CHAPTER V

INDUSTRIES.

Arts and industries- silk weaving –pottery –Brass and bellmeta- lac-mat-making –fishing.

Tea the only important Industry in Darrang

A part from tea the industries of Darrang are unimportant. Much of the clothing worn by the indigenous is still woven by the women of the family, and a certain amount of lac, and of silk, especially of eri silk, is produced . A few foreigners express mustard oil with the bullock mill of Upper India, and there are a few blacksmiths, makers of earthenware , and metal utensila. Near Tezpur there is a saw mill under European management. In the following paragraphs is given a short account of such industries as exist.

Pat silk

Three different kinds of silk are produced in the district. The most valuable kind is known as put, and is obtained from the cocoon of two species of worms, the univoltine or bar polu (bomyx texlor) and the multivoltine or saru polu ( bombyx croesi). Both kinds are reared indoors on the leaves of mulberry tree (morus indica)or where mulberry is not obtainable ,on the panchapa. The silk can be most easily obtained either at Becheria and Bihuguri in Tezpur, or at sipajhar and other places in the Patharughat tahsil in Mangaldai. The eggs of the Bar polu take ten months to hatch, the worms usually making their appearance about the beginning of January.

The life of the worm lasts from thirty to forty days, and the cocoon takes about six days to spin. The cocoons are of a bright yellow colour, but the silk, when boiled in potash water, become perfectly white, become perfectly white. From twelve to fifteen thousand cocoons are required to yield one pound of thread, which is worth from Rs.8 to Rs.12. The thread obtained from the saru polu is not so valuable as thata of the bombyx textor, but as the worm yields four broods in the year it finds greater favour with the cultivators. Pat silk is, however, only made to order and the total quantity produced is very small.

Several causes combine to make this silk rare and expensive. The Jugis are the only caste who will consent to rear the worm, and, as the insect is looked upon as impure, the industry is probably regarded with disfavour even by the jugis. The supply of mulberry leaf is limited, and the worms are very delicate,a large number of them dying before they spin.

Muga

The muga worm (antheroea assamoea) is generally fed on the sum tree (machilus odoratissima). Five different broods are distinguished by vernacular names, but in the Darrang district the only broods commonly reared are the katia in October-November, the jarua in December- February, and the jethua in the spring. The complete cycle of the insect lasts from 54 to 81 days, the bulk of which is occupied by the life of the worm when the moths hatch out the females are at once attached to straws which are hung up inside the house, and are visited by the males who are allowed to remain at liberty. Each female produces about 250 eggs which are placed in a dark place, and when the worms appear they are at once transferred to the sum tree. A band of straw or plantain leaves is fastened round the trunk to prevent them from descending , and during the night they take shelter under the leaves. Constant vigilance is,however, required to keep off crows, kites, owls,large bats and other pests which prey upon the worm, and hail and heavy rain not unfrequently do damage. When fully grown the worm is about 5 inches long nearly as thick as the forefinger. In colour it 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. When the worms are ready to spin they descend the tree and are then removed to the house. Most Assamese women possess one or more garments of muga silk, and well-to-do men wear waistcloths of this material on occasions of ceremony. Muga silk is chiefly manufactured for home use and very little is produced for sale. The silk is recled from the cocoon, 250 of them yielding one oz. of thread. The price obtained is from 4 to 6 annas per oz.

Eri silk

The eri worm (attarus ricini) derives its name from the eri or castor oil plant (ricini communis) on which it is usually fed. Patches of this plant are to be seen in the gardens of most villagers and the worm is proportionately common. From five to six broods are usually reared in the year, those which spin their cocoons in November, February, and May yielding most silk. As with the muga moth, the females, when they emerge, are tied to pieces of reed, and are visited by the males who are left at liberty. The eggs are hatched in the house and take from a week to 15 days to mature. As soon as the worms appear they are placed on a tray, which is suspended in a place of safely, and fed on the leaves of the castor oil plant. When fully grown they are about 31/2 inches long and of a white or green colour. After the final moulting, the worms are transferred from the tray to forked twigs suspended across a piece of reed, and, when they are ready to spin, are placed on a bundle of dried plantain leaves or withered branches which is hung from the roof of the hut. The matrix of the cocoon is very gummy, and the silk, which is of a dirty white colour, has to be spun not reeled off. Before this is done the cocoons are softened by boiling them in water and a solution of alkali. Empty cocoons yield about three quarters of their weight in thread.

Eri cloth is produced in every part of the district, but the great centre of the industry is the Kachari country in the north of Mangaldai. Kalaigaon is a market at which considerable quantities of this useful commodity are on sale.

Cost of silk clothes

The most useful garment made of eri silk is the bar Kapor, a large sheet sometimes as much as 20 feet in length by 5 feet wide, which is folded and used as a wrap in the cold weather. It costs from Rs. 10 to Rs. 16. Eri cloth is also made into coasts and petticoats Women's clothes, both petticoats and the shawls worn over the bust are, however, usually made of muga silk, the thread required for a complete dress costing from Rs. 5 to Rs 7. The instruments used for twisting and weaving silk are the same as those employed for cotton, but for eri thread a stronger reed is employed.

