Gamusa or Gamosa is a unique identity of the Assamese society and bears great significance for the people of Assam. It is a very symbol of Assamese culture. The word Gamusa is derived from two Assamese words “Ga” means “body” and “mosa” means “wipe”, and is equivalent to towel. But it means a lot more than just a piece of cloth or a towel in the Assamese society. Nowhere in the rest of India something like Gamusa is found because its usage and look and the culture it is tied to are very unique in nature.
The origin of Gamusa is still not clear. There are records dating from 14th century that Ahom, who has ruled Assam for 600 years, had the usage of Gamusa. And it is said that the Ahoms were the one who have introduced Gamosa and started the Muga culture here in Assam. Later when British entered the state in 1824, they started the plantation of Muga. Some clothes like Gamosa are still in use in Thailand, from where Ahoms came into Assam.
Gamosa is a symbol of showing respect to the elder ones in the Assamese society. It is also being used as a great symbol of respect and also to felicitate.
Gamosa is also known as “Bihuwaan”, as it is an essential part of Bihu festival. Bihuwaan is gifted to the family members and guests during Bihu as a token of respect & love. It is a strong belief of the Assamese people that the number of thread used to weave the Gamosa the number of age increases of that particular person to whom the Gamosa is gifted. Its nothing but the love and blessings of the Assamese people towards each other.
During the Bihu dance, the female dancers wear the gamosa on the waist and the male dancers mostly on the head. The traditional dhol (drum) used in the Bihu performances is also covered with a piece of gamosa. In any religious activities Gamosa is used in Assam. The “Monikut”(where the Bhagavat Purana is placed) of Naamghar is covered with Gamosa. The Bhagavat is again covered with Gamosa at the altar or cover the scriptures. Assamese muslims use Gamusa to cover the Koran as well.
The pillars of the Naamghar (which is the prayer house of the Assamese society) is also covered by the Gamusa. Having a gamusa around their necks during the prayer in Naamghars is another tradition among the Naamghar-goers.
Gamosa is also used by the farmers as they wear it on the waist(locally called as tongali) and also drap it around their hips and groin which is usually called as suriya. And to one’s surprise, this gamosa is the piece of cloth using which the food for the farmers (Rowanis) are being brought to the fields.
For deuri peoples Gamusa itself is the traditional attire for both male and female. Gamosa is something which is a daily need of the Assamese peoples in every prospects. Most interestingly its popularity and importance is increasing with time, and it has found its way from hand weaving to machines and in the modern fashion world. The commercial viability of gamusa is also growing at such a pace that a simple google search for gamosa or gamusa will land you in many eCommerce sites on the 1st page.
Though it looks pretty simple but the weaver knows how tough it is to weave and show their artistic talents in the motifs of a Gamosa. Further, various patterns used in the design are from the Assamese culture to which it is tied to!