Keeping Kota Doria alive

Mustakeem Kachara takes the cream coloured yardage of Kota Doria and points to the handloomed fabric’s distinct square pattern — “there is cotton and silk here, it is a marriage of tana-bana (warp and weft) that creates this fabric.” The National award winning weaver from Kota is in town for an exhibition-cum-sale of Kota Doria saris at Tamanna boutique in Panampilly Nagar.

Gold and silver shimmer on the delicate saris—jaal of leaves and flower, gold checks, peacocks and bird —each a painstakingly woven work of art with a history that harks back centuries. The story of the fabricis fascinating. Mustakeem pegs the date of its arrival from Mysuru to Rajasthan in the 17th century.

“It was then called ‘Kota Mysuria’ and over time, derived from threads doria has replaced Mysuria. The fabric was and is a combination of cotton and silk,” he says. He has been a Kota weaver for more than 40 years, his father and grandfather before that too were Kota weavers. Initially the fabric was white, the colour and the variety came much later. “The weavers were encouraged by powers that be, the rulers of the time. It was used to make garments...” he hazards a guess.

The GI tagged fabric is woven in a cluster of 11 villages, with close to 3500 looms, around Kota and Mustakeem hails from one of the villages, Kaithoon. Each house has one or two looms, and today, most of the looms are operated by women. “Today from among the youngsters, the boys, don’t want to weave —they are more interested in other jobs. The girls, however, are carrying this heritage forward. We are educating our girls, they go to school and college; some of them have learnt design and are working with the fabric.”

All said and done, the going for the Kota Doria weaver, like for most handcrafts, is tough. Awards and honours help, but only up to an extent. What they need is a steady market. The Rajasthan government has facilitated events such as fashion weeks, exhibitions to showcase their work in India and abroad, helping with upgrading their know-how and techniques but what they also need is, according to Mustakeem, a platform for sale. He met Sherin, of Tamanna, at an event in Rajasthan and she brought him here. The weavers, often not very educated, have to find their own markets. Mustakeem has, however, travelled across the country and his saris are sold in boutiques and at exhibitions .

The coming of power looms has dealt a blow to the original. “There is no competing with a loom which can produce 20 saris a day. It takes us two-and-a-half months to weave one sari. And our work is more expensive, while power-loomed Kota Doria is cheap and affordable. Besides these are woven in other places such as Uttar Pradesh...what can we do?”

Mustakeem picks up a Kota dupatta from the store and asks to spot the difference, which to a lay person is impossible. Then he says to rub the fabric and feel the texture —“Ours is a combination of cotton and silk, the machine-made ones use synthetic for instance. But only the expert eye can spot the difference, and there are those who swear by the original. Original Kota too can be dyed and printed, but of course, the other variety is cheaper.”

Saris also form their staple, being the safer option. But they are also open to custom-weaving to keep the work coming in. Unlike in the early days when only yardage was woven today there is more variety. It was only in the last couple of decades when fancy borders were added and designs updated in keeping with the times. “Contrary to perception, these can be as luxurious as they can be simple. Ideal even for a bride’s trousseau!” he says with a smile.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 3:57:15 PM |

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