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Gamusa (coll. gamsha) or presentation scarf, as used in Assam. Woven using a back-strap loom, and made of cream white and crimson silk. A short fringe at each end.
- Made in: Assam
- Length: 151 centimetres
- Width: 60 centimetres
In India there is a common custom of presenting shawls or scarves as part of formal greeting activities. This custom survives especially in the Himalayan regions where white silk or cotton scarves – kathaks – are offered, and also in Assam.
This silk presentation scarf, or gamsha, is unusual in that they are more usually made of cotton rather than this more expensive material. On all formal occasions in Assam these distinctive red and white scarves are presented. They also feature in Assamese religious life, especially in the devotion to Krishna associated with the bhakti leader, Sankaradeva (died 1568). Their role in the cult is interesting as they are used to wrap the text, the Bhagavata Purana, that acts as an image in the namghars, or prayer-halls (Sankaradeva insisted that nothing further than the text was necessary as a focus for devotees' attention, though some of his followers later went back to image worship). Because of this link with the Bhagavata, gamshas often have an added aura to them so they appear, for instance, on new structures, on the dashboard of a new car, and so on. They have, by association, an apotropaic function.
- Associated with: Assam
- Used at: Visit to the British Museum by delegation from the Bodoland Territorial Council
This item was presented to Richard Blurton on the occasion of the visit on July 24th 2009 to the British Museum by Mr Singhaa Ram Boro. Mr Boro is the member of the Bodoland Territorial Council responsible for Museums and Archaeology, and he was accompanied by five of his civil servants. They are based in Kokrajhar in Bodoland, in the western part of the Indian state of Assam. See also 2009,3021,1 and 2.
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Object reference number: RFI40819
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