel,neothani,etc.,are some of the accessories required for weaving. As many as twelve types of looms are said to be in use in the State which may be broadly grouped under four categories,i,e.,Throw Suttle Loom,Loin Loom,Pit Loom and Fly Shuttle Loom. The  first one is found in almost every found in almost every Assamese household while the second one is in common use among the hill tribes. Te  Bengali weavers who have migrated from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) mostly use Pit Loom. The Fly Shuttle loom which is recent introduction,is an improved type of frame which considerably increase the output of the weavers.
    Raw materials required for weaving industry are mainly cotton,muga,pat,eri, and silk yarn. Various counts of counts of yarn ranging from 10''to 80''are generally used by the weavers. The yarn is mostly purchased from the markets and only a few do the spinning at home. Almost whole of the cotton yarns and a greater part of the silk yarns are imported from outside the State.2


    (ii)Sericulture :- Next to weaving,sericulture  is the most important cottage industry of the State of Assam. Extensively practised during the agricultural off-season as a subsidiary occupation,it occupies an important place in the rural economy of the State. Assam is a leading producer of the non-mulberry silk and produces about two-thirds of India's total output and so far as the production of muga silk is concerned,the State virtually holds a monopoly over it.3
    The origin of the silk industry in Assam is still obscure there is hardly any doubt about its antiquity. P.C. Choudhury in his book,'The History of Civilisation of the People of Assam to the Twelfth Century A.D.' observes,''The art of sericulture and rearing of cocoons for the manufacture of various silk cloths were known to the Assamese as early as the Ramayana and the Arthasastra.''
    The classical writers beginning at least with 1st century A.D.,make important mention of the production of silk and the silk trade in and through Assam. The Periplus refers to both raw and manufactured silk which were from China or Assam.''As the industry was mainly confined in the past to the Tibeto Burman elements in Assam,it is not unlikely that along with their migration to Assam they introduced some ideas from China;but the manufacture of muga  silk has been confined to Assam alone,and this land,like China,had world-wide reputation for the manufacture of varieties of silk clothes,and had a profitable foreign trade in such articles.4 Chinese records dating as far back as 248 A.D.mention about the trade route from the south through the Shan states,Brahmaputra river and Kamarupa to Pataliputra (present Patna)and through it,to the western part of India. The ancient trade in silk with Bhutan and Tibet,through Udalguri in the Darrang district of Assam still exists.5
    The unique distinction earned by the fabrics prepared out of muga,eri and pat (mulberry silk)in the Assamese life and the interest taken by Ahom nobility in rearing up the silk industry have already been described in the preceding paras under 'Weaving'. It is due to this royal patronage during the Ahom days that the industry reached its high peak of perfection. During the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth century,Assam silk especially murga,was much in demand in Europe and formed the staple trade of East India company during this period.
    Like weaving,silk industry also had its period of crisis during the British regime when markets in far-flung areas were flooded with foreign mill-made artificial silk cloths. But the industry has stood the test of time having survived and risen from ravages. The Department of Sericulture and Weaving which came into being in 1948-49 (after it was separated from the Cottage Industries Department)and the various schemes undertaken by it since then for the development of sericulture provide a fresh lease of life and the industry appears to be making steady progress. The Central Silk Board of India has also been to great assistance to the State by the providing finance for the effective implementation of various schemes for the development of sericulture.
    The varieties of silk from Assam are eri or erandi (attacus richini),made from the silk of the worm of the same name,muga(antheroea assamoea)from a cocoon of the same name and pat (pattla).
    The concentration of rearers of a particular silk worm in different areas of the State depends of rainfall and climatic conditions of different parts of the State. The eri culture is done in areas where rainfall is done in areas where rainfall is fairly heavy and the atmosphere is humid,whereas mulberry silk worm thrives only under certain temperature and humidity. The composition of sericulturist groups in a few districts of the State is presented below.6
    Sericulture is widely practised in the Darrang district by the Kachari (Bodo)and Assamese women. Out of the three varieties of silk worms only eri and pat worms are widely reared in this district. Muga worms it is learnt,are reared by a few members of the Nath or Yogi community. In the Goalpara district,the Rabha women are chiefly found to be engaged in rearing silk worms. Next come the Assamese womenfolk. Rearing of eri worms is extensively practised by the latter. But in very recent times,a few Assamese women have also taken to rearing pat and muga worms. In the Nagaon district,sericulture is widely practised in the Rabha area by the Nath community. The particular community is known here as 'Yogi'or 'Katoni'. They have taken up rearing of all the three varieties of silk worms,eri,apt and muga. A few of the Assamese and Kachari people are also found to be carrying on the rearing of the silk worms. During the reign of Ahom Kings,both undivided Sibsagar and Lakhimpur districts were centres of all varieties of silk. Sericulture is associated with these two undivided districts. The Assamese,Mishing and some other tribal communities are also found to be engaged in this age-old craft. But amongst the silk rearing communities,the Nath community of these districts deserves special mention,and its members are found to be very skilful in the art of rearing all the varieties of silk worms. It may be mentioned here that the bulk of the muga silk produced in Assam id being contributed by the rearers of the erstwhile Sibsagar district.
    Kamrup district is also a major silk producing area of Assam where all the three varieties of silk worms are reared. Sualkuchi in the Kamrup district is most important centre of the silk industry. Sualkuchi is undoubtedly the most famous silk fabric producing centre not only in Kamrup district but also in the entire State of Assam. Sualkuchi claims a technique,quality and reputation of its own which are unique in so far as muga and pat silk fabrics are concerned.
    Sualkuchi silk is as old as its people. Although the origin of silk weaving at Sualkuchi is still obscure,there is no doubt about its antiquity. During the olden days,the industry appears to have been patronised mainly by the nobility and the ruling kings of Assam,and the type of fabrics produced were beautifully decorated with designs and were very costly being more intended to serve the individual needs and tastes of the well-to-do than meet the  general demand. However,the products of this industry enjoy a great reputation outside Assam also for their delicate designs,quality and durability. A huge quantity of Muga sari is being regularly exported to West Bengal from this silk cloth producing centre. The industry seemed to have faced a period of adversity perhaps due to the disturbed fortunes of the ruling kings and nobility in olden times. It could not thrive well during the British regime as the latter did not take any interest for the progress of this industry in the State.7
    However,after independence due to the efforts of the State's Sericulture and Weaving department,the All India Handloom Board and the All India Silk Board,both sericulture and weaving industries have received a new lease of life and have begun to make good progress. Concentrated and vigorous activities have been carried out in the development of sericulture and weaving industries in the State since the inception of these agencies.
    In spite of many odds,the sericulture and weaving industries at Sualkuchi are functioning well with the help of co-operative societies organised in the town and addressed to silk spinning and weaving. The names of the registered societies are (1)Assam Co-operative Silk House Ltd.,(ii)Assam Co-operative Resham Samabay Pratisthan,(iii)Madhya Sualkuchi Resham Samabay Samity Ltd.(iv)Sualkuchi Bhatipara Muga spinners'and Weavers' Co-operative Society,(v)Bamun Sualkuchi Silk Samity Ltd.,(vi)Purba Sualkuchi Resham Samity Ltd.,and (vii)Sualkuchi Pat-Muga Palu Poha Samabay Samity Ltd. Though a good number of co-operative societies are functioning at Sualkuchi,the vast majority of weavers are still working outside the co-operative fold. Some of them are still working on wage basis in local weaving factories while the others work individually.

