When you enter into the interiors of WestBengal during the monsoons, you pass through the most stunning landscapes –vast expanses of green stretching out into the distance; pulsating with life,washed afresh in the abundant rains. The clouds hover grey and black over thehorizon. And you look mesmerized, at the visual spectacle that only Nature canorchestrate. Medinipur is a districton the southern fringes of West Bengal. As in most of Bengal, the principalcrop which grows here is rice. Paddy fields line both sides of the narrowwinding village roads. Apart from farming, the other important source of incomefor the villagers of this region isMadur Kathi weaving.
MadurKathia rhizome based plant (Cyperus Corymbosus) isa natural fibre which grows here in abundant quantities& found in alluvialtracts of Purba and Paschim Medinipur. Madur Kathi reedsare cultivated for weaving when the reeds reach a height of approximately fivefeet, they are cut, dried in the sun, split into thinner strips and seasoned tomake them strong and durable for weaving.
Traditionally, Madur Kathi was used to makeMasland mats, which refer to veryfine reed mats woven with silk threads. They are so soft to the touch, thatthey could pass for fabric. Mention of these luxurious mats can be traced backto the Mahabharata. The artisans would create elaborate patterns on the matsand one fine Masland would take months to weave. But today, there are very fewweavers who can weave fine Masland, and there is very little demand for theseexpensive mats.
Due to the effects of commercialisation ofthe craft, hand-looms are now used tospeed up the process. The mats are woven on the loom using coloured threads.Most of the village women practice the craft which has been in their family forgenerations, and almost every house will have a loom or two. It forms animportant supplement to their meagre family income.
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The process begins with the collection ofthe raw materials. The reeds are dried, spliced and split into fine strandsusing a knife or teeth. It is then, soaked in water and dyed in natural colorsbefore woven on a simple frame loom. The mats are unique because it takes twoweavers to weave at a time. The popular design on Masland mats are of flowers,honey comb (mouchak), Rhomboidal (barfi), cascading (jharna) etc.
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Besides making folding mats, these unitshave diversified into making various utility items and accessories such asbags, folders, table mats, runners, coasters, boxes etc. 93% of the mat weaversare women. The women of the households spend their leisure time weaving mats.
Information by : Kopai-Paar