The Magnificent Mekhela Chador, Things You Should Know: Mekhela Chadar, the traditional Assamese attire woven from ethnic Muga or Paat silk of Assam, is now globally recognized for its magnificence and grace. This attire is traditionally worn by the women folk of Assam during festive occasions like Bihu & other traditional rituals and wedding ceremonies etc.
Mekhela Chadar (or Sador) is a two-part attire, with Mekhela – the lower part, is stitched in a wide cylindrical shape, draped and tucked into the waist after being folded into pleats. The folds are to the right, as opposed to the pleats in the Nivi style of the saree, which are folded to the left. The Mekhela is usually tucked in a petticoat worn inside. The upper part – The Sador or Chador is a long piece of cloth that is tucked into the upper portion of the Mekhela, in triangular folds and the rest is draped around the body over a blouse as similar to the Sari. The borders of the Chadors, called ‘Paari’, are usually of a single trailing pattern or colour usually similar to the pattern and motifs used in the Mekhela.
In olden days, a piece of cloth called Riha was tied around the chest to cover the bosom. However in contemporary times common blouse is worn like the one worn with Saris. The Riha is still worn as part of the Assamese bridal trousseau, but over the fitted blouse. The designs and patterns made in the Mekhla Chadors are traditional motifs that represent elements of Assamese culture and traditional art. The plain Mekhelas in Muga silk are called Uka (Uka meaning plain or empty). Chador usually consists of floral designs in trails or blocks and numerous combinations of geometrical patterns.
Assam is the home of several types of silk among which the most prestigious is Muga a.k.a. ‘the golden silk fibre’ apart from Paat and Eri silk. Some sets of Mekhela Chadors are also made with varying blends of cotton and Muga or Paat silk with synthetic material.
The attires are usually woven in handlooms and remarkably, in rural Assam almost every household, irrespective of caste and creed, owns a loom where Mekhela Chadors and other traditional garments are woven by the womenfolk.
The glorious texture and silky layers of this attire gives a stately appearance to its wearer. Mekhela Chador is and shall always be the most important part of the lives of the Assamese women.
- Dibyoshnata Talukdar