Jaapi is made of tightly woven bamboo and/or cane and tokou paat (Trachycarpus martianus a large, palm leaf. Generally taku paats are used for shelter roofing and jaapi). The name, jaapi comes from jaap, bundle of taku leaves. Earlier, jaapis were very important for ordinary Assamese, while decorative jaapis were worn by people of high station (royal & high class families). Decorative sorudaya jaapis are made with intricate designs out of cloth (primarily red, white, green, blue and black) that is integrated with the weaving of the jaapi. Typical pieces feature a red border. It has been in use since the days when the great Chinese traveler, Hiuen Tsang came to Assam. Visitors were welcomed with japi, decorated with colourful designs and motifs.
Different Types of Japi :
• Sorudaya Japi
• Bordaya Japi
• Haluwa Japi & Garakhiya Japi
• Pitha Japi
• Tupi Japi
Haluwa jaapi used to be bigger in size than the Gorokhiya Jaapi. There are mention of Jaapi in history in the royal families too. A different compact colourful Jaapi was used by the ladies of royal families as head gear too. Like gamocha and sorai, it has also earned the distinction of being an icon of Assamese identity and is displayed as decorative item in households and office premises.
Origin of Japi :
The origin of Jaapi is not yet known accurately. Apart from North Eastern region, nothing similar to Jaapi is found in the rest of India. This provides strong reason to believe that Jaapi may have influences of Thai, Mongolian culture. But as there is no mention of the same in the history, so Jaapi is now a days considered to be indigenous attire of Assam. Jaapi has been refered in various traditional stories of Assam. It is also refered in various folk songs like Bihu also. So, though it's not known when exactly Assamese society started using Jaapi, but it can be confirmed that Jaapi has been used since ages.
These circular japis are ornamented with red and black cloth in a variety of geometrical shapes accentuating the delicate trelliswork. A variety of floral motifs as well as bits of mica add color to these japis, so much so that visitors carry them away as souvenirs of their trip to Assam. The size of a japi can vary greatly from that of a bowler hat at its smallest, to one that may have a diameter of six feet, at its largest. Till recent times, the bigger japis, called bar japis, were worn by ladies as a screen.
Though Jaapi has originated as farmers head gear, it has found it's places in various areas of Assamese society. Jaapi has become part and parcel of Bihu dancers. It's also used in various religious activities too. It's used an article of felicitation in Assam. With time Jaapi has changed it's looks too. From large Jaapi used by farmers, it has reduced it's size but rich colors in it. This colors created by colorful clothes of different shapes gives a spectacular look to Jaapi. These colourful Jaapis are used as beautiful wall piece or as show piece. These decorative Jaapis are finding places internationally in recent days.