    In this context,it may,however,be noted that the weavers who work under the co-operative fold collect. Muga cocoons or Pat,Muga from their respective societies,and in case of Muga cocoons,they themselves spin the yarn and weave the particular cloth as ordered by the societies. After delivery of the finished products to the societies they are paid specified rates on different cloths. Most of the weavers of this group work in their own houses. The other group of weavers work in some factories within the town itself. They are provided with looms in the factory and the raw materials are also supplied by the owners. The workers are paid on wage basis. The last group of weavers who work neither under co-operative fold nor in factories,are the individual weavers. They continue their business individually and sell their finished products to the local merchants.

    Major portion of the finished products of the silk industry of Sualkuchi are sold through the sales depots run by different co-operative societies and Khadi Bhandars located in the towns and business centres of Assam. Besides,there are also sales centres sponsored by the All India Khadi and Village Industries Commission,the Government emporium and the State Marketing Corporation within the outside the State. A good quantity of silk products are being exported of foreign countries.
    Pat is produced from the cocoons of two species of worm called univoltine or Bar-Palu (bambyx textor)and the multivoltine or saru-palu (bambyx croesi).Both the species are reared indoors on the leaves of the mulberry tree (morus indica) or where mulberry is not obtainable,on the panchapa. The eggs of the Bar-Palu take about ten months to hatch,the worms usually make their appearance in January. The life span of the worms is about thirty to forty days. The rearing of saru-palu is much favoured by the cultivators as it yields four breeds in a year although thread obtained from it is regarded inferior to that of the Bar-Palu. Pat silk is used for making mekhela,riha,blouse piece and chadar for females and Engla-chola and chowga-chapkan for males.
    Several causes make this silk rare and expensive. First,the worms producing this type of silk are very delicate and a large number of them die before they spin. Secondly,the supply of mulberry leaves is also limited. Thirdly,the rearing of this worm in the past carried a stigma of impurity and as such its rearing was confined only to the members of Jugi and other such communities and even they also regarded it with disfavour. However,this old time prejudice has almost died out and the rearing of the worm has become popular among the members of other communities as well.   Muga,the golden silk of Assam is produced by a caterpillar,known as ''antheroea assamoea'' which is generally fed on the Som tree (mechilus ordoratissima). It is a multivoltine silk worm producing five breeds,viz.,Katia,Jarua,Jethuwa,Aharua,and Bhadia in a year,only two breeds,i.e.,Katia in October-November,and the Jethua in the spring are commonly reared in the State. The complete cycle of the insect lasts from fifty-four to eighty-one days,the bulk of which is occupied by the life of the worm. When they are fully grown,they are about five inches long and their thickness varies from 25.4 mm to 38 mm. Their colour is green with a brown and yellow stripe extending down each side,while red moles with bright gold bases are dotted about the surface of the body. The silk is produced by feeling the cocoons. Most of the Assamese women possess one or more garments of muga silk and well-to-do men ceremonially wear waist clothes of this materials.
    The Eri worm (attachus ricini)derives its name from the Eri or castor plant on which it is usually fed. Patches of this plant are commonly seen in the gardens of most of the villages. ''The worm belonging to the Saturnidae is for all practical purposes habitant of Assam,''8as fairly heavy rainfall and moist climate are considered ideally suitable to it. In a year,five or six breeds are generally reared and those who spin their cocoons in November. February,and May yield much silk. The most useful garments made of Eri silk is the bar-kapoor,a large sheet,6.09 metres in length,1.52 metres wide,which is folded and used as a wrap in cold weather by all sections of the people. Eri silk is also made into coats and shirts,mekhela,eri-chaddar,etc.
    Sericulture is mainly a household industry and generally the rearing of worms is done by the female members of the household in their idle hours. Mostly,the rearing is done to meet the requirements of the family though there are a few professionals who practise it more or less on commercial lines. The tools and implements required for the industry are few and simple,and almost all these are made by the artisan himself and by the members of his family or can be had from the market at a moderate price. The tools generally required are :Bamboo tray (dala)bamboo chandrakiful thread net,charkha (nidhiram),takli,boiling pan and loom.
    The major problem of the handloom and sericulture industry of Assam is the problem of shortage of yarn. The present annual demand for yarn generated by 17 lakh weavers in Assam is as follows :
    Cotton              135.25   lakh kilogram
    Pat                       0.87    ,,    ,,
    Muga                   0.42    ,,    ,,
    Eri                        0.95    ,,    ,,
    Worsted wool     1.80    ,,    ,,
    others                 0.13    ,,    ,,
    
    Source :Directorates of Handloom,Government of Assam,1992.
    The four spinning mills in Assam can meet 20 per cent of the total demand for yarn. The rest of the yarn has to be important from outside. The transport cost and for uncertain supply of yarn have contributed to the rise in the price of yarn.
    Apart from the problem of scarcity and high price of yarn,another problem which is being faced by the handloom industry in Assam is the problem of the limited supply of credit to the weavers of the State. Loan is being made available to the weavers at a concessional rate of interest since 1957-58. However,till now only 10 primary handloom co-operatives and one apex co-operative have been benefit by such loans.
    The total number of loans in Assam stands at 14 lakhs and the total amount of working capital needed is Rs. 170 crore annually. On an average the per capita loan offered by each cooperative is very small. According to data published by the Banking Commission,only 13.5 per cent of the total number of members of the co-operatives in Assam are being provided with loans,the All India percentage being 39.4 percent.
    The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD)is an important source of  credit to the handloom sector in Assam. Till recently,one of the conditions necessary for supply of NABARD loans to primary co-operatives societies in the North East was that the society was required to have 100 looms under it with a total annual turnover of at least Rs.3 lakhs. This condition have been modified now and the society is eligible for loans if it has 50 looms with an annual turnover of Rs. a.5 lakhs. NABARD is presently conducting a study of the performance of co-operative credit institutions in Assam,the long term and the short term credit structure,the poor growth in lending and disturbingly high levels of overdues.
    The North East Handloom and Handicrafts Development Corporation (NEHHDC),set up in 1977,has initiated a number of steps to promote the growth and development of handloom and handicrafts in Assam and the rest of the North East. Towards this end,the NEHHDC supplies raw materials and working capital to the handloom sector and provides facilities for the marketing and the handloom products. Under the guidance of the NEHHDC,handloom and handicraft products from the North East have been displayed in various trade fairs and exhibitions held in places like Brussels,Tokyo,New York and Berlin. A wide market for the sericulture products of Assam exists in countries like U.K.Italy, Switzerland,France,Singapore and Saudi Arabia.
    About 17 lakh individuals are employed in Assam's handloom and handicrafts sector. The silk sub-sector has covered about 7000 villages in Assam. 53,000 families are engaged in eri production 19,000 families in silk production and 1000 families in muga production.
    It is noteworthy that the handloom and handicrafts sector cover all sections of people in society and all the areas of the State. Women and weaker sections of people in the society have found wide employment opportunities in this  sector. In 1990-91,1200 weavers belonging to the scheduled caste and schedule tribe communities received a sum of Rs. 72 lakhs from the Centre. For the benefit of these weavers,training programmes,construction of work sites,supply of looms and other schemes have been taken up.


Khadi Programme :
    Khadi (Cotton and Silk spinning and Weaving)is at the core of the Village Industries Programme undertaken by the Assam Khadi & Village Industries Board. It is now generally recognised that all of the development programmes Khadi and Village Industries is the most essential to restore the balanced socio-economic growth of the Indian society which is the main objective of our national planning.
    Necessary steps have been taken by the Board to replace the traditional implements with the improved ones and to introduce improved methods of technique so that the rural artisans may increase their productivity and their earnings as well. In order to meet the demands of our weavers for adequate quantity of yarn,the State Board in addition to the traditional charkhas introduced about 175 new model charkhas of six spindles and two spindles at Hajo,Marigaon and Khudra-Sankara. Steps have also been taken to introduce such improved charkha at Manikpur and Udarband. Besides,25 Debba Katai-charkhas have been introduced in the hill areas so as to utilise the locally grown  short staple cotton.
    The Board arranges training for the artisans in the traditional as well as improved methods of production at its training centre at Raha and also send Khadi workers outside Assam for refreshers training and training in salesmanship.
    With a view to conducting research on the development of indigenous Endi and Muga of Assam,a research centre has been set up at Guwahati towards the end of the year 1976-77 after due sanction of the Khadi Commission. This research centre has brought effective improvement in the methods of production of Assam silk.
    From the achievements shown below it appears that the production and sale of Khadi and Village Industries have been considerably increased. This upward progress may be attributed to the use of khadi cloth in the Government departments,increasing demand of Endi and Muga outside Assam,and  financial
 assistant rendered by the Khadi Commission. Steps were taken to raise the wages of the spinners and weavers so that they might get due return of their labour. But the Board is reported to have experienced difficulty in procuring eri cocoons for the local spinners as the traders from outside Assam purchased these by paying high price to the agents.
    In 1975-76,the Khadi and Villages Industries Board had 25 Production centres in different parts of Assam. Now,however,no of such centres has increased tremendously as can be seen from the table given below :
 
Assam Khadi and Village Industries Board Production of Khadi (Cotton and Silk)and Employment

Year Type of Industry

No. of Centers

working

Total Employment(No) Quality Produced

Value Production

(Rs in Lakh)

1986-87 Cloth Yarn 35
….
7959
…..
313739 sq.metres
…..
88.40
….
1989-90 Cloth Yarn 57
….
17744
….
1.62 lakh sq.metres
…..

107.20
…..   

1991-92 Cloth Yarn 58
….
12903
….
2.38 lakh sq.metres
….
90.99
1992-93 Cloth Yarn 57
….
15470
….
2.43 lakh.sq.metres 191.01
….
1993-94 Cloth Yarn 57
N.A
16781
N.A.
3.13 lakh sq.metres
37646kg.
131.90
55.94
1994-95 Cloth Yarn 59
N.A.
12482
N.A.
1,62,435 sq.metres
23,706 kg.
81.63
41.18

 

Source :-Directorate of Economics and Statistics,Assam,Statistical Hand Book of Assam,
        1987(p.124-25),1991 (p.136-37),1992 (p.164-65),1993(p.170-71)
        1994 (p.116)and 1995 (p.124).

Following table shows the achievements of Khadi and Village Industries Commission in production and sales of Khadi in Assam during the years,1979-80,1990-91 to 1992-93.9

Types of
Khadi
Unit 1979-80 1988-89 1990-91 1991-92 1992-93
1.CottonKhadi
(i)Production of yarn
(ii)Production of cloth
(iii)Retail sales of cloth
(iv)Employment
(v)Wages
Rs.in lakh
Do
Do
Nos.
Rs.in lakh
10.34
8.66

79.39
6.70
26.50
544.60

8623
24.13

36.89
68.68
4258
21.76

42.30
65.16
3630
27.17

59.30
88.06
51.60
27.54
2.Silk Khadi
(i)Production
(ii)Retail salary
(iii)Employment
(iv)Wages
Rs.in lakh
   Do
   Nos.
Rs.in lakh
45.44

21891
19.87
163.32

34390
59.24
139.80
110.99
185.59
59.01
151.92
112.04
16657
54.83
204.65
122.38
18119
82.16
3.Muslim Khadi
(i)Production
(ii)Employment
(iii)Wages
Rs.in lakh
   Nos.
Rs.in lakh


1.21
186
0.70
1.62
125
1.00
2.00
255
1.38
1.41
186
0.51
4.Woolen Khadi
(i)Production
(ii)Retail sale
(iii)Employment
(iv)Wages
Rs.in lakh
   Do
   Nos.
Rs.in lakh
….
….
….
….
4.98
….
37
3.20
0.96
3.95
  5
0.24
1.44
4.35
   5
0.54
….
6.27
….
….

   
Directorate of economics and statistics. Govt of Assam:, Statistical Hand Book, Assam, 1991,p. 145; 1993, p. 145; 1993, p. 175; 1994,p. 118

In the year 1994-95,the physical target expected to be achieved in respect of production in the handloom sector is 86% and in the powerloom sector the percentage is 75%.
    The review of the Annual Plans 1992-93 and 1993-94 shows that the physical target achieved under Khadi was 97% and 78% and under village industries sector was 29% and 21% higher than target respectively.
    In respect of sericulture,the States Eight plan accords priority to (a)plantation of silk worm food plans,(b)production and distribution of disease-free silk worm seed and (c)marketing of produce.


(iii)Pottery :

               Pottery is one of the age-old crafts of Assam carried on by the most antiquity method of production. The art of making pottery was known to the people of Assam from early times. As regards the history and origin of the pottery industry in Assam,it has been possible to gather that the use of pottery wares was prevalent as far back as the 5th and 6th century A.D.
    The extensive remains of temple and buildings give ample evidence of working on stones and bricks. This is proved also by a number of epigraphs. The art of brick making is mentioned in the Sualkuchi grant of Ratnapala. It was highly developed at a subsequent time particularly during the Ahom period. The Nidhanpur grant mentions Kumbhakaragarta (potter's pit),and the Kamauli grant refers to the Kumbhakaras who were professional pottery makers. Some of the best specimens of pottery,with artistic and decorative designs,belonging to the 5th and 6th century A.D. Have been discovered from Dah Parvatia;some specimen have also been found in Tezpur and near Sadiya. The clay seals of Bhaskaravarman also point to the fact that the art of clay modeling was developed as far back as in the 7th century A.D. Moreover,Bana mentions among the presents of Bhaskara 'drinking vessels embossed by skilful artists,molasses in earthen pots and' cup of Ullaka diffusing a fragrance of sweet wine.10
    It is very difficult to give a definite note on the existence of pottery during pre-historic epoch,as no systematic study has been made,but random finding of small-sized potteries of the pre-historic times,collected during various excavations and diggings leave no doubt that the art of pottery was also popular in Assam long ago.
    The existence of some chubas or villages bearing prefix 'Kumar' to their names such as Kumar Chubari,Kumargaon,etc.,is perhaps reminiscent of the pottery that flourished in these regions. In the plain districts of Assam,pottery is a hereditary occupation of the people belonging to the communities like Kumar,Hira,etc. Sir E.A. Gait,in an article in the Journal of Indian Art and,the industry published in 1898,observes that there are two distinct classes of persons engaged in the manufacture of pottery in the Brahmaputra Valley,the Hiras and the Kumars. The wood ''Kumar'' is derived from ''Kumbhakar'' and means maker of pots. The word Kumar,on the otherhand,so far as the Brahmaputra valley is proper is concerned,is not used to denote persons of any particular caste or sub-caste but is applied to persons of several different castes,chiefly the Kalitas,Keot and Koch,who make or whose ancestors are remembered to have made articles of earthenware. Thus,there are Kumar Kalitas,Kumar Keots and Kumar Koches,and the people so designated continue to retain their old caste status.
    ''In few rare instances,persons other than Hiras and Kumars were found manufacturing earthen vessels in the Brahmaputra valley. In the Tezpur sub-division,a few people of Kaivarta caste make large earthen pots which are used for building gur. Near Dibrugarh a few families of up-country men from Arra are potters by profession. They are known locally as Hira Kumars. Such up-country potters have also settled recently at Golaghat.''11
    The present position of the Kumars is not uniform throughout the Brahmaputra valley. They are treated more or less as members of a scheduled caste in the Kamrup district while they rank almost equally with Kalitas and others in upper district.
    In undivided Cachar district,the word 'Kumar' devotes what it does in Bengal,the separate potter caste,i.e.,one of the nine professional castes (Navashakha) which are said to be descendants as the offspring from Viswakarma,the divine artisan. In Cachar district,some of the craftsmen are engaged in making only images of Gods and Goddesses. At present,the image making is their subsidiary occupation,their main occupation being 'Grahapuja' along with the studies of astronomy. This class is known as 'Grahabipra' or Ganak (astrologers)and the members of their families prepared images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses during different religious occasions. According to the estimates of the numerical strength of some backward classes prepared by the Census Organisation in 1954,Grahabipra or Ganak was shown as on of the backward classes in Cachar.
    The principal centres of pottery industry were at Tezpur,Chatia,Viswanath,Becheria, Haleswar and Salmara in undivided Darrang district,Charalgaon, Kumargaon, Putani Dharamtul and Monoi in erstwhile Nagaon district; Joynagar,Chatla,Kalain,Rangauti,Matijuri,Bishnupur and Sibootttar in undivided Cachar district : Dibrugarh,Madarkhat,Margherita,Tinsukia and Chabua in the undivided Lakhimpur district; Fakirganj,Gauripur,Rupsi,Satyapur,Rokakhata,Dubapara and Marnai in undivided Goalpara district and Guwahati, Sualkuchi, Hajo, Rangia, Barpeta, Chaygaon, Pathsala, in the undivided Kamrup district.
    The state of affairs of the pottery industry in the State is not very encouraging. Local pottery has mostly been replaced by the superior clay or porcelain goods and metal utensils imported into the State from outside. The profits of the industry are also small and most of the traditional potters have left the trade and shifted to other lucrative occupations.
    According to the Khadi & Village Industries Board of Assam,total employment in this branch of the cottage industry was 25,736 in the year 1993-94 against 25,369 in 1992-93.12
    The raw materials required for the industry are the glutinous clay and the tools and implements used are the wheel (chak),mould (athali),the mallet (hatiya piteni) and polisher (chaki).The articles made are cooking pots (such as akathiah and Khola,daskathia,charu and satar)water jars (kalah and takeli), vessels for boiling paddy (thali),larger vessels (hari and jaka), besides,lamps,pipes and drums. In the urban areas,there areas,there are small groups of potters who specialise in making the image of Hindu deities like Durga,Kali and Saraswati,etc. The artisans often display an astute artistic sense in making the images,which fetch them handsome amounts. In off season,they make beautiful dolls,toys,etc.,and sell in the nearby markets and melas.
    In recent years,some schemes have been taken up by the State Khadi and Villages Industries Board,Assam,with a view to encouraging the village potters to switch over from their traditional items of products to the production of glazed pottery wares,bricks and tiles which have better marketing potentially. Te Board has been providing for training facilities to the artisans. However,impact of these schemes  on the pottery industry in the State is yet to be felt on a wide scale