Weaving

The weaving of cotton cloths is carried on by rich and poor alike,and one or more looms are to be seen in the courtyard of almost every house. Though cotton is grown in the hills of the Province,and though many different dyes are to be found growing in its forests, imported yarn,which is supplied in the requisite shades by the village shop –keeper ,is usually employed, the loom consists of four stout posts which are driven into the ground so as to make a rectangle about 5/ 10// X 2/6//, and are joined together at the top by cross beams. The implements required for the conversion of raw cotton into cloth, and the system of manufacture followed are described in the minutest detail in a "Monograph on the Cotton Fabrics of Assam," published by the superintendent of Government Printing at Calcutta in 1897. description of mechanical processes of this nature are, however, at their best unsatisfactory, and are hardly intelligible without a series of diagrams. The total cost of whole apparatus is from ten to fifteen rupees, and as weaving only occupies the leisure moments of the women, the use of homemade clothing helps to save the pocket of the villager. Very little cotton cloth is prepared for sale,and there can be little doubt that weaving as an industry is commercially a failure, the price obtained for the finished article being out of all proportion to the time expended on its production. The principal articles made are gamchas or napkins, often worn on the head,Large sheets or shawls worn as wrap, called chadar khania or bar kapor , and smaller shawls called chelengs.

A kind of shawl called paridia kapor is very finely made and is enriched with a beautifully embroidered border. It costs sometimes as much as Rs. 200.

Potary

The earth used is generally a glutinous clay, which is well moistened with water and freed from all extraneous substances. It is is too stiff some clean coarsesand is worked up with it. A well Kneaded lump of clay is then placed on the wheel, which is fixed horizontally and made to rotate rapidly. As the wheel revolves the potter works the clay with his fingers and gives it the desired shape. The vessel is then sun dried, placed in a mould, and beaten into final shape with a mallet, a smooth stone being held the while against the inner surface. It is then again sun dried, the surface is polished, and it is ready for the kiln. The collection of the clay and firewood, the shaping of the utensils on thewheel and the stacking of them in the kiln, from themen's portion of the work. The women do the polishing and the final shaping . the Hiras, however , do not use the whel, but mould the vessel on a board, laying on the clay in strips, and the whole of this work is entrusted to the women.

The instrument employed are- the wheel (chal) which is about three feet in diameter and rotates on a piece of hard pointed wood fixed firmly in the ground, the mould (athali) a hollow basin about 16 inches long by 3 ½ inches deep, the mallet (baliya piteni), and the polisher (chaki) The principal artcles manufactured are cooking pots (akathiah and khola, daskathia, charua, and satar),water jars (kalah and tekeli), vessels in which rice is boiled (thali), and larger vessels (hari and jake) with lamps, pipes.and drums. The profits of the business are said to be small, and the local pottery is being gradually ousted by a superior quality of goods imported from Bengal, and by metal utensils which are coming exdtensively into use. The principal centres the industry are at Tezpur, Chutia, Bishnath, Becheria and Haleswar, and at Salmara in Mangaldai, but there are not more than six or seven hundred persons in the district entirely supported by the potters craft.

Brass and bell-metal

The brass and metal industry is not of much importance. Bell –metal utensils are cast in moulds, but brass vessles are made out of thin sheets of that metal which are beaten out and pieced together. The implements of the trade consist of anvils of different sizes(belmuri chatuli), hammers,pincers, and chisels. The furnace is simply a hollow in the floor of the hut, and the bellows are made of goat's skin. When it is desired to join two sheets of brass together, nicks are cut in one edge, into which the other edge is fitted, and the two are thenbeaten flat. A rough paste made of pan, a substance which consists of three parts of sheet brass with one par of solder,and borax is then smeared over the join. The metal is heated, the pan melts, and the union is complete. The principal articles manufactured are small flattish bowls often used as drinking cups(lota,bati), jarsfor holding water (kalsi, gagari),trayas(saria),boxes to carry betelnut and lime (tema, temi), and large vessels used for boiling rice(thali). The chief centres of the industry are in the Chutia tahsil, the Becheria, Modopi and Bihugurimauzas, and the Mangaldai and Patharu ghat tahsils the number of braziers is, however, very small, and of workers in bell-metal smaller still.

