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Japi is a traditional symbol of Assamese folk culture. In the earlier days when umbrellas were unheard of, farmers used Japi as a headgear to protect them for the sun and rain. This made Japi an essential gear for the farmers while working in the fields.
Japi making is an indigenous cottage industry of Assam. They are made of bamboo/cane and palm leaves (tokou). As the materials required to make Japi are easily available, the craft of Japi making is quite popular in the rural areas. There are various types of Japi such as Bor Japi, Tupi Japi, Uka Japi or Haluwa Japi, Sorudaya Japi or Fulam Japi, etc. Owing to its huge demand in the market, Fulam Japi is made in large numbers by the skilled Japi makers.
In the past, people from high ranks of the society used to wear the Bor Japi during festivals and important occasions. Its usage has been prevalent from the days of Ahom rule. While Ahom officials holding the title of Buragohain, Borgohain, Borpatrogohain, etc., wore Japis ornamented with gold on the top, Borphukan wore Japi ornamented with silver.
Uka Japi was used by farmers and workers as a protective headgear against sun and rain. It is also known as Haluwa Japi or Gorokhiya Japi. However, the popularity of this particular Japi has dwindled in the recent times.
Among the various types of Japis, the most popular one is the Fulam Japi or the Sorudaya Japi. It is made of small smooth sticks of bamboo. It is widely used in Bihu dance and as a decorative piece in the drawing room of the house.
Japi finds a prominent place in the Assamese socio-cultural way of life. It is deeply connected with Bihu. Mention of Japi can be found in both Bihu dance and Bihu folk songs. At present, Fulam Japi has turned into a cultural symbol of Assam on a global platform.