In the 17th century, Kota Doria fabric was initially worn as a head gear – pagdi, safaa and odhna, by the royal family and then evolved as dhotis of 36 inches’ width. However, the major change came when the width increased up to 46-48 inches, with the result, the fabrics becoming suitable as Sari. The initial look of the sari was simple, just plain checks and later on with some Zari (gold-or-silver-plated thread) to further accentuate the check pattern and giving the fabric a luxury value and feel.
Over the period of time Kota Doria, due to its light weight and comfortable feel Kota Doria fabric has found many applications, since its origin. A wide range of fashionable garments like sarees, suits, lehengas, stoles, scarves and furnishing are made with this fabric.
Cotton and silk act as raw material for this fabric. It is very popular for its gossamer feel, sheerness and coded texture this type of fabric is ideal for airy bright summer wear.
Furthermore, it is interesting to note that unlike other fabrics which turn brittle and get broken along the folds due to the use of silk, Kota Doria in spite of using silk it has great comfort, fall and is long lasting. People have been found to cherish their 70-year old Kota Doria saree until today. This is because of the beauty of the construction of the saree where cotton yarn is crammed together to obtain a corded feel and thus acts as a major stress receiver but the stress never gets to the silk yarn.
With their sheer look, which accentuates the natural curves of a woman’s body, and a lovely sheen, silk Kota saree have an air of subtle sophistication. With the right accessories they can be worn for either casual or semi-formal occasions.
The government has awarded a GI (geographical indication) mark to distinguish Kota Doria made on handlooms from power looms, which is visible at the corner of every hand-woven piece manufactured in Kaithoon.
The origin and name of this 200 year old fine checked fabric are shrouded in mystery and many fables are told by the weavers of this craft as to how this technique of weaving and its name originated.
Some believe that the Doria sarees were first woven in Mysore and that weavers were moved to Kota, during late 16th century under the patronage of Rao Kishore Singh, the then-Kota Prince. According to another tale, a Khatiya weaver from Kota travelled to Chandeshwari, a town in South India, to study the art of fine weaving. When he returned, the Kota durbar rewarded him handsomely for his improved craftsmanship by weaving a check pattern made up of alternate weaves of silk and cotton yarns.
Some attribute to the name, Masuria, to the initial use of Mysore silk in the weaving of the fabric. Some textile experts suggest that name refers to the finest o the square checks, which are said to resemble a Masoor lentil. The Kota Masuria comes in wide variety of checks in pure cotton and pure silk, as well as cotton & silk, with the finest resembling the Masoor lentil seeds. This reference clearly removes the wrong notion of the word ‘Masuria’ to do with Mysore. It actually talks of the fineness of the fabric, especially for the 350-400 khat patterns wherein the finest check resembles the resembles the ‘Masoor’ lentil seeds.
As per another source, the tradition of this weaving has been traced back to the times of the Mughal Emperor Aurangjeb, (about 1665 A.D.), when ‘Dorias’ were woven at quite a few places, but the tradition could stay alive only in Kaithun and its nearby villages, thanks to the marriage route of its spread, each girl getting a loom as part of her ‘dowry’, as a source of livelihood for the whole family. However, today only 1/5th of the total looms survives due to the onslaught of power loom fakes
The interesting history of this exquisite craft has evolved over a period of more than 250 years. Its name as ‘Kota Masuria’ (known locally) in itself is quite enigmatic. Folklore suggests that the craft originated in Mysore and then moved to Kota where it is now based, hence the word Masuria in the name. The weavers are believed to have moved to Kota because of the patronage they received from the royal families of Rajasthan. Kota sarees were primarily patronized by the Prince of Kota and Mughal Army general, Rao Kishore Singh, who summoned the weavers from the Deccan region to Kota during the late 1600s. The art of using the open khat pattern was so intriguing that it was highly appreciated by the elite.
