Manipur or the Land of Jewel is that princely state of India which is known for its vibrancy in terms of its color, culture, people and the overall beauty. Since times immemorial, the hand loom industry of Imphal, the capital of Manipur has been playing a pivotal role in the economy of the state. The traditional hand loom weaving skill in the state of Manipur has not just been a matter of status for the women folk of the state, but also an irreplaceable part of the socio-economic life prevailing there. When it comes to the hand loom zones of India, Manipur enjoys a distinct place. In fact the hand-loom industry of Manipur is such that it generates maximum employment to the women folk, both young and old. The hand-loom industry is the largest cottage industry in the state of Manipur.
Hand-looms found in the city of Imphal, that is, the Manipuri hand-looms are famous throughout the country for its exquisite designs. The hand-loom industry has been booming since ages and since the weavers consist of the women folk exclusively, this industry of the state plays a very important socioeconomic cultural heritage the legacy of which has been carried through generations.
There is a distinct mythological history surrounding the hand-looms of Manipur. It is believed that the Goddess Chitnu Tamitnu had discovered cotton and has also created the yarn. The work shed called ‘Sinnaishang’ was made by Her after preparing the weaving threads and arranged all other equipments required for the work. It also is believed that Goddess Panthoibee observed the spiders weaving their cobwebs and thus got the idea of weaving with the use of fine threads.
Majorly the skilled weavers hail from Wangkhei, Bamon Kampu, Khongman, Utlou and Kongba. One of the excellent specimens of the craftwork is the huge array of tribal shawls found in Imphal. There are five hill districts of this state which specialize in making wonderful designs and motifs. The shawls are exotic and are famous for the unique fabric of the state. They are in huge demand in the indigenous as well as overseas markets. The famous weaving mixed with exotic designs are not just wraps that protect against the cold but also immensely symbolic and happen to be the conventional garments of the state of Manipur.
The typical Imphal shawls come in very bright and vibrant colors with interesting patterns. The designs tend to form a formal arrangement of lines which get elaborated to form diamonds and geometrical shapes. The traditional design and motifs include the straight lines, squares, stripes and bands which vary in width, colors and arrangements.
Changkhom refers to the shawl of Tangkhul tribe of the state of Manipur. This particular tribe is known for having eleven categories of hand-woven clothes. Loin loom and frame loom are mostly used to weave these clothes. This particular type of cloth has an omnipresent characteristic and is universally worn by both men and women. The color that is dominant in Tangkhul cloth is red which is complimented by black or white.
Raivat Kachon is a different type of shawl of the Tangkhul tribe which is amongst the eleven types of hand woven cloths, as mentioned above. An acrylic yarn on lion loom is used to weave this. This cloth also exhibits ubiquitous characteristic but is generally donned by women. It bears hand-embroidered designs of animals and insects.
Mareipan refers to the kind of shawl that belongs to the Kabui tribe of Manipur. This particular tribe has fourteen categories of hand-woven cloth; out of these seven are used by men and seven by women. Mostly lion loom is used to weave them. The borders of these varieties of cloth are aesthetically designed and the color that is found to predominate is white. The shades that form the complimentary combinations for Mareipan are black and red. Acrylic and mercerized yarns are used for making them.