The magic of Kotas is all about being soft, subtle and summery.

The ethereal look and gossamer touch, the micro-mini woven ‘khat’ jaali squares that let the breeze in, the occasional glint of silver as in a star spangled summer sky… all these make the light weight Kota sari a perfect complement to summer wardrobes. One can’t vouch for whether the Kota is indeed the ‘vetri venti’ or ‘woven out of the breeze’ fabric as mentioned in Roman records, but history does tell us that Kota weavers were originally from Mysore, from where they were brought to Kota by Maharaja Bhim Singh in early 18th century. They continued to create their weaving tradition there.

Delicate patterns

Ever since, the fabric has clothed Rajasthan’s royalty and aristocracy. Today, the Kota sari which was originally woven in finest handspun cotton yarn, is mostly woven in silk-cotton yarn combinations or in pure silk. It is also value added with hand block prints, paintings, natural dyes in shaded colours, designer borders and pallus, embroidery and so on. Only the delicately cross pattern and checked weave of the khat remains unchanged.

“The checks are the result of sufficient spacing between super fine warp and weft threads say,” say Noor Mohammed and Zakir Hussain, whose ancestors settled in Kota centuries ago. “Every thing is done in the age old way, from setting patterns to making the graphs, dyeing the yarn and setting the loom. We buy zari from Surat and yarn from Bangalore and Coimbatore. Local carpenters make the simple pit looms. The yarn is dyed by specialists in our village and spread out to dry all over the village common area. We draw the designs mostly based on traditional motifs of flower, leaf, etc. with some innovative ideas thrown in. There are 15,000 artisans and weavers in our village. For weaving, we use the throw-shuttle technique which provides the weaver flexibility in design transfer.”

The Kota saris specially created by Khaitoon weavers for the Chennai exhibition include pure cotton, silk cotton and silk in a wide range of designs and colours. There are pure silks in soft summer colours such as tulip yellow, turquoise blue, pink and mint green set off by woven silver borders. The plain silk range include skirt border saris woven with floral leaves or amri motifs, pretty silver or gold borders and glamorous evening saris in deep reds and blues. Pure zari zig-zags on pallus and discharge prints on silk are other attractions.

Eye catching cotton-by-tissue saris with motifs woven across the body and deep coloured saris with zari borders form part of the evening wear collection.

‘The Magic of Kota’ exhibition is on at The Palace, T-23 A, 7th Avenue, Besant Nagar, (Ph: 98400 12523), till May 26.