 (iv)Bamboo and Cane works :  

                   Among the traditional crafts,the making of bamboo and cane products is perhaps most universally practised by all sections of the people throughout the State. Its products may be termed as 'pure handicrafts' in which even elementary mechanical device is not used. Its products have wide range of uses and as such are commonly found in every household.
    No definite records are available to establish the antiquity,history and origin of this craft in Assam. But it can be safely assumed that the crafts is being carried on since the very dawn of civilization.
    Like other handicrafts,the bamboo and cane products of Assam earned wide appreciation in the past. We find mention of the use of ''well decorated and coloured Sital Pati (cool mat)'' usually made of cane. Ptolemy stated that canes were  grown and used as bridge. In Harsa Charita,there is a mention of bamboo cultivation and its uses for various purposes. ''Bana testifies to this highly developed crafts. He states that Bhaskara sent to Harsa baskets of variously coloured reeds,thick bamboo tubes and various birds in bamboo cages''.13 From this it may be inferred that this craft was highly developed in the past not only in the production of utility articles but also of the articles of great artistic value.
    This craft is now mainly a household industry and occupies an important place among the handicrafts of the State. It provides a subsidiary occupation to the cultivators and full-time occupation to the highly skilled artisans who produce only fine decorative baskets,furniture and mats,etc.,on commercial scale.
    The making of bamboo products is mainly a rural industry. It is commonly pursued by the agriculturists in their  spare time as a subsidiary occupation. Its heavy concentration in the rural areas may primarily be attributed to the availability of bamboos in the villages and the very high demand for various bamboo products,such as ,mats,baskets,fishing contraptions,etc.,in every rural household. The essential equipments required for the industry are dao and knife which are invariably found in every family. The manufacturing activities are generally carried out outdoor and all the members of the family,both male and female,take part in it. However,the male members of the family predominate. Most of the products,manufactured in such household,are meant for domestic use and only a small percentage of the products are sold in the markets. The professional artisans who follow this trade as a whole time occupation sell their products in the markets. Japi,the headgear which is produced on commercial scale,are of various designs and sizes. The japis ornamented and embroidered with different designs were indicative of the dignity and social status of those who used them in the past. Although use of such Japis is no longer in vogue now,the embroidered and ornamented Japis are still considered as precious possession by the rich and poor alike. Many varieties of 'Japis' such as 'Halua Japi,Pitha Japi',Sorudoiya Japi,'Bordoiya Japi','Can Japi; etc.,are produced in the undivided districts of Kamrup,Nagaon,Darrang,Sibsagar and Lakhimpur. Nalbari and its neighbouring villages such as Kamarkuchi,Mughkuchi,etc.,deserve special mention in respect of manufacturing of 'Fulam Japis' (decorated bamboo umbrellas). A village named Japisagia situated at a distance of about 5 kms.from Tezpur in Sonitpur district is  famous for Japi production. In the Nagaon district,the best 'Japis are made at Kandali,Uriagaon,Jagi and Kathiatoli.
    Bamboo mats of various types are also manufactured on a commercial basis in the undivided districts of Nagaon,Darrang and Cachar. Large scale commercial production is reported from Karimganj district where mats are locally known as 'dhara', jharia or darma and thousand of people are engaged in this craft. In the district of Darrang and Nagaon such mats are produced from the dried stalks  of various kinds of marshy plants and weeds,while in the district of Cachar,it is produced out of bamboo slips. The mats are of three kinds,kath,dhari, and pati. Kath mats are woven in a wooden frame and the better kinds are made from the kuhila plant (aeschynomeno aspera). Cheaper varieties are made from murtha (marantha dischotoma) and hogal (typha angustifolia). The essential equipments required for the industry are dao and knife. Bamboo mats are extensively used for various purposes like construction of temporary walls and sheds,big pandals,roofing of country boats,dwelling houses,screens,etc. Besides domestic uses,mats are also required by big mills and factories for various uses.
    Karimganj is the only district in Assam where umbrella handle is manufactured on a commercial basis. It is new addition to the list of other bamboo products of the State. An umbrella handle making co-operative society is functioning in the village Paldahar under Ratabari Police Station of the Karimganj district. The State Government has recently opened a training centre for imparting training to the artisans on umbrella handle making at Didhnai in Goalpara district.
    The making of cane products is an important and growing cottage industry of the State which abounds in cane. Extrication of the throny cane from the thick jungles is a difficult task. The forest authorities grant leases to the Mahaldars to extricate cane from forests. The tolls and implements required for the industry are mainly dao and knife and it is an only in the making of furniture that few hummers,pliers or princes,etc.,are required. The industry requires a certain amount of skill even in producing articles of day to day use but the production of the furniture and other products of artistic value calls for a high degree of skill. In the manufacture of cane furniture,undivided Cachar district enjoys a special advantage over other districts of the State in so far as skilled artisans are concerned. But the skill has been recently developed among the artisans of Nagaon,Darrang and Sibsagar also. The craft has commercial production in almost all the important urban areas of the State.
    The main product of the cane industry is the plucking basket which is required in large numbers every year by the tea gardens. As the tea planters find it convenient to purchase in bulk,and the small establishments of artisans find it difficult to meet their requirements,the supply of the plucking baskets have become the monopoly of the few farms that can afford to produce the baskets on a large scale. Deprived of this market, the petty artisans look to the needs of the individual consumers and manufacture various types of furniture and sundry articles like boxes, cradles, cane-stool (murrha), office trays, tiffin baskets, bottle carriers,bicycle baskets, waste paper baskets, cane charis, etc.
    The potentiality of making bamboo and cane products on commercial basis is quite considerable in the State. There is a good demand for its products and raw materials required for it are also available in plenty in the State. The dearth of skilled workers or technical guidance has limited scope of development of this industry to a great extent.
    Under Cane and Bamboo Industry, an amount of Rs. 9,14,000.00 was disbursed as grants and loans by the Assam Khadi and Village Industries Board in 1994-95 against Rs.3,21,000.00 in 1993-94. Moreover, 765 centres of this branch of industry with an employment of 5034 produced goods worth Rs. 185.02 lakh in 1994-95 against Rs. 181.48 lakh, the value of total production made in 915 centres by engaging 4386 persons in 1993-94.14
    The Assam Government marketing Corporation and the NEHHDC have taken up various steps to modernise the bamboo and cane industry in Assam and to expand its market. The State Government has set up sales emporium for the products of bamboo and cane industry in places like Shillong, Calcutta and Delhi. Assam's cane and bamboo products are exported to countries like U.S.A. France and Japan. 'Sital pati' from Cachar has captured the market in the Middle East.

