Magic Natural Dyes
The tradition of dyeing is also part of the cultural heritage of the Assamese communities. Even though there are no elaborate writings about the rich dyeing culture in Assam, the knowledge of dyeing with plants is widely spread. Being a protein fiber, eri silk absorbs the dyes very well, so the use of leaves, herbs and flowers produces great results.
What we found fascinating was that so many plants are integral to the lifestyle of the Assamese people. Turmeric is a spice that is mostly used in cooking, to give dishes a beautiful yellow color. Areca nuts are one of the most important foods in Assam because they are offered to guests when they visit. Known more commonly as “paan” in India, they are chewed along with lime and betel leaves for an energizing and euphoria-inducing effect.
The leaves of the mehndi plant, or henna plant, can be harvested all year round and change shades with the seasons. The women and men of the village use henna for adornment and beautification. After the henna leaves have been crushed and ground, the resulting paste is applied to fingers, toes and hair to dye them a reddish shade. When used on silk, it becomes a camel shade. These examples of the circular use of raw materials remind us of the importance of nature and the interconnectedness it engenders, whether it be between tradition and weather, lifestyle and cooking, or garments and seasons.