Lac

Lac is reared on various members of the ficus family on arhar (cajanus Indicus) and the castor oil plant (ricinus communis), but the trees most generally selected in this district are the pakari ( ficus rumphii) , and the poma (cedrela toona). As far as is known the qulity of the product is not affected by the tree on which the insect has been fed. The method of propagation is as follows. Pieces of stick lac containing living insects are placed in baskets and tied on the twigs of the free on which next crop is to be grown. After a few days the insects crawl on to the young branches and begin to feed and secrete the resin. They are left undisturbed for about six months and the twigs with the secretion are then picked off. A good sized. Tree yields from 30seers to two maunds of stick, the best results being obtained from trees of moderate growth, which do not contain too rich a supply of sap. Two crops are generally obtained in the year, the first being collected in may and June, the second in October and November. The first crop is largely used for seed, and it is the second which supplies the bulk of the exported lac. Antsand the caterpillars of a small moth something do much damage to the insect, and a heavy storm at the time when they are spreading over the tree will destroy them altogether. All the lac produced is exported in the crude from of stick lac. The industry is not confined to any particular caste or tribe. The principal centres are Parbatia village in the Mahabhairab mauza, Bihuguri and Barjargao in mauza Haleswar, and Chapai in Barchola mauza, all of which are in the Tezpur subdivision. The bulk of the lac in Mangaldai from nahara in Orang mauza, Orang,Odalguri, Kalaigaon, Paneri, Sipajhar and Barpathar. The total output of the district said to be about 4,000 maunds per annum, and the price obtained by the villagers to range from Rs.25 to Rs.30 per maund.

Mats and baskets

Mats and baskets are also made, but more for home use than for sale. Mats are generally made of split bamboo and are used for sleeping and sitting. The better kinds are known as ckok dhari, while noga dhari are used by servants and low caste people. A better quality of mat is made by the Patias from potidoi (clinogyne dichotoma). And from the outer sheath of a plant called tonga. Of bakets there are numerous varieties. The basket suspended to the end of the bamboo bhar is known as tela. A finer variety of tola is known as the dabeli bhar,and is used at weddings and on other ceremonial occasions. The dul is a large bin in which grain is stored, the jhopa is a species of trunk made of split bamboo, and the petera is a similar article made of cane.

The fishing industry of Darrang is not of very great importance. The Doms or Nadiyals are the professional fishing caste. In 1901, there were over 9,000 of these persons censused outside the tea gardens, but many of them live to a great extent by agriculture.and look upon their net as a subsidiary means of livelihood. Strangely enough, even the hihest castes may fish, and the element of degradation merely attaces to the selling of the catch. The right to fish in the larger rivers and bils is put up to auction every year, and fetches about Rs.10,000. the purchasers of these mahals then levy a tax, generally of Rs. 6 per annum, on every person fishing in their water. The fisheries which fetch the largest sums at auction are Brahmaputra and the Kachari bil . The revenue obtained fisheries since 1900 will be found in Table XIV.

The fish are never salted, and very seldom dried,and are simply sold day by day to the people living in the neibouhood. There is, however, a considerable export of fish from Brahmaputra, which is carried by train on Sundays from Tezpur to the large markets near the tea gardens at Bindukuri, Barjuli, and Balipara. The best eating fish are roe( labeo rohita), chital (notop terus chitala,) hilsa ( clupea ilisha) and pithia.

Nets

The following are the nets most commonly in use. The Ghakata is a net in the shape of a shovel which is pushed through the water and is generally used to catch butchua fish. The pahjal and duitoma are varieties of this net which have a larger mesh than the ordinary ghakata, and the net used to catch hilsa is of very much the same shape. The khewalis a piece of net Ting weighted round the edge, and with a rope attached to the centre. The net is thrown flat on to the surface of the water, when the weights sink and drag the sides together, and any fish that it may have covered are entangled in the pockets round the edge. It is then drawn by the rope to boat or bank. A small meshed Khewali is called angatha, while those with larger meshes are known as afalia or rekh. The uthar is a khewali which is too large to be thrown by hand and is spread on the water by two men from a boat. The langi is a large net which is stretched right acrose a river, the bottom being weighted and the top buoyed. The fish are then driven towards the and become entangled in its meshes. The ohal jal is a net of much the same kind, it is stretched across the river and allowed to drift down stream and the fish are caught by being entangled in its meshes. The tala or tanajal is another veriety of the langi , one end of which is held by a man of the bank . The rest of the net is taken on the water in a boat and is gradually paid out in a semi – circle whose chord is the bank of the bil or river . The Parangi is asqure net the opposite corners of which are fastened to flexible bamboos. The net thus hangs like a sack from a stout pole to hich the bamboos are attached, and is lowered into the water and raised at intervals. A large paranji ,too heavy to be raised by hand, in which the pole to which the net is affixed is fastened to two stout posts, and thus works as a lever, is called jatial or ghatjal.

Traps

Traps made of wicker work are also frequently employed to catch the smaller kinds of fish. The women of The village are often to be walking through the shallow pools and streams during the rains, and continually dabbing down a polo on the mud. This polo resembles a huge inverted wine glass made of wickerwork, with a short stem, through which any fish that may be caught are lifted out and placed in a large necked wicker work bottle tied round the fisher's waist. A smaller from of polo is called juluki. The jakai resmbles a small bag of split bamboo, and is generally used by women. They place the mou`th of the bag on the ground before them and trample up the mud and so frighten the fish into it. The chepa and dingara are traps of wicker wok, the former ovel, the latter shaped lik a box. The fish enter through a trap door which they can push open from outside but cannot pull open from within. The hukuma is a hollow cone made of split bamboo. Which is filled brushwood and placed at the bottom of river. The fish take shelter in the broushwood and are lifted out with the trap.