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. The word gamosa is derived from the Kamrupi word gaamasa (gaama+chadar), the cloth used to cover the Bhagavad Purana at the altar.
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.
One can therefore, very well say, that the gamosa symbolizes the life and culture of Assam.
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.
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.
Notes and references
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