Saturday, 26 March 2011

Looms, Weaving and Traditional Dresses of the Dimasas

In this blog , I have tried my best to throw light on  Dimasa textiles, weaving, looms,spinning and the various design used on clothes by Dimasa females .
I have always been fascinated by the bright and contrasting colours used in Dimasa design. Whenever my mother buys Dimasa clothes-be it be Rigu or Rigu -set, its beautiful and colourful designs always attracted me. All the above inspired me to compile the Dimasa designs and make a Blog on it.

 All Dimasa Females are excellent and expert weavers. They weave clothes simple as well as of very high artistic designs. Most of the domestic requirement of clothes are met from the family looms.Spinning and weaving is confined only to the womenfolk and are considered as obligatory duties by the Dimasa women and girls. Every dimasa girl is properly trained in the art of spinning and weaving as soon as she come of age.
In Dimasa society , women having no knowledge of spinning and weaving is unthinkable. The incompetence of Dimasa girl in weaving is regarded as disqualification in the marriage market. It is mandatory for girl to weave by herself the artistically design wedding clothes to put on herself at her marriages.

Dimasa Females weaves clothes with the help of traditional loom called “DAUPHANG ”. The process of weaving is called “Daophang Dauba”. However only the materials like Shawls and bags are woven in JENGSTU , a type of loom wherein the yarn is tied on the hips and other end of the yarn is tied to the pillar of the house.
Bride carries the loom “Dauphang” to the in-laws house after marriage , not for the use of her in-laws but for her own personal use and it will be inherited by daughter or nearest female relatives belong to her own female clan “Jahdi”
Most of the clothes are woven from cotton yarn and only some specific clothes like Rithap are woven from “endi/eri silk” (called RIHENDI in Dimasa). Yet, the Dimasa women weave all the clothes from “endi/Eri Silk” (silk made from Endi silk worm) before the advent of cotton yarns.
The colours they use for dyeing yarns are prepared by the Dimasa women themselves from the wild herbs( Gjaolai- red colour , Gishimlai- black colour etc)
Weaving is not commercialised by Dimasa women. The women weave only what is required for domestic use in the family.But today many of them have started weaving products commercially to earn livelihood or to supplement their income.
Dimasa woman weaving in her Dauphang


Rikhu or Designs is the nucleus of the cloth that give identity to the cloth as 'Dimasa Cloth' . Designs before being woven in the clothes are experimented in traditional instrument called “GONTHAI”. One can create its own design  or new version of existing designs with the help of the Gonthai.


The Rikhu which Dimasas weaves is unique in a sense, it is never monochrome but polychrome or colourful. Dimasa Rikhu can never be made of one color. The Design looks thick and bulging like 3D art. The Rikhu includes  geometrical designs , dotted designs and animals.

An Example of Dimasa Design-Vivid and colourful.

Weaving a cloth is a simple task for the Dimasas but weaving Rikhu is a time consuming  and complicated work .According to weaver from Disgisim, Dhansiri , weaving just one row of Rikhu takes around 1 month , if you give time daily one hour towards it. The complexity of Rikhu is shown in its back work. The weaving Rikhu is almost equivalent to tying knots if we see the backwork of Rikhu.
back work of Rikhu.

However, the Designing of "Rikhu"(Design) differs from region to region. The Dimasas of Nagaon ,Karbi Anglong districts of Assam and Dimapur region of Nagaland,weave with the help of "Shampor" (Flat Bamboo Stick) is inserted in the Loom(Dauphang) and their weaving process(Shampor eihi Daoba). This is slightly Similar with other communities and on the other hand the Hill Dimasa of Dima Hasao Dist. use the "Gonshai" (Cylindrical Bamboo Stick) whose Length is same as the Shampor. The Weaving Style(Gonshai shaihi Daoba) of Hill Dimasa is very unique, difficult to weave and time-consuming.

shampor- Waeving instrument 

The design for females differ from the males , the designs(Rikhu) determines whether the clothes is for the males or for the females. Wearing of Male clothes by women or female clothes by men is considered as taboo.