According to several documents ranging from State time documents to the British accounts fine cotton weaving and growing of cotton are reported, in the 13th century. Kaithun is the main weaving centre according to the records.As per the book, Sarees of India, Kota Sarees were first made when weavers were brought to Kota (Between 1707 and 1720 ) from Deccan by Maharao Bhim Singh. The weaves originated in Mysore and surprisingly one could hardly find them now at Mysore. The workers settled there and passes down the art weaving cotton in the open Khat or check structure from generation to generation. Everything is done in an age-old manner right from the setting of the patterns to graph making, dyeing of the yarn and settling of the loom. Down south it is called by name Kota Masuria. Originally made with pure cotton, nowadays synthetic as well as silk threads are also woven along with cotton threads in weaving Kota Masuria. This makes it cheaper and more durable. The traditional Kota doria is found in white colour only and one needs to get it dye in the different colour. Single colour dyeing, shaded patterns and tie-dye pattern are common with new styles coming up each day. Varieties of printed Kota doria and silk embroidered border are becoming very popular.
Since there is no precise data about the beginning of Kota Doria weaving craft, it is difficult to state in which period the craft started.
The basic design of the Kota Doria weave is simple yet intricate. A single Khat, consists of 28 yarns (14 warp and 14 weft yarns), 20 yarns are of cotton and 8 yarns are of silk. A single inch consists of 5 Khat, so there are 140 threads per inch (reed density).
• Design/motif is sent by the customers (shopkeepers, wholesalers, designers etc.)
• An artist traces the entire design on a graph paper
• Then the loom setter sets warps yarn as per the graph paper design and colour scheme
• Bright colours like pomegranate red, purple, Bordeaux red, turquoise, lapis, turmeric yellow, and saffron, besides, the usual cream and gold, are mostly demanded. The range includes cloth embellished with gold thread and zari. The zari thread is woven or used for embroidery, which makes this simple cotton sari very beautiful and festive. Major design elements include heavy zari borders, checked zari pattern as shown in image.
• Heavily embroidered with silk threads is also used as party wear. The Kota Doria cloth has become an important part of summer collections presented by various designers. They have brought in accessories made in Kota, which include handbags, pouches, and sashes embellishment with gotta patti, Mukesh, and mirror work.
• Main Motifs used are – Kairi, Flowers, leaves of different shapes, geometrical patterns including star, circles, and square arrangements.
• More design and work heavy saris include – Forest scenes with flora and fauna, and very intricate geometric patterns,
• The delicate and porous nature of the fabric makes it more convenient for surface ornamentation techniques that showcase ancient Indian hand crafts such as, batik, tie-and-die, embroidery, and applique work. Some examples of the print design techniques are.
From plain everyday wear sarees that have interesting attached borders in contrast prints such as Kalamkari, minimalist sarees with woven stripes and contrast borders to richer Tissue Kota sarees with sequins or Banarasi borders attached.
Today, both Indian and international fashion designers are depicting a range of Kota Doria products in their collections. These fabrics have paved their way into the ramp shows as well.
Bangladeshi designer Bibi Russell’s collection of ‘Kota Doria’ craft, ‘Fashion for Development’. Created for the Government of Rajasthan, in 2015, when she had worked with the weavers there. The designs were bold and also had tie dye prints. Turning the traditional textiles into wrap skirts, palazzos, tonal weave sarees, dhoti pants, waistcoats and kimono style covers she gave a heritage twist to women wear. Her menswear line featured leheriya, kurtas, jackets, sherwani, dhoti, and cuffed trousers. The look was completed by pairing the outfits with traditional accessories from Rajasthan.
The use of Kanjivaram designs on Kota Doria fabric has increased its demand specially in south Indian states as the Doria saris are lighter and porous which make them a comfortable wear in hot and humid climate of South India. Apart from renowned designers, National Award-winning Master weavers of Kota doria from Kaithoon have also showcased their sarees in fashion show.
• The ten sarees by Nashruddin Ansari, the 2012 national award winner featured Kota doria in rainbow shades and glittered with gold and brilliant colours. Shades of lilac, mustard, orange, black and mauve were the base of patterns that moved from floral, dots, and abstract to twirls.
• Mohammd Ansari another award-winning master weaver of Kota doria sarees unveiled eight beauties in shade of purple, blue, pink, white, orange, and mustard, with varying motifs.
• The 2014 national award winner Mushtakeem Kachara’s ten Kota doria sarees were a dream in kaleidoscope of gorgeous motifs that ranged from paisley on stunning colours.
