Loin loom, an alternative source of income for Mizo women

Mizoram: Loin loom or backstrap loom is the main source of income for the people of Mizoram, especially women. ‘Puan’ which means cloth, is the traditional clothing of the native people of Mizoram and plays a special role in their life.

With its exquisitely rich hand-woven products produced nationally and internationally, the northeast region is widely praised for their indigenous variety and interesting use of colour and motif in their weaving.

One such traditional product is the dress of Mizoram known as ‘Puans’ (Puwaan), meaning cloth in Mizo language. Puan is occasionally woven on a frame and is mostly worn by young girls during the festive season.

Out of the many clothes, Puan plays a special role in the social fabric of the Mizo’s. The weaving of the Puans is done by women on the loin loom. The loin loom is very versatile in the sense that it supports a range of possibilities that can be woven with intricate designs and motifs.

The town Thenzawl located 90 km away from Aizawl is an important centre for traditional Mizo handloom industry. The weaving products by the Thenzawl town are gaining worldwide popularity.

One of the weavers, Lianthangi from Thenzaw said: “Every house has a handloom and lots of families earn their livelihood from weaving. Even youngsters in Thenzawl have jobs now.”

“They export their product in every corner of the district in Mizoram and also export outside Mizoram including foreign countries. The product is very beautiful and every woman wears it on special occasions,” Thenzaw.

The weaver sits in front of the loom, fixes the back strap and rests her leg on the footrest. The footrest can be adjusted to keep the loom in tension. The weaving is done on the loom by a shedding motion, a picking motion, and a beating motion. The length of Puan is normally sixty to sixty-five inches.

It takes a week or more to finish a plain Puan, and a month or more for one with patterns, on a loin loom.

With its varieties of floral print, Paun occupies a place of pride in a Mizo woman’s wardrobe. These motifs hold traditional and cultural significance to each tribe. The traditional way of wearing Puan is to wrap it around the waist.

Under a project launched for the development of the silk sector by Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani, a total grant of Rs 11.56 crore, which includes the Government of India’s share of Rs 10.82 crore.
“We have lived here for more than 10 years and handloom is our living. Earlier, we used to hardly sell any handicraft and now we are selling more than 200 pieces. We are using handloom income to meet our daily expenditure,” said local Lalthanpari.

Handloom industry plays a crucial role in the socio-economic development of the majority of rural masses in the northeastern region. Women are the sole weavers of Mizoram and through this, they have found a niche in the international markets of handloom and handicraft. This has made them self-reliant financially and help them lead life with dignity and respect.