Context: The COVID-19 pandemic has made the ubiquitous gamosa, a decorative cotton towel, evolve from memento to mask.


  • The gamosas are to be made and sold by the women during the Rongali Bihu festival. 
  • Since lockdown has put off the Bihu celebrations, the women turned the towels into masks for use during the COVID-19 crisis.

More about the news

  • The members of the non-profit Hargila Army in Guwahati, Assam are sewing the gamosa masks, in order to keep themselves engaged amid the ongoing lockdown.
  • They have been designing the masks with motifs of the endangered hargila (greater adjutant stork), rhino and elephant to add a dash of wildlife conservation to the protection of human faces.


  • Assam's traditionally woven distinctive red border and floral motifs.
  • It has earned the coveted geographical indications (GI) recognition as proof of their unique geographical origins, thereby getting legal protection to prevent their unauthorized use.

Different types: 

Assam has traditionally had two types of gamosas 

  1. the uka or plain kind (used as a towel) and the 
  2. phulam, which is decorated with floral motifs (to be gifted as a memento or during festivals such as Bihu).
  3. Wearing the phulam gamosa around the neck became a standard for cultural identity.

Symbol of protest:

  • The gamosa’s graph as a symbol of protest rose during the anti-foreigners Assam Agitation from 1979 to 1985. 
  • The gamosa staged a comeback with the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act recently.


Hargila Army

  • Women in Assam known as Hargila army, named locally after the species of greater adjutant stork, sing hymns and weave cloths with motifs of the species to create awareness about the need to protect the species.
  • Greater adjutant stork  is the world’s most endangered of the stork species.
  • Earlier distributed throughout northern and eastern India and many countries of south and south-east Asia, it is currently only in Assam and Bihar and a few other locations in Cambodia.
  • It is listed as “Endangered” in the IUCN Red list of threatened species.
  • In Assam it is found  in the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam, which harbours more than 80% of the global population of the species.
  • A campaign was launched in Assam to save the birds by Aaranyak, a wildlife conservation organisation in 2009.
  • Assam's renowned environmentalist Purnima Devi Barman has won the prestigious Whitley Awards, also known as the Green Oscars, for her efforts in conserving greater adjutant storks in association with Aaranyak.

Rongali Bihu

  • Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu is a festival celebrated in the state of Assam and northeastern India, and marks the beginning of the Assamese New Year
  • It usually falls on 2 April week, historically signifying the time of harvest.

One liner facts about GI tag

  • Covered under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property as an element of IPRs.
  • Governed by WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
  • In India, GI tag is governed by Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection Act), 1999.
  • This Act is administered by the Controller General of Patents, Designs and TradeMarks, who is also Registrar of Geographical Indications.
Image source: The Hindu