Knots ( called Gathi in Assamese) are one of the oldest technical skills and they are the finest examples of excellent craftwork of local artisans. Indigenous Assamese people mastered this art of tying different types of knots without any formal training and the skills have been passed on for generations. The local artisans have been displaying their expertise by applying the skill they acquired from their ancestors in various craft work. Some ancient skills of tying knots are believed to have become extinct. I approached several craftsmen, now in their seventies or eighties, of Goalghat district to gather more information.
Each of them is a master craftsman who has acquired the expertise through non-formal education. Conversations with them helped me to get an idea of basic knots and their applications, the knowledge of which have been preserved orally. Few such popular Assamese traditional knots which are still in vogue are as follows:
Mota Gathi and Maiki Gathi : Mota Gathi is generally used is in interweaving a bamboo bridge, walls of a bamboo hut, cow hitch, timber lashing. Maiki Gathi is comparatively easier is known to many.
Chip Gathi : It is also known as Chosora Gathi or Chochoni Gathi in local parlance. It is applied in many craft work such weaving a bamboo basket, bamboo sieve, bamboo mat, winnowing fan etc. Knot used in a fishing pole is also called a Boroshi Gathi or Chip Gahthi.
Chorai Nakhia or Kurua Nakhia Gathi : This knot was used in weaving bamboo mats with fine bamboo slips. Such mats were used by the head of the family or the village.
Samukia Gathi : This knot resembles a snail ( called Samuk in Assamese) and is used in handles of small knives.
Chela Gathi : This knot resembling a centipede is used in a traditional Sarai made of cane or bamboo, traditional conical shaped bamboo basket used in measuring rice or paddy.
Pokua Gathi : It is used in making Polo or juluki ( a traditional fishing implement made of bamboo strips fastened with flexible cane slips). Weavers also use this knot on their looms.
Mosora Gathi : used in making roof
Gothoni : Used in making coiled basketry.
Komora Gathi: used by weavers for weaving,
Goroi Gathi : used in making Khaloi ( traditional bamboo basket in the shape of a pitcher used for keeping of catches during fishing)
Moni Gathi: used in making mats like stitching beads
Kurukha Gathi: used in making a particular fishing net
Boroti Chip Gathi – used in tying the braces of traditional percussion instruments like dhol, khol.
The octogenarian craftsmen also shared about the names and fine applications of many other interesting traditional knots such as Khopa Gathi, Molua Gathi, Mokhoni Bandh, Juwali Gathi, Patoni Gathi, Ajola Gathi. Recognition of the skills and expertise of these master craftsmen can be expected to go a long way in perseveration of such useful traditional knowledge.
Photo and text - Girimallika Saikia
( Girimallika Saikia teaches in a High School in Golaghat district of Assam. A nature lover, Saikia also loves to spend time with children. She has special interest in photography. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)