Exquisite patterns

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The fabric and design that bears the name Kota Doria takes its name from the state of Kota in former Rajputana (now Rajasthan). The craft is practiced mainly by members of the Ansari weaving community. While entire families are involved, only men have the privilege of being master weavers. The main inputs of Kota Doria fabric are cotton, silk and zari (fine gold threads used for embroidery), woven in different warp and weft combinations so that they produce square checkered patterns. This plaid pattern is popularly known as ‘khat’; and it is this defining characteristic of the fabric that gives it a transparent appearance.

The cotton used in the production is sourced from Ahmedabad and Nagpur, while the silk is sourced from Bangalore and Mysore. Zari is bought in Surat. The oldest and largest concentrations of Kota Doria weavers are found at Kota, Kotsuwan, Kansuwan, Mandana, Sultanpur and Sangod in Kota district; Mangrol, Siswali and Anta in Baran district; and Bundi, Keshoraipatan, Kepren and Roteda in Bundi district.

Plausible origins

There are three competing stories about the origin of this technique. The word “Masuriya” added to the Kota sarees also adds to the mystery. While some believe the name can be attributed to artisans who came from Mysore, others link the name to the initial use of Mysore silk in sarees. According to a legend, Jhala Zalim Singh brought weavers from Mysore in Karnataka to Kota in the middle of the 17th century when he was impressed with a characteristic small square lightweight cotton fabric used for turbans. Since the weavers came from Mysore, the fabric produced was called Kota Masuriya.

Another version, and a more plausible explanation of the use of the word ‘Masuriya’ is given by renowned textile experts, Rita Kapoor Chishti and Amba Sanyal, in their famous book, ‘Saris of India’ in which they believe that the Kota Masuriya sarees come in a wide variety of plaids in pure cotton as well as cotton and silk, with the finest resembling ‘Masoor’ lentil seed. They maintain that Masuriya has nothing to do with Mysore.

The main distinguishing feature of Kota Doria is the presence of one of the “Khat” patterns in the fabric. By itself, the Kota Doria Sari is a plain, gray or bleached fabric, made entirely from cotton or mostly cotton with a combination of any other fiber. It has a unique “corded effect” which is achieved by stuffing the warp or weft yarns, or both, or by using yarns of different counts to form a warp or weft striped pattern. The typical width varies from 90 to 140 cm and the length varies from 5 meters to 8.5 meters. Kota Doria suits and dupattas are plain woven fabrics which can be either dyed or undyed using cotton, silk, zari and/or other novelty yarns in the warp or weft or both with or without ‘shoes’ for the bottom and/or ‘pallu’ and neckline or any other added value on it.

This unique characteristic of Doria fabric, produced on a hand loom, prompted the Kota Doria Development Hadauti Foundation (KDHF) to apply for a Geographical Indication (GI) with the help of the United Nations Development Organization project office. Industrial (UNIDO). However, despite the attribution of a GI to this product, the making of almost visually identical cloth using mechanical looms, especially in Uttar Pradesh, is still quite common. Electric loom fabric is also sold in the market as Kota Doria, but at a much lower price, lowering the demand for genuine Kota Doria, a label that should only be used by law. for the mentioned handmade fabric from Kota. Therefore, the economic condition of handicraft practitioners is not commensurate with the exquisite skills they master.

In an in-depth study of the sector, CUTS considered that a possible solution to reduce the asymmetry in the sector would be a reorganization of the value chain into a chain that is more buyer-oriented than producer-oriented. Buyer-driven chains are those in which end buyers (usually retailers or supermarkets) set particular standards and practices for their suppliers and products, and organize the distribution channel accordingly to meet those specifications. This will ensure that producers know what product would sell in the market. The CUTS study recommended that high-end retailers such as FabIndia and Anokhi could play an important role in organizing the chain by working directly with weavers to supply their stores with high-quality, made-to-order products in the as part of a fair trade-type program and/or as part of each company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy, thereby creating value for both buyers and producers.

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