The North-East Post

This doesn’t cover all the North Eastern states of India neither is it chronological or thematic. Rather it’s a North East sampler that includes a fair bit of dance forms in the North-East.

1The components of the Manipuri dance costume include a) kumin (the bright skirt) b) pasuan (gauzy overskirt) c) khwangyet (cloth belt) 4) meikhumbi (veil) and 5) koktumbi (tapering cap). Collectively the costume is called potloi.

While the stiffened skirt and frilled overskirt are now seen as characteristic of Manipuri costume and is also the bridal dress (though the overskirt is not frilled here), it’s history is fairly recent. See for e.g. manipurtalks and minai’s post. The kumin is a variant of  the phanek and seems to have acquired a cylindrical form for most of the 20th century. Though the simpler version is around for awhile as in this 1954 pic.

For more Manipuri costumes in paintings see here.


2 Monks from the old Kamalabari sattra impersonating gopis in Chali Nritya at the first All India dance seminar at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, 1958. Pic source: Sangeet Natak Academy in X.

Traditionally Sattriya nritya was performed by monastic communities and female parts were performed by men as in this photograph (click for larger view). Now it is performed by men and women and outside the sattras or monasteries..

Per Mallika Kandali every Sattriya dance has its own dress code which is strictly followed in the sattras. But on the contemporary stage “ek-aharya” (single costume) prevails. Even here there is some difference from costumes of the 50s but a contemporary costume would include a ghuri (ghaghra) of pat silk, a riha (upper wrap) placed on both sides on the chest and a blouse. A belt with strips (kanci) completes the dress.

I did spot the velvet embroidered jacket in one contemporary costume but it is also a bit of its time given the popularity of embroidered velvet in the early 20th century.

Present day Majuli.

Given that States/Union Territories participate in the cultural part of the Republic Day parade in rotation, it appears that the North-East was well represented in 1956. In today’s photoset from photodivision, the folk dancers are from Sikkim,  Assam (Jaintia*), Manipur and NEFA**. Not many happy faces apart from cheerful Sikkim girl wearing a wristwatch:)

Some beautiful textiles and jewellery in there. These are not representative of the entire state given that there are a number of tribal communities in North-East India.

Other states: Nagaland (1960), Tripura (2011), Mizoram (2011).

*Now Meghalaya.
**NEFA, now Arunachal Pradesh.

Naga Girls-1956 and contemporary.

I am fairly sure the necklace of carnelian beads and silver flutes is indicative of the Ao Naga though probably not restricted to the Ao Naga – e.g the Tetseo sisters [X] wear it quite often.

Most folk will no doubt be aware of wearabout; it showcases some really cool northeast fashion.


Chalk and crayon sketch, Naga girl, 1955 by Lily Eversdijk-Smulders . She looks quite lovely and stylish.

I can’t quite identify the naga group based on contemporary  portraits, also wondering if  the ear ornament is rhododendron blossoms.

About Anu M

A potted history of Indian clothing and fashion.
This entry was posted in 1900s, 1950s, 20th century, Accessories, Art, Asia, Costume, Culture, Dance, Dancer, Early 20th Century, fashion, Folk Dance, Girls, indian art, Indian Dress, Indian fashion, Indian Textiles, Indian Women, Jewellery, North East, North East India, Paintings, photodivision, Photography, regional styles, retro, retro fashion, Tribal, Vintage Blouse, vintage costume, vintage fashion, vintage hair, vintage jewellery, vintage style, Women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The North-East Post

  1. What a lovely, interesting post, thank you once more!

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