Gamcha is a handloom cloth woven in northeastern India, and its name is often associated with towels. Cotton cloth with a combination of checks and stripes, especially red and white, is thrown over the shoulder, strapped to the head or waist, and serves as a towel, a sun shield, and even a sheet for most people. It is not as thick as Western-style towels, making it better suited to the hot climate of the country. It’s a very soft fabric that quickly absorbs sweat. Gamcha is made by women in the weavers’ families in Bengal weaving communities, while men work on the Bengali saree weaving.
Gamcha, like the dhoti and Nehru kurta or jacket, is one of the most durable and versatile Indian garments worn by people all over India. The gamcha is a versatile sartorial workhorse with a distinct public persona. It is still a symbol of the working class, farmers, traders, and tramps today. It adds a flowing element to a man’s glamorous outfit and is draped by men from the north to the south of India. It is widely used by millions of Indian immigrants working in both urban and rural settings. A gamcha is commonly seen around the necks of workers and rural men in India. Mostly used to remove sweat from the face and to prevent sunburn. It’s sometimes wrapped in a bag to carry groceries or a pile of valuable marble for a country boy, or it’s wrapped in a worker’s lunch box to keep the lid secure. Sculptures of birds and animals are displayed in northeastern Assam, while the central Gangetic region is frequently dyed with the saffron colour of a devout Hindu devotee. The most popular style, however, features a pattern of small, multi-colored checks or other bright red and white colours.
The gamcha is now a symbol of hard work and humility as it participates in almost every episode of body mass passing through the world. Throughout most of recorded history, Indian men of all walks of life have wrapped a long cloth around their shoulders. Although widely produced today, the gamchha was usually made on a hand-woven machine, which made it the most recognizable symbol of Indian workers. Even today, many impoverished weavers working in the Indian moribund handloom industry weave gamcha in their rural homes – three or four times a day. Although in more recent times, men’s clothing has become Western, gamcha is still widely available. One can be seen still wearing men’s gamcha on the street, in many tea shops, or trains. In its current avatar, it is still active in the Covid era to be used as a facemask against infection. It is not the wife, the dog, the friend, or the eternal God of some kind of Indian man, but the gamcha.