In the recent years Kota Doria sarees have become more design and zari intensive, giving it a luxurious vibe and more celebrities are endorsing this craft. Recently Viranica Manchupure, the tollywood actress was seen in an elegant zari tissue Kota Doria sari woven in Paithani style. Paired with a hand embroidered floral blouse with intricate zardosi detailing. On her daughters Paithani lehengas, paired with Khadi Kalamkari dupattas and hand embroidered sleeveless blouses.
Today if you search for ‘Kota doria’ on the internet you will find many sites selling the fabric, saree, dupatta etc. but most of those products are power loom copies. Today, the community of 5000 weavers living in Kaithoon and other small villages (near Kota City), who are mostly women, face cut-throat competition from synthetic power-loom copies, which are cheap in price and quality. This is unfortunate as many people who buy Kota doria now-a-days are not even aware about the real handloom fabric, why its unique and why its so expensive, which comes at cost of the true craftsmanship of these weavers, who depend on this fabric for livelihood.
Remunerations are not at par with the labour involved in weaving Kota Doria sarees, resulting in vanishing art and artisans. The decline of native enterprise, the unavailability and rising cost of raw material and cutthroat competition from power loom are some of the many challenges faced by the hand-woven Kota Doria.
• The price of a handloom sari begins from Rs 2,500 apiece whereas its power loom copy is available for Rs 250 to Rs 1,500.
• The hallmarks and GI patents exist, but somehow the customers are not known to them. Geographical Indication (GI) is for its uniqueness and its connection to the traditions and customs of the people of the region.
• The market for the Kota Doria products needs to be updated by creating awareness about its novel spirits. With the evolution of techniques and better designs, the demand could grow in both domestic and international markets and appeal to not just traditional but the fashion-conscious communities as well.
• Most of the weavers say they need policy protection and better marketing opportunities to promote the product internationally and augment their income as well. Their remarks are significant in connection with the Rajasthan government’s efforts to attract fashion designers to do value addition to the 300-old fabric art by roping in international designer Bibi Russel to promote the product.
Hence, the protection of the original Kota Doria is hence the need of the hour. Apart from all the above points noted. There are several issues weavers face personally everyday:
• Frequent power cuts in the region specially.
• Long hours of Intricate work of weaving and making motifs results in poor eyesight and issues in posture, while sitting resulting in severe back pain and other related ailments.
• Due to above ergonomic issues weavers often retire early, but are not protected financially, and often expect pension support from govt.
• Recently kerosene oil, was declared Kota district kerosene-free after the LPG supply for domestic use was district by administration and civil supply department, and is used in lubrication of yarn during weaving this resulted in difficulty in sourcing the oil and resulted in higher prices.
• The Katayia community which is involved in sizing process of the cotton yarn, faces a threat to their 100 year old work place, as they have been asked to empty the space by the present Royal Family of Kota, leaving them with no pollution free and clean space which is wide enough for spreading the yarns for sizing purpose.
The process of weaving is supported by a number of activities like pirn winding, warping, dyeing, sizing, and so on. Experience artisans are involved in weaving process. The spinning, dyeing and weaving processes, are done by adept artisans only. To weave out these super transparent, light textured and weightless sarees, the artisans fabricate strong cotton or cotton-silk yarns.
Cotton and silk, two major raw materials are bought from traders who source it from different part of the country.
• Cotton– Cotton yarn comes in the form of hanks and 150m of mercerised cotton hanks costs Rs. 60 to Rs. 65. Cotton comes from Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujrat, it is also sourced from Coimbatoor,
• Silk– Silk costs Rs. 4000 per Kg and is sourced comes Bengaluru.
• Zari– is sourced from Surat, which costs 1500 per pack, It takes around 250gms of cotton and silk yarns each to weave a simple Kota Doria saree.
• Dye is sourced from local market.
• Estimated 1’ – 3” of cotton and silk yarn is taken extra for setting up the loom, which is used tie ends for continuation.
• Dye baths prepared for dyeing are disposed-off after dyeing a single batch of yarn hanks.