(v) Brass and Bellmetal Industry :

The brass and bell metal industry was highly developed throughout Assam in the past. The skill of artisans who worked on metals in the past is well proved by the existing remains of a copper temple at Sadiya and copper plates issued by the rulers. Copper and brass cups of Goalpara district known as Kansas are products of Assam of great significance. The industry has suffered decay and is confined only to a few places like Chatia, Bacheria, Modopi, Bihaguri, Mangaldai and Patharughat in individed Darrang district, Japargaon, Telekisinga, Bokalmajgaon, Japi Hajia, Ghorbund and Jarwa in undivided Lakhimpur district; Konwaritol, Raha, Jagial, Samaguri and mauzas of Barbhagiya and Khaualgaon in undivided Nagaon district; Kakajan, Titabar in Jorhat district, and Sarthebari in Barpeta district, Hajo, Rangia in Kamrup district. Of all these places, bell metal and brass utensils of Hajo and Sarthebari is widely acclaimed as the best throughout the State. The number of artisans engaged in the industry is also very small. Bell metal utensils are cast in moulds but brass vessels are made of thin sheets and pieced together. The articles manufactured by artisans mainly consist of utensils and vessels of day to day domestic use,such as 'lota' (flattish bowl with narrow neck), ban-kahi (plate with stand) ,thagi (high plate), ban-gilas (tumbler with holding stand),kharahi (through-holed tub), 'kalah' (jar for holding water), 'sarai' (high tray),saria (tub), 'temi' (small container to carry lime), 'thali' (large vessel for boiling rice),bell metal spoons,tumbler, kahi (dish), etc. Mirrors made of shinning metals were also in use in the past. Even now these mirror called dapon or darpan are used by the bride and bridegroom during marriage.
    Historically,the bell metal industry dated back to the 7th century A.D.when the illustrious Ahom kings greatly patronized this industry with an unfailing zeal which was subsequently followed by an effective patronage by the heads of monasteries and landed aristrocracy. The patronage by the kings  and their progenitors obviously helped the growth and development of this craft in Assam. The products of the industry soon found extensive markets in the neighbouring countries of Nepal,Bhutan and Tibet. It is a legend that king Bhaskar Varman sent a part of 'bhortal' a product of bell metal,to  Harshvardhan, the king of North India in the 7th century A.D.as a token of his princely affection for him. Another Ahom king,Swargadeo Siba Singha,in recognition of the artistic genius of Jiudhan Kahar of Sarthebari for making unique bell-metal products,give him a 'tamrapatra' with the title 'Kahar Choudhury' and 40 bighas of revenue-free land.
    Assam's bell-metal industry is chiefly confined to few areas,namely Titabar,Raha and Sarthebari. Though the highest concentration being still in Sarthebari,a substanial segment of the people engaged in the industry has almost abandoned it and got engaged in agricultural pursuits and other vocations. The most important feature of the bell metal industry is that the bulk of units (kahar sal) engaged in production are run on partnership basis as a result of the age-old system. In each unit,normally four or five artisans pool their resources under a common production programme,known as 'kahar-bhaiga' or ojapali. The artisans mutually decide to work under the master artisan 'Kahar' or 'Oja',who owns the tools and implements in such establishments and manages everything under him. The rest of the workers are known as 'Bhaigas'. In these units,in fact,the workers are not entitled to receive direct wages as the income is shared by them on the basis of mutually agreed-upon rations. The bhaigas normally get equal share and the main Kahar usually gets one and a half times the share of a Bhaigas owing to his exclusive right of ownership over the implements  needed for production. In the event of the Kahar's death,either the productive unit is disbanded or a new Kahar is called upon to keep the unit running.
    The Assam Co-operative Bell-Metal Utensils Manufacturing Society,Sarthebari,has been in existence since 1939-40. It was started with a view to promoting the economic and craftsmanship interests of the members by supplying them raw materials,equipments and other facilities required for the industry. The bell-metal industry in the Sarthebari area remained in good stead for quite sometimes as it could provide employment to a few thousand local artisans in some 250 operating units. The number of such units has,however,declined to about 120 in recent years. These units received a substantial portion of their supplies,say about 70-80 per cent of the total metal consumed,in the form of scrap from local traders on the stipulation that they would return the finished products to them which were to be moulded and processed according to specifications. The traders received not only the finished products from the artisans after payment of their wages but also collected the residual metal. The payment to the artisans was on piece work basis and they were no better than mere wage-earners. Sometimes  deferred payments were forced upon the artisans and at times they had to accept less payment from the traders,on the plea of lack of sale of products. The traders in a way enjoyed the exclusive monopoly of marketing the products and this grabbed the entire profit accruing from the sales.
    The Co-operative Society in Sarthebari,too,supplied raw materials to the member-artisans of the society for the manufacture of finished products and got them back after payment of wages to them. However,due to inadequate working capital,the society could not supply even 20 per cent of the total requirements of raw materials to member artisans. Generally,the making charges of a variety of bell-metal product fixed by the traders and the Co-opeartive Society were identical. However,in case of the society,the making charges were more or less assumed irrespective of whether the sales were brisk or slack.
    The area of operation of the Co-operative Society is around Sarthebari. The marketing of the finished bell-metal products is carried on independently  through its branches at Guwahati,Jorhat, North Lakhimpur,Tezpur and Dispur as well as through a Sales Depot in the Sarthebari area. The Tinsukia branch is now closed.
    The bell-metal industry is declining in importance because of heavy investment of working capital,high cost of raw-materials which is beyond the financial capacity of the artisans,a situation which leads itself to the exploitation of the artisans by the merchants and traders. Sarthebari and Hajo are the most important centres of this industry. There is good demand for their products throughout the State. But the artisans are not in a position to buy improved tools to produce improved goods to meet the demand.
    Hajo is also a centre of this traditional handicraft of rare artistic design  having more than 300 artisans families with about,2,000 people completely dependent on the handicraft for their livelihood.
    The brass and bell-metal industry has also been facing stiff competition from substitutes which are cheaper and a bit more attractive. A wide range of stainless steel products and other types of utensils are generally preferred by the consumers due to the exorbitant price of brass and belt metal utensils and the simultaneous availability of cheap and attractive machine made utensils which are abundant in the market. While,with the advancement of science and technology,the consumer preference are rapidly changing,the artisans of bell metal industry are following old designs and indigenous methods. Modern techniques of production such as electrical moulding, casting, polishing, etc.,are still unknown to the artisans and they continue to follow the primitive and cumbersome process.
    Under the Industrial policy of the Government of Assam,1986,a Committee was set up to study the issue and problems involved in the recognisation and modernization of the bell metal and brass metal industries in Assam. The Committee took up steps for the benefit of 10,00 artisans engaged in more than 300 units of bell metal industry in Assam. To ensure the regular supply of raw materials to the artisans engaged in the bell metal and brass metal industries at Sarthebari and Hajo respectively,the Minerals and Metal Trading Corporation (MMTC),Government of India,set up a raw materials depot at Guwahati. Artisans are being sent places like Moradabad and Patna for training and honing of skills.

