MUGA SILK YARNS - The golden silk from Assam- the North Eastern State of India have always been highly coveted by patrons & connoisseurs of luxury. It was once exclusively worn and owned by the Royals. Even though the days of royal restraints on ownership has long gone, it remains an highly coveted and exclusive item due to its rarity , unique unparalleled properties and iridescence.
The moth that produces the silk is Antheraea assamensis. The moth is indigenous to the North Eastern State of Assam .
It is a variety of wild silk that is found in the deep forests of Assam and surroundings and In some parts of north east West Bengal . But Assam produces almost ninety percent of all Muga silks yarns. It is indigenous to the Brahmaputra Valley and assiduously practiced in the districts of Assam.
Muga is known for its highly lustrous natural golden or golden yellow colour.. It is still reared and mostly hand reeled using age old techniques by the tribal communities in Assam ....
Muga Silk of Assam obtained a Geographical Indication ( GI ) protection in 2007 in India and was renewed in 2017 . GI indicator is awarded by the Govt of India to products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities and reputation that are due to that origin . The certificate is in the name of Assam Science, Technology and Environment Council ( ASTEC ) , Govt of Assam.
Unique Properties of Muga Silk
Muga Silk has some very unique characteristics . It's golden colour is everlasting and stable , the colour unlike the sheen of mulberry silk ( the world's most widely used silk ) and other silks increases with age and wash . Muga Silk has a tensile strength ( it is a measure of yarn strength ) of 4.53g/dn , it is the strongest of all the silks used by humans and is resistant to acid ( sulphuric acid ) . It is highly durable . It will outlast the owner .
Why is it expensive ?
Muga is expensive on account of its rarity and also because the processes involved from rearing to the final yarn production is more taxing than other silks like mulberry . According to the Central silk board of India data , the total annual production of raw Muga silk yarns hovers around 200 metric tonnes or so only . Compare that to mulberry which hovers around 25000 MT .. That's just India's production . China is the world's biggest producer of Mulberry that produces more than 100000 MT of it .
Muga like many wild silks have always been rare compared to the Mulberry silk which was domesticated around 3500 years back . Also , it has remained confined to the Brahmaputra Valley . Numerous attempts at cultivating the host plant and rearing the moth outside its natural habitat has failed because it is difficult to emulate the whole unique environmental and ecological conditions that the moth needs in order to survive.
Types of Muga Silk Yarns
Depending upon different factors , different kinds of yarns that have different kinds of look , sheen or feel are produced in the silk industry . So , is the case with Muga .
The best quality is always the unbroken , longer Filament Yarns.
Filament Yarns : It is the most valued form of the silk . These are highly lustrous yarns that are either hand reeled or machine reeled to produce these uniquely lustrous yarns . These yarns are always the most in demand .
Spun Muga : These are technically silk Noil , produced from the waste of the reeled yarns . It is the more affordable version of the silk . But when woven , it emerges with a beautiful subtle yet lustrous sheen . Spun Muga silk can also come in different grades , therefore price.
Muga Gicha : This is very rare . Gicha is produced from the cocoon waste , from wild silk cocoons of Tassar , Eri and Muga . There always remains some percentage of yarns that cannot be reeled from the cocoon. These short fibres are manually spun to make Gicha Silks . Since Muga itself is rare , Muga Gicha is rarer . Gicha silks will have dry and rough texture .
Factors to keep in mind while buying Muga Silk products .
First point to keep in mind is that all silks are rare , therefore any silk product will be expensive .
Second point is that Muga Silk is hardly ever dyed . It is coveted for its natural golden colour . Therefore one needs to be careful in buying silks in bright colours claiming to be made from Muga yarns .
Thirdly , look for GI tag ( mentioned above ) .
And lastly look for the Silk Mark Tag and buy from reputed sellers only .
Products in Muga
Most of the Muga Silk is used in the local Assam Market for making the traditional Assamese Mekhla Chador Sets . A muga set is a must for most brides to be and is also a must have for most women whosoever can afford to own one.
The remainder are all exported , majorly to countries like Japan and Thailand where these silks are in high demand .
Some yarns are used in making yardages .
Spun Muga is not used for the traditional Assamese Mekhla Chador . They are used to make saris , dress materials or as filling yarns for motifs in conjunction with other silks like mulberry , eri and tassar .
Muga Ghicha is mostly used as filling yarns for making motifs . It is very rare to find Muga Ghicha yardage as there is never enough to make yardages . Very rare . So please be aware of sellers selling yardages proclaiming to be Muga Ghicha .
Other Silk from Assam
Assam or NE is home to another unique silk . That is the Eri Silk . Please click on the link below to learn more about it .