Parts of pit loom
• Tur – it is the wooden beam at the end where weaver sits at the pit loom. Woven fabric is rolled on it as it gets completed
• Khanfati – thin wooden piece used to stretch the fabric as it gets woven.
• Hath-Rail (reed) – wooden comb, made in Banaras, used to beat the weft yarn.
• Pani – Comb-like structure inside the hath-rail, made of bamboo found in Banaras.
• Raanch – interlaced net through which warp yarn passes through.
• Hatha – Small metal bat used for extending warm yarns from the thread reel holder
• Pinjra – Thread reel holder for warping purpose
• Sua – heavy metal needles used as weight for different coloured threads for making motifs inserted through weft.
• Shuttle – thread reel holder to insert weft thread.
For Sizing process:
• Kamri – the wooden stand used for spreading cotton yarn for the sizing process
• Gholni – Wild bamboo grass broom used for mixing the starch
• Kuchi – Heavy brush used for applying the starch evenly on the cotton yarn
Design setting: the setting up of design on the jala of the loom is also a specialised activity and so is that of making the graphs for the designs. Dobby is mainly used for ground motifs and in some instances for the pallu also. On the other hand, jacquards are being used for making exquisite borders of the saris. The method of using small spindles, locally known as tillis for making the motif on the ground/pallu/ border of the sari makes the designing process quite lengthy but at the same time provides such a fine effect, which is not noticed in any other handloom sari easily.
Designing on Kota Doria Fabric during the course of weaving is an art in itself and the kind of adjustments that are needed in the motifs/pattern so as to take into account the differential picks and ends at different parts of the base fabric (owing to the Khat pattern).
To add motifs and design pattern along with weave, small spindles (tillis) for each coloured thread are inserted in the weft direction, by lifting the warp yarns, which are marked as per the design graph sheet, through hooks. The spindle of coloured thread is weighted down with heavy needles (sua) hanging from each thread. This method is used while weaving using a simple pit loom, it is time consuming and tedious at the same time, requiring a lot of skill.
The various gadgets prevalent for the extra-weft designing currently in use are Jala, dobby, and Jacquard. Design pattern are punched through holes on rectangular cardboard pieces and inserted in the Jacquard loom from left side. As the pattern changes in the saree during the weaving process the weaver pushes paddle to shift the hole-punch cards and lift the correct warp yarns. Hence, the weaver saves a lot of time while making intricate motifs on the Jacquard loom, but it requires enormous skill.
The mechanism involved the use of thousands of punch cards laced together. Each row of punched holes corresponded to a row of a textile pattern. The loom is programmed by a chain of punched cards. Each card controls single throw of the shuttle. To produce a new pattern, the operator simply replaces one set of cards for another.
Following is the process of making this punch card:
• Design draft is initially made on graph in the same way as used for a pit loom.
• Squares (smallest unit in graph) covering the motif are counted on the graph paper
• An actual single Khat is represented as a ‘Dor’ on the graph,
• Size and shape of the motif is calculated in terms ‘Dor’
• Single ‘Dor’ represents one punch hole on the jacquard punch card
• Then a single motif is calculated as number of ‘Dors’
• This calculation is done on the graph, which is handed over to the punch-hole card maker, who punches ever card manually, with a thick iron needle and hammer.
• For eg. A 6-inch-wide design border on a saree consists of 10 ‘Dors’ ie. 100 square grids on the graph and to cover the entire length of the saree no. of such units (10 Dors) required are calculated and that will give the number of such punch cards to be produced and insert in the loom in order to repeat the pattern for the entire saree length.
Work starts at 5 am in morning after breakfast and namaaz. Typical working hrs 8-12 hrs. As in the other old weaving clusters across the country, the loom never rests in Kaithoon. One or the other family member is always at work; one reason being the tedious nature of the process.
a. The designer is sent a digital picture of the design to be made
b. He then scales the design on a graph paper as per the requirement of the saree
c. the curves in the scaled drawing are adjusted to the grid of the graph paper, to visualise the exact placement and shape of the design. Then the final colour scheme is decided by meeting with the master weaver.
d. the drafting of design usually takes 2 days to complete, but can also take upto 6-7 days for an elaborate pattern.
Preparation and