Handloom is the single largest and perhaps the oldest industry in the state of Tripura and is scattered in the rural as well as semi-urban areas that plays a significant role in the economy of Tripura. It has grown with the civilisation itself and people in this region look to weaving inseparable part of life. The industry has passed on from one generation to another generation. The weavers of all communities have shown a remarkable courage of conviction in freely adopting motifs and techniques from each others’ tradition with a view to enriching their own. The people in this region look to weaving inseparable part of life.
Despite all odds, the state has some unique traditional design and arts in handloom textile and it has a significant place in the cultural history of the state. The art of weaving occupies a very sacred place in the traditional life of Tripura. Among the tribal society of Tripura no right or ritual is sanctioned unless it is preceded by a worship of Riha, the hand –woven breast cover of the family elders. The beginning of ritual has always been with the offering of flowers and beautiful piece of Riha and Risa given by the great grandmother and followed by each and every tribal family as their tradition. In fact it was a pre-requisite for every tribal girl to know weaving. Otherwise she should not be considered as a bride. As the legends go, a king marries an ordinary village girl for her unique depiction of an intricate design in weaving, or another king pronounces a royal decree of punishment upon a disobedient community prohibiting them from using any bright color in their apparel weaving.
Handloom plays a dominant role in the economic development of the rural masses. This industry also forms an important sector providing employment to the rural poor. The tribal people produce their own clothes with elegant designs, unique color combinations and lasting texture. The Tribal motifs skillfully depicted through stylized decorative designs are really in great demand. Modern made-up in tribal fabrics is very attractive indeed.
In Tripura, the loin loom is used for weaving. These age-old looms are simple in construction and easy to operate. They are cheap too. They have neither permanent fixtures nor heavy frames and so are easily portable. Materials and tools necessary for weaving consist of cotton, spindle, spinning machine, bow and a simple tension loom. These days the basic raw material used is acrylic, cotton and sometimes silk. Most of the yarn comes from Assam, Bengal and Southern India. Traditionally the yarn used was cotton, which was cultivated in the jhoom fields, hand spun and natural dyed by the weavers themselves. But the weavers have gradually shifted from cotton to acrylic yarns. This shift is due to various factors such as non-availability of good quality cotton, durability and wash-fastness of the acrylic yarns, all of which has made acrylic the preferred yarn type for weaving.
Tripura Handloom represents a unique harmonious blend of three traditions- Tribal, Bengali and Manipuri weaving. Both Commercial looms and Non-commercial looms are operated in the State. Non-commercial looms are operated by the tribal inhabitants of the state. They weave fabrics for their own consumption whereas the commercial looms are controlled by the Bengalis as well as Manipuri weavers. Amongst the tribals and the Manipuris, only girls and women practice weaving. But among the Bengalese, both men and women practice the craft. Nature has endowed the people of this land with a very high sense of aesthetic beauty which enabled their skillful hands to translate the vision in various forms of art in conformity with the unique aesthetic equilibrium of the nature, in all the details of sense, color, perception forms and even rhythm.