Floored by mats

Sleeping on the floor on a grass mat is an ideal way to beat the heat

May 09, 2014 09:44 pm | Updated 09:44 pm IST

We continue our exploration of ideas to stay cool this summer. Last fortnight we looked at coir-based mattress to help cut the heat. This brings me to another question. Is it necessary that we sleep on cots?

I will assume here, that we are talking about an urban bedroom where there are no insects or other nocturnal crawlers that would require us to sleep only on an elevated surface. Sleeping on the floor (on a mat) is not a new idea to Indians and was a common practice even a couple of decades ago.

Everyone has memories of sleeping on the floor on beautiful, handcrafted Indian mats (“ pai ” in Tamil). In the colder months, a carpet below the mat kept us warm. Sleeping on the floor is naturally cooler than sleeping on a cot with a thick mattress. It is a simple way to beat the heat in summer.

Some folks may be pleasantly surprised to find that when they switch from a cot to the floor they may not require air-conditioning. Some studies have also demonstrated that sleeping on a hard, firm surface is beneficial for the back and also promotes deep, restful sleep. In the morning, we simply roll the mat and keep it in the corner of the bedroom, and this gives us a spacious, clutter-free environment that is easy to maintain and a joy to be in. I also feel that the ritual of rolling up one’s own mat after waking up in the morning has a zen-like feeling to it.

India has a rich tradition of handcrafted mats and the one that I would like to mention here is the grass mat (korai pai) from the Pattamadai village in Tirunelveli district. These mats are available in several grades such as coarse, medium and fine, depending upon the weave. The finest mats are known for their ‘silky’ finish even though they are made from grass and are called “pattu-pais”.

When I first came across these pattamadai pais at DakshinaChitra, I was floored by their beauty and finesse. I learnt from the crafts person that it took several weeks of hand-weaving to create a single mat and they are made from a painstaking pre-treatment process of drying, soaking, splitting, and dyeing the grass.

Recently the pattamadai pai was also accorded GI (geographical indication) status by the trademark office. These mats are ideally suited for our climates and keeps us cool in summer and warm in the colder months. Next fortnight, in the final installment in this series on keeping cool in the summer, we will look at ideas in the home to cool our body from within.

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