(vi) Blacksmithy :
    Blacksmithy is an important and common household industry in Assam. It is invariably found as the hereditary occupation of the household concerned. The son works as an apprentice and receives training under his father and the skill is thus carried down from generation to generation.
    In the plain districts,the ironsmith is known by the term 'Kamar' one of the nine professional caste groups (Nabasaka). The 'Kamars' do not like to be designated as such but prefer to continue to retain their old caste which,they claim,have descended from Viswakarma.
    In the olden days,the principal articles of production of this industry included agricultural implements,domestic tools,weapons,besides the tools of the craft like anvil,hammers,chisels,etc. Time has brought about many far-reaching changes in our social and economic life but some of the tools and implements have come down through the ages to us exactly in their original shapes. The usual products of blacksmithy presently found all over the State are simple agricultural implements like plough-share,sickle,hoe and various implements of daily use such as 'dao' knife,axe,etc. Apart from the manufacturing of these products,the blacksmiths also undertake repair and other servicing works.
    Blacksmithy establishments are found in both rural and urban areas but generally the industry is more concentrated in urban areas. Usually the rural establishments are scattered and one establishment often serves the need for several villages. But occasionally concentrations are also found in rural areas
 such as village Karanga in Sibsagar district. Such areas are found to be inhabited by a large number of hereditary blacksmiths for generations. For example,the blacksmiths of Karanga have been working in the village from several generations and are only branches of the same family. It is said that in days of Ahom rule,the blacksmiths of Karanga were specially appointed for manufacturing artilleries. The blacksmith of Karanga take pride in their ancestors whom they claim to be the manufacturers of the biggest cannon still found displayed in the compound of the court building at Sibsagar.

    It is found that most of the artisans are working in an unorganised way. Only recently a few co-operative societies have been organised and the impact of their activities on the artisans are yet to be sen. The urban units generally provide whole-time employment and principal occupation while their rural counterparts provide only part time and subsidiary occupation to the workers.

    The chief raw materials for the industry are steel and soft iron imported from outside the State. A considerable demand for raw materials is also met from scrap iron. The chief fuel is coal but some of the blacksmiths use charcoal as well which is available from local merchants all over the State. Rural blacksmiths sometimes burn logs of wild timbers and prepare charcoal for their own use. The tools and implements used by the blacksmiths are very simple. A pair of sledge hammers,cold chisels,files,a furnace with bellows are all that they need for their working.

(viii)Gold and Silversmithy :
    The industry of gold-washing in the beds of Assam rivers  like the Subansiri,The Brahmaputra and the Buridihing yielded considerable quantities of gold at one time. The industry suffered a gradual decay in course of time,because the amount of labour and strain involved in gold washing could hardly be compensated by selling the little quantity of gold dust collected from the river beds. The following account of gold washing and jewelery industries that flourished in some districts of Assam in the past,makes an interesting reading. An important industry of the Ahom period was gold washing and manufacture of jewelery. Gold was washed from the sands of the Brahmaputra. Many people were engaged in gold washing. They had to pay to the royal exchequer one tola of gold per head per year. Gold could be procured from the sand at all places on the banks of the Brahmaputra. According to the reports on the Administration of Assam 1892-93,and 1901-02,the rivers of Assam which yielded gold were those of the Darrang and Lakhimpur districts north of the Brahmaputra,the Brahmaputra itself in its upper course,the Noa-Dihing and a small stream called Jagle,which  rises in the Tipam hills and falls into the Buri-Dihing. In the Sibsagar district,the Dhansiri,the Desoi and the Jhansi were  said to be auriferous. Out of these streams,the Bharali,the Dikrang and the Subansiri in Darrang and Lakhimpur seem to have formerly given the largest quantities.15 According to the Tezpur Grant,''The river Lauhitya carried down gold dust from the gold bearing boulders of the Kailasa mountain.''16 It is also recorded that Vanamala rebuilt the fallen golden temple of Siva (Hataka Sulin)in Haruppesvara. It is probable that the reference in the Arthasastra (II,XII)to a variety of gold called Hataka,extracted from the mines of the same name,has a bearing on this and that such a mine might have existed in the mountains lying to the north of modern Tezpur or at the foot of the Himalayas.17 The histories of the invasion of Bakhtiyar again state that there was a huge image of gold,enshrined in a temple where the invader took refuge when he was surrounded by the Kamrupa army. According to Riyaz-us-Salatin,the gold image in the temple weighed one thousand mounds.18
    Gold washing operation was carried out by a  guild known as the Sonowal Khel,who paid the Government a tax at four annas weight or five rupees worth of gold per annum. The State derived considerable income from the yearly tax levied on gold washing. In the early part of the British rule,gold washing industry thrived for some time but was given up ultimately as it was expensive and unprofitable.
    The industry of Gold and Silversmithy is mainly concentrated in the urban areas. The artisans are from families which have been traditionally associated with the industry. The survival of this age-old industry may primarily be attributed to its higher rates of profit and adaptability to individual tastes, The indigenous jewelers exhibit considerable amount of skill and artistic refinement in making golden ornaments such as dugdugi, goalpara, lokapara, muthi, jonbiri, keru, kayur, kankan, karachani, bena, angathi, thuria, gamkharu, etc. Gradually,though modern ornaments like chain,necklace,earing,bracelet,tikli,etc,made their places. Still craving for old ornaments in kind and design with modern touch still persists. The goldsmiths hail from Bengal constitutes the bulk of the artisans engaged in this industry. Among the indigenous goldsmiths only those who have adapted themselves to the changing pattern of the jewelery are still in the line.

(viii)Woodworks and carpentry :

                  This is one of the important old time industries of Assam. This industry is seen functioning both on cottage and on small-scale basis. In Assam,the traditional carpenters who have been the important elements in a village society belong to the community Suter or Sutradhar and there is mention of this caste in 'Vedas'. Since time immemorial there forefathers,from whom the mantle has fallen on them,have been working on wood. Generally, a carpenter earns his living by building houses, manufacturing carts, ploughs, looms, furniture, icons and boats.
    In this context, it may also be mentioned that carved wooden articles were also common in the olden days such as Palang,Salpira,Barpira,Para,Dola,Garu Ason,wooden doors, windows, Jatar (spinning wheel) and Karoni. Local craftsmen can also produce carved benches, chairs, thagi or book-rest,stools, etc. The finer sense of artistic beauty among the wood workers can also be traced from the manufacture of minor weaving implements like makol,karhoni,durpati,nasani,etc., which were generally ornamented with carving of parrots, peacocks, monkeys and other floral designs. Although this industry is found in different parts of Assam, yet it is mainly concentrated in the important city and towns of Assam, such as, Guwahati, Dhubri, Nagaon, etc. Majuli Nagaon and Barpeta were famous for manufacture of Guru-Ashans, door and window motifs, North Gauhati was famous for Dola and loom manufacture, Dhubri and Barpeta for boat manufacture. Most of the Satras were patrons of good Sutra who could manufacture decorated Guru Ashan pats, Thagis, motifs for wall doors and windows and wooden figures as well as paint these. In the rural areas, most of the craftsmen carry on this industry as a subsidiary occupation.
    All the artisans of this industry do not possess the required up-to-date skill and designs to attract the customers for their products. On the other hand, they require finance for equipments, working capital, factory sheds and knowledge about improved technique as well as the opportunity to sell their finished products. For the improvement of the industry, it is necessary that common-service facilities in workshop should be provided at the concentration pockets and raw materials depots be attached to the common service workshops. The Assam Government Marketing Corporation would find out markets for the products of the artisans and also suggest the lines of manufacture.


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1. E.A. Gait : A History of Assam, Revised Edition, p.272.
2. Selected Handicrafts of Assam,  Census of India, 1961, Vol – III, Assam, p. 4-5.
3. Ibid, p.23.
4. P.C Choudhury : The History of Civilisation of the people of Assam to the Twelfth Century A.D.,1959, p. 364-65.
5. Facts about Assam Silk : The Sericulture and Weaving Department, Assam, Shillong. p.2.
6. Selected Handicrafts of Assam, Census of India, 1961, Vol-III, Assam, p.26-27.
7. Selected Handicrafts of Assam, census of India, 1961, Vol – III, Assam, p.2
8. Glimpse of silk Industry in Assam, Sericulture and Weaving Department, Government of Assam, 1956, p.3
10. Dr. P.C. Choudhury : The History of Civilisation of the People of Assam to the Twelfth Century A.D., Guwahati, 1959, p. 378.
11. Reference : Manufacture of Pottery in Assam by E.A. Gait, published in the Journal pf Indian Art and the Industry, 1898.
12. Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Govt. of Assam: Statistical Hand Book, Assam, 1993, p. 170-71, 1994, p.116.
13. P.C. Choudhury : The History if Civilization of the People of Assam to the Twelfth Century, A.D., Guwahati, 1959, p. 378
14. Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Govt. of Assam,. Statistical Hand Book, Assam, p. 116-17; 1995,p. 124-25.
15. E.A. Gait : A History of Assam, 1967; p. 272.
16. P.C. Choudhury : The History of Civilization of the People of Assam of the Twelfth Century A.D., Guwahati, 1959, p. 370-71.
17. Ibid, p. 371.
18. Ibid, p. 371.