Traditional Dress:



1.RIJAMPHAIN: white Colour cloth  worn from chest to knees
2.RIJAMPHAIN BEREN(RAMAI): Chest wrapper with Stripes of Bright Colours like white ,Green(sometimes deep blue) , Black,Yellow(sometimes orange) and red, Worn only in special occasions(marriage, Dance, Festivals) .
3.RIGU: Wrapper or Lower Garment Worn from Waist to ankle. it can be Of various colours.
4.RIKHAOSA:  A Muffler either of Yellow ,green or white in colour, worn above the Chest wrapper or shoulders. it can be also Taken by the males.
5.RIGU-SET: It is introduced recently due to  influence of mainstream culture , It is a Dimasa mekhela Chadar, consisting of "Rigu"(Lower garement Worn from Waist to ankle.)  and "set" is cloth which is  same piece of Rigu that is drapped like indian saree. It can be of any colour.
6.BATHORMAI: Kind of Rigu, With only Rmai Rikhu(or Rmai Design) therein.


1.SGAOPHA(Phagri): Dimasa males wear turban in a head called “Phagri” or "Sgaopha", Phagri are of  either green or yellow but on the occasion of marriages or dance, the bridegroom  or dancer wears white phagri tied with red ribbon on the chin.
2.RIGDO: Short Muffler which can be of any colour worn by men.
3.RISHA: Short dhoti worn From waist to knee and sometimes taken as muffler also, Risha can be of different colours.
4.GAINTHAO: White Long Dhoti worn from Waist to Ankle worn only during marriages and dance.
5. RIKHAOSA :long muffler taken by both men and women, it can be in the colours of white, green and yellow
6.RITHAP:Chaddar or Shawl worn by men usually made from Endi/Eri silk of Endi-silk worm. 
7REMSHAU: shawl only of colour either white or yellow with colourful design embedded in White background, this type of designs are  found only on Remshau)
8MAGONG: shawl of various colour



Rijamphain is clothes worn on chest till knee. It has its design or Rikhu  on the left  end of the cloth and it is woven from  cotton yarns
Dimasa Girl adorned in Rijamphain
Worn By Elderly or married Dimasa Women in any occasion.


Dimasa Girls in Rijamphain.(photo courtesy: Google) 

It is another variation of Rijamphain( Chest wrapper) called Rijamphain-Beren or also known as Ramai in short,  is a Cloth worn from chest to Knees. It is called Rijamphain Beren because it is Rijamphain(chest wrapper) and Beren which means rows as there are many rows of colours like Vast white and Colourful Stripe of yellow(Sometimes Orange),Green(Sometimes blue), Black and  Red. It like the Rijamphain it has Design or Rikhu  on the feft end corner of the cloth  and this design is same as of Rijamphain. It is woven from a cotton yarns.
In early times, Rijamphain beren /Rmai had  Vast white Colour and only few stripes of red, black,green, yellow, (one of stripe of each colour) but today these Stripes of yellow-green-red-black increased to five or seven and white colour part of the cloth  decreased .

It is worn by Dimasa females of all ages, only during Joyous moments like- Festivals-Bushu, Marriages and while dancing.
The Dimasa bride is also beautifully dressed in Rijamphain-beren  in marriages and even the  deceased body of Dimasa Females who are not widow are also dressed with Rijamphain beren during funeral ceremony.

Rijamphain Beren with many rows of colours
 Beren with Few rows of colours

Full view of Rijamphain Beren with its length and breadth
Young Dimasa Damsel Dressed in Rijamphain for marriage 
Eldery Women in Rijamphain Beren.
Rijamphain worn during Dance.

Dimasa Bride in  Rijamphain


There are Four grographical subdivisions among the Dimasas - 
1.Dijua :Dimasa living in Dimapur, Karbi Anglong region  or known to Dimasas as Dijua and the people as Dijuasa or Dijua Dimasa
2.Dembra: Region around Hojai and Lanka of Nagaon district. Dembrasa/ Dembra Dimasas inhabits this region and for long time the Dimasas of the region were known to other communities as "Hojai Kacharies". 
There are some minor variations among the Dimasas in making Rijamphain Beren as well as the Designs or Rikhu.
3. Hasao : Dimasa people living in Dima Hasao region and they are known as Hasaosa
4.Hawar: The region of cachar district till the bordering areas of Tripura, the Dimasas living there are known as "Hawarsa or Hawar Dimasa". Like the Dembrasa They were known other communities as "Barman Kachari" for long time.

However it doesnot preclude each subgroup to interact, in Fact they are the same people linked with blood ties and clan. for eg. Nunisa clan is present in all subgroup . Therefore point i want to make here is, the essence of Dimasas like festival Bushu/Bishu , langauge and many other are ubiquitously present in all subgroup and another character of this subgroup is 'fluidity'. The Dimasa of Hasao when settled in Dijua becomes Dijuasa similarly the vice versa.

On Similar lines, the designs pattern also slightly differ from region to region yet it doesnot restrict the weavers  from various subgroups from using various design of one another. Therefore a Hasao person will seen wearing clothes having Dijua design or Hasao person with Dembra design or vice versa.

The Variation of Rijamphain Beren with regions:

Hasao Rijamphain Beren:

  The rows of colour pattern of white, yellow , red, green and black is almost similar to all subgroups.  

The Common pattern of Rows amongst all the subgroups of Dimasa.
Then how do we identify the regional difference in Rijamphain beren? it done by observing the the left edges of Rijamphain beren that has Rikhu or designs

Rijamphain Rikhu of Hasao region
Hasao Rijamhain Rikhu like the one in above has boundaries and some sorts of geometrical flower designs known as "Panthao bar" and other designs like Baitha and Khaisuri bar. The Hasao Dimasas weaves only this designs or restrict this design in Rijamphain(Chest Wrapper) and not woven in other clothes.

Dijua Rijamphain Beren :

Rijamphain Rikhu of Dijua region

The Dijua Rijamphain is similar to Hasao's one as I have stated above rows of colours or stripes of white, red, green , yellow is universally same among the Dimasas  but Dijua Rijmphain Rikhu or the design is different The Dijua Dimasas usually uses Gisiplai design(sometimes Dolaigur or Radaolai design) like the picture above with some animals designs like elephant and rooster. However unlike Hasao Dimasas they can use this design in any clothes.

Dembra Rijamphain:

The Beren or the rows of colours of Dembra region is unique and totally alien to both Rijamphain beren (chest wrapper) of  Dijua and Hasao region.

Dembra Beren or rows of colours of Dembra region

However the Rikhu(design) of Rijamphain is slightly similar to the design(rikhu) of Dijua,  The Dembra designs consists of "Radaolai" like the in the picture below along with animals and peacock designs like those of Dijua. However comparatively to all, the Dembra designs are large in size.
the green motiffs star like structure is called Radaolai design.

Rigu is a lower garment   or Wrapper worn by Dimasa females from Waist to ankle.
It can be of any colour-Black, Blue, Green , White, Red, Yellow etc.
The Design(Rikhu) woven below at the end of the Rigu shows the identity of Dimasa Cloth .

Dimasa young girls wear RIGU with blouse in every Cultural Events-Marriages, Festivals, Ceremonies etc.

Dimasa Rigus : Blue and green

Dimasa Rigu : Light green and yellow.

Dimasa Girl wrapped in Red Rigu

Rigu worn of different Colours.
Dimasa Girls Wearing Rigu at their Homes as daily wear.

  Rigu set or also known  as Dimasa Mekhela chadar to  Assamese community.
Like Assamese Communities, Dimasa Mekhela chadar is made of two clothes- the wrapper “rigu” worn from waist to  ankle and a  “set” - cloth  from inserted around the waist and drapped like indian saree . The designs on the Rigu-sets are similar like the Rigus consisting of Rmais, Dilam Balai. Difference between  Rigu and set is –the designs (Rikhu) is made Horizontally on the end of the  Rigu and Vertically on the both ends of the "set". Rigu-Set is woven from different colours-Red, black, white,blue, orange, yellow, green etc, It is woven from cotton yarns or sometimes in silk. The Rigu-Set is not the attire that is worn from ancient times  by the Dimasa women but introduced in the recent years due to influence of mainstream non-tribals. It is worn mostly by elderly women or married woman on the occasion of formal events like marriages, festivals etc. However in Nagaland, Dimasa married women discarded the wearing of Rigu-set rather the married women prefers wearing Rigu and blouse as their formal dress.  
Dimasa girl dressed herself in Rigu Set

Rigu-Set in different colours



Rikhaosa is a piece of cloth to cover chest  by women and taken by men as scarf. woven from different colours of Yellow, green, Blue,White and white but especially woven out of yellow colours.

Rikhaosa of yellow and green



It is similar to the Rikhausa but, it is shorter in Breadth and length of  the Rikhausa. It has a design(rikhu) horizontally on the both end of cloth and it is wove from cotton yarns. Worn by both men and women.

Rigdo or muffler of various colours


'Risha'  is translated as "small cloth" in Dimasa language, derived from Rih(Cloth) and Basa(small). It is kind of Dimasa towel used only by males.
This is also cloth worn by men as a short dhoti from waist to till knees and it is also worn as Muffler. It can be of various colour-yellow, green, blue, pink etc. It has a design(Rikhu) vertically on the both ends of the cloth and it is wove from cotton yarns.
The guest of honour are  usually honoured with Risha or Rigdo.

White Risha

Yellow Risha

Green Risha
Dimasa men wearing  Rishas of green and yellow while playing the sport called "Rimin Nelaiba" in festive occasion.



Shawl woven from endi silk or silk worm.
Rithap usually with few designs.


White colour long cloth is beautifully tied on the head to make turban. In Dima Hasao District the Dimasa men wears only white turban(Sgaopha) tied to chin  with red ribbon. However the Dimasas of Nagaland, wear colourful Phagri- either of Green or Yellow .

Dimasa men, wearing phagri while playaing musical intrument,
Photo source:Chayachitrakar of Sunil Deepak

Dimasa Men in Green Phagri, ornnament, Rigdo
 at Dimapur, Nagaland.


Shawl Worn by man. It can either be of  yellow and white. It is Woven from cotton yarns and has design(Rikhu)  vertically on the both ends. Peculiarity about this cloth is, the designs (Rikhu) is embedded in White background,no other cloth has these kind of design.
Remshou  is also used for laying  over the deceased of  Dimasa male only.

White Remshou

Green Remshao (Shawl)


Modern form of dress, Jacket with ethnic Dimasa Designs.

Copyright√£ Bonnie Nunisa, 2011

Thank you for passing by and having glanced at culture and traditional dresses of Dimasas.

If you are interested in buying Dimasa clothes and attires you may contact: RIHDIMA ENTERPRISE GUWAHATI:                                   
Address: House no.11, 18th East Byelane, Sundarpore, Zooroad, Guwahati, Assam, India. contact no: +918473830060 (Mrs.Joymala Nunisa Daolagupu)


  1. I appreciate the work done by you and the way its been portrait, I dont know how difficult it is to make a website but it would be more beneficial if such website is created projecting the handloom & textile arts of our society and also in terms of business & marketing.

  2. it is indeed inspiring like the work you are doing.....please continue the wishes

  3. really appreciate your work ... keep up the good work brother .... :-)

  4. Good work!! i appreciated in your great work..

  5. Thank you everyone for Encouraging me.

  6. Replies
    1. Thank you For Your compliments and your wishes.

  7. such a wonderful blog(Dimasatextile). m really impressed and appreciated your work, really enjoyed reading it, get wishes...luv it

  8. Thank you For Your compliments and your wishes.

  9. Thank you Bonnie Nunisa for such wonderful work on Dimasa complete attire. I would be more glad if the 'RIKHU' is more precisely shown in photograph. In many photographs I could not trace the Rikhu prominently.

    1. Thank you passing by, I am by glad by your response and appreciate suggestions.
      However this post is about the attire 'Gainsari-Phinsari' therefore it is devoid of 'Rikhu' or Designs. soon or later i will post on the designs or Rikhu.
      For now you can see the pics of this post by clicking it and zooming, hope it will show some designs.

  10. Really such a wonderful blog, very interesting blog, i appreciate your work, thanks.
    Enjoy wearing the designer sarees, anarkali bollywood suits and many more at goonshopping. Buy Traditional Wears at a very affordable rates and look stunning at party and other occasions.

  11. Thank you for giving a nice artilce on Dimasa handloom. May I use this article for our newspaper?? Means may I republish it in our newspaper? Please let me know at 9401035747.

  12. It is such an informative piece , could not resist sharing it in my Facebook page , which is to promote crafts of NER. If you have any objection kindly advise me at . I will delete the post. Very nice blog with pictures to describe the rich cultural heritage.

  13. Very nice blog. I am interested to buy a Rigu set.How can I order you?

  14. The above mentioned as samphor is not samphor but called rashi

  15. Very very very nice vlog of dimasa page wish u try all the best