Young World

Mat finish

As soft as silk: On the job.

As soft as silk: On the job.  

Pattamadai mats are soft and pliable. They are made of Kora grass that grows in river beds or marshy areas.

In the old days, every home in Tamil Nadu had one or two pais or mats made out of reeds. People slept on the mats, guests sat on them, and toddlers too used them to sit and play on. After their use, the mats were rolled up and kept in a corner. There were mats of various dimensions, and the long, narrow ones called bandhi pais were used for sitting down in a row on the floor and eating. They were woven for weddings and gifted to the bride and groom often with their names woven into them.


A valuable craft, the Pattamadai mats were presented to celebrities like the Soviet leaders Bulganin and Khrushchev, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.

Soft and pliable silk mats are produced in a village called Pattamadai, in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. These are different from the pais or mats which are commonly available. The mats are made of kora grass, which grows in river beds and other marshy lands, harvested in September/October or February/March.

What makes the pattu pais special and different from others? It entails a complicated weaving process, which is unique to this region. The grass is cut when it is still tender and green, and dried in the sun, boiled and dried again. The strips are first washed in running water, and immersed in water for a whole week. Then it is laid out to dry and then taken for weaving after it is dyed in the colours preferred. Natural dyes were the only colours used, but later for the sake of convenience synthetic dyes were introduced. Red, green and black were commonly used, but today there are a whole range of colours and designs to choose from zari. After weaving, the mats are polished.

The fine silk mats are woven with reeds which have their outer skins shaved off, and split into fine strands, which are used for the weft in weaving. The warp is cotton, and water is sprinkled throughout the process of weaving. They are called pattu pais because they are so delicately woven and so soft that they feel like silk. The mat weaving is a closely guarded trade secret among the Muslim Community of Pattamadai.

Coarser mats are also woven and today they are made into runners, place mats, shopping bags, file cases and so on which throws the market wide open.

With modern designs and the reintroduction of natural dyes, this handicraft has a new direction and will hopefully be kept alive for generations to come.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 3:17:48 AM |

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