Ryndia (Eri silk) of the Khasi Hills- An inherited Art.


The textiles of the Khasi hills are one of the least worked upon textiles of the North East region especially in terms of research and documentation. Handloom weaving with unique and traditional techniques has been an old age process of the Khasis however, over the years the lifestyle of the present generation has shifted the attention to extensive westernized form of clothing and apparel. Moreover, over the years there has been an infiltration of imitation products with lower price ranges. However, a majority of the local people and tourists are not aware of this. NGOs have helped boost the market for Eri silk weavers but there is still a lack of well-organized supply system.  Due to this reason, there has been a decline of authentic weaves in the market which in turn affects the livelihoods of the weavers as well. This has caused the weavers to turn to alternative sources of income. Innovation of these textiles for the present market is still at large. Research and innovation can be brought about to suit the present day generations while still retaining their cultural identity. 

Meghalaya produces three out of the four varieties of silk available in the world. They are – Eri; locally known as Ryndia, Muga and Mulberry. Eri Silkworms are reared and is woven traditionally by weavers in the Khasi hills. The practice shows yarn spun from Eri cocoons, and dyed into various colors using natural, organic vegetative dyes. The Eri cocoons produced by the silkworm (Philosomia Ricini) are also reared by most of the people in rural areas of the North Eastern states of India. With its rustic look, Eri silk has good thermal properties and has been certified as eco-friendly. Eri silk production is an old aged small scale industry, which provides livelihood to families in the regions. It is a traditional Art inherited from generation to generation and treated as an occupation.


Season: Rearing can be done throughout the year. However, March-April and September-October are the best seasons for silkworm rearing.

Egg Incubation:The silkworm eggs are laid out on paper and are cooled. They are incubated at 24-26°C and 75-85% relative humidity. 

Brushing: Brushing off newly hatched worms on tender leaves (preferably castor) to start the feeding process preferably, during morning hours. 

The third stage: The silkworms are transported to Kriahs or flat woven baskets laid with news papers. The silkworms are then given Kesseru leaves to feed upon. 

The fourth Stage: On the fourth stage the Kesseru leaves are replaced with Payam leaves. In this stage we notice the silkworms growing bigger in size.

Ripe worm collection: Ripe worms become yellowish-white and start roaming for selection of site for cocoon formation.  Mature worms are collected and put to cocooning mountages.


Visit: Weaving cluster, Umden village, Meghalaya.

The Eri cocoons produces filaments that are discontinuous. Hence, eri cocoon can only be used for spinning purpose.  Major portion of eri cocoons produced in the region is locally hand spun and sometimes mill spun.

Drying: Sun drying is practiced because of its simplicity. Shell drying is necessary for preservation and storage. 

Cocoon selection: Clean, dry and uniform quality cocoons are choosen for spinning. 

Degumming: The cocoons are boiled for 45 minutes to 1 hour. After boiling, individual cocoons are stretched into thin sheets. Locally available materials such as ash obtained from banana, wheat stalk, paddy straw and pieces of green papaya are commonly used as degumming agent. The eri cocoons are then hand spun or at times, spun by hand.


The natural colour of Eri Silk varies from white to very light cream or light grey. Color and shade depend upon a number of factors such as quality of the worms, their feed, temperature and climate. The difference in shade is more distinguishable in men’s shawls because they are seldom dyed into other colors (in the region). In women’s apparels, however, the shades get camouflaged after dyeing. The dyes that master dyers use are always natural, which are generated majorly from plant parts – leaves, fruits, flowers, barks or roots. Iron ore is also used to obtain black color.


Traditionally the only 3 main colors used in Meghalaya were:
  • Lac (Laha) red
  • Turmeric yellow 
  • Black from iron ore. 

Today, with trainings and workshops; the artisans have increased their repertoire of colors by experimenting with all kinds of leaves, flowers, roots and fruits from around the region. The colors they create depend on the season and the availability of these natural resources locally.


Visit: Weaving clusters, Diwon village, Meghalaya.

  1. The lac is pounded until it becomes moist. 
  2. Hot water is poured and mixed thoroughly until the Lac becomes sticky. 
  3. The paste is then filtered with the help of a cloth and basket. 
  4. The threads are soaked in water. 
  5. The lac paste is mixed with water and boiled. 
  6. Sohkhew leaves (local fixant) are cut into small pieces and added to the dye. 
  7. The threads are soaked in the mixture and stirred well. 
  8. It is left to boil for about 1-2 hours until the mixture becomes thick and the level decreases. 
  9. The threads are then taken out rinsed mildly with soap and left to dry in the shade 

And to conclude,
Artisans in Northeast are most often afraid to take the challenge of producing new products as well as experimenting but are open to the idea if approached by someone else. This maybe due to the lack of exposure which hinder their way of thinking. Sustaining and promoting handicrafts especially languishing art is important for cultural sustainability. It is not only the responsibility of the governments or NGOs but also emerging students and business owners could play a huge role in this sector.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts