Waheeda Rahman revived traditional Assamese jewellery and started a venture

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 28-10-2023
Jewellery designer and enterpreneur Waheeda Rahman
Jewellery designer and enterpreneur Waheeda Rahman


Daulat Rahman & Munni Begum/Guwahati

National award-winning Waheeda Rahman not only sells traditional Assamese jewellery she also extricated the traditional jewelry from the brink of extinction by designing the same. 

Today Waheeda is a brand of traditional jewellery and her creations glitter in national and international markets.     

Traditional jewellery is the pride of Assamese culture as it has its unique features and values. Unfortunately, many traditional pieces were about to be lost to posterity - some have already vanished – when Waheeda intervened.


One of the jewellery pieces designed by Waheeda Rahman

Made of gold and lac, many traditional jewellery items were somewhat heavier and lacked resale value, so people reduced their use. Instead, they resorted to imported jewellery. 

As a result, the popularity of Assamese jewellery gradually declined.

Nearly three decades ago Waheeda Rahman started her journey of looking for the lost and extinct ornament designs of Assam. 

She travelled across Assam and collected the designs from Satras, manuscripts/ Sanchipaat, and Tai-Phake museum. 

She was shocked to find that most of them had become extinct from the market. Only 12 designs were still prevalent which included Motalukaporia, Kornoxingho, and Nogortul.

Waheeda Rahman with eminent personalities of Assam

“Since my childhood, I had a fascination for designs. I used to draw patterns on my Mathematics copy and later got caught by my teacher. Even though Mathematics was never my favourite subject, the teacher was my favorite. I used to admire the designs that I saw on the saris that my teacher wore. Then, I wasn’t quite sure that I would step into designing. But I was confident of doing something big for my Assam. Such confidence and determination have made me what I am today,” Waheeda Rahman told Awaz-The Voice.

Waheeda did in-depth research on Assamese traditional ornaments, their preparative techniques, and the causes that led to their disappearance. 

She later brought all the traditional jewellery pieces to the market. Waheeda applied a new technique for quality and yet never compromised with the original design.

“The processing makes a lot of difference. Diverting from the conventional technique of using gold or silver over lac, I make ornaments of pure gold or silver because lac degrades the quality of the minerals. My jewellery with innovative designs might be a little expensive, but it is an investment for a lifetime,” Waheeda said.

Waheeda not only revived traditional Assamese jewelry but also created more than 500 new designs. Some of her original designs include the Nangol, Jakoi, and Khaloi, designs made out of motifs of different tribes, buds of tea leaves, the mist in Sohra (Cherapunjee), and the Kopou Ful among many others.

Waheeda now runs a boutique “Waheeda Lifestyle Studio” where she not only sells traditional Assamese jewellery but also traditional dresses. 

She exports her jewellery to all major cities in India as well as New York, London, Australia, Germany, and several other European and Southeast Asian countries. She has created employment for many young boys and girls in the field of jewellery business.

Jewellery crafted by Waheeda Rahman

Waheeda’s journey from being a rescuer of Assamese jewellery, designer, and entrepreneur was not easy but full of challenges. 

“Initially the people did not accept my jewellery saying that it are not traditional. For the initial years, I had no buyers and faced severe financial difficulties to pay my craftsmen. Moreover, many people have a prejudiced mindset that girls cannot be in the jewellery business. It is a male bastion,” the President’s medal winner Waheeda said. 

But Waheeda’s work was appreciated and she was able to bring a revolution in the market of traditional Assamese jewellery.

“Jewellery designing is like miniature sculpture. It is not only about making one look good. It should bring forth the personality of a particular individual,” Waheeda said. “And for doing that, a lot of creativity goes into the metals.”

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Waheeda is now planning to set up a school to train the younger generation to design and preserve traditional Assamese jewellery for the future.