Dimasa: Rituals & Legends Associated with Weaving

Gracy Maibangsa
Gracy Maibangsa
17 year old Dimasa from Assam sharing the knowledge of my community. 


The Dimasa people consider Goddess Lairebdi the goddess of knowledge. No particular god or goddess is associated with weaving.

It's difficult to prove the origin of traditional loom "daophang" in the Dimasa community due to a lack of written documents and records. But the legends believe that the use of daophang existed at the beginning of life . There was neither sound nor air. It was only filled with water and immense silence. The male God was called Bangla Raja (Father of Dimasa Gods and King of Earthquake), and the female Goddess was called Arikhidima (Mother of Dimasa Gods/Goddess with wings of a fairy). Arikhidima and Bangla Raja later fathered seven sons. But Arikhidima was not happy with her sons because they were very simple and content in their ways despite having divine powers. None of them desired to explore further or to perform new acts to make the world a more exciting place.Disappointed with her sons, Arikhidima left for the most suitable place to lay her eggs. At last, she found a big, evergreen banyan tree in between the confluence of two rivers, Dilaobra and Sangibra.

This place was described as Utopia, with big and tall leaves and branches of the banyan tree, which could not be broken in any storm. The land beneath the tree could hold as many as 1,000 animals; an equal number of birds could live on the leaves of the tree. Arikhidima laid seven eggs and flew away. After seven days, all the eggs hatched themselves. From the first egg, Lord Sibrai was born. Doo Raja, Wah Raja, Gonyung Raja, Brayung Raja, and Hamyadao were born out of the next five eggs, respectively. The seventh egg, which got rotten, is believed to have made way for all the evil spirits, suffering, and diseases into this world. Hence, the six Gods, from Sibrai to Hamyadao, are considered to be the ancestors of the Dimasas and are also worshipped as their Gods. After living a long time with them, these six God brothers went out looking for their mother. Their first few attempts to search for her were in vain, but one fine day while returning to their birthplace, they found their mother weaving under the evergreen banyan tree. Among all the beliefs, this legend is regarded as the most acceptable theory about the origin of the Dimasas and weaving.


Holy Cloth or Shield

When the Dimasa kingdom was at Dimapur, presently in the state of Nagaland, and was at war with the Ahoms of Assam, a young warrior named Halodao was able to kill most of his opponents, supposedly because he wore the holy shield, or khaodam, made out of khun gater, or holy thread. The shield was made up of thick, strong padded cotton, with criss-cross stitching over it. There are strict rules to follow when making the holy shield, or Khaodam. Traditionally, all Dimasa women are experts in weaving, but not all are able to make the shield.


Rituals related to birth

The birth of a child in Dimasa society, whether boy or girl, is a happy occasion. A formal ritual is performed after the umbilical cord of the child falls off. The parents invite relatives and villagers to see the baby and organize a grand feast to accompany the birth ceremony. Customarily, a boy child is covered by a new Rihmsau cloth and a girl child is covered by a new Rijhamphai Gufu cloth. The naming of the child is also done on the same day.


Rituals related to marriage:

In Dimasa society, it is a ritual that the boy’s family will first approach the girl’s family with a proposal of marriage. However, the agreement of both the boy and the girl to be life partners will always be taken into consideration. The parents do not act against the boy's or girl's wishes.It is a custom to offer bride price, or Kalti, so the boy’s family has to pay some amount to the girl’s family. Gradually, this custom is disappearing. Because the Dimasas of Cachar district practice Hinduism and live in a Bengali neighborhood, they have absorbed some Bengali Hindu marriage rituals.


Traditionally, the girl has to prepare all the dresses for her marriage. Rigu, Rijhamphai Beren, and Rikausa are the traditional attire of Dimasa women that they wear on every occasion. For weddings, they use brightly colored cloths with heavy woven patterns in the fabric. The bridegroom wears Risha Galauba Mudo, Risha Ramai Mudo, and headgear made specially for the occasion. Rihmsau is the essential ritual cloth on the groom’s side.


Rituals related to death

In Dimasa society, it is their custom to incinerate the dead. Before the dead body is taken to the cremation ground, it is bathed properly, and after that, they perform some rituals and new clothes are draped on the deceased. In this ritual, a male is covered with Rihmsau and a female with Rhijhamphai Gufu. If a married woman dies at a young age, she is dressed in a colourful Rhijhamphai Beren. When the dead body is carried to the cremation ground, a woman continuously throws paddy and cotton on the left side of the road. Another woman trails handspun eri thread along the road leading to the cremation ground. The Dimasas believe that the deceased will be reborn in his or her own house or in the house of a close relative. Throwing the paddy, cotton and drawing out the line with eri thread makes it easy for the soul to find the path leading to his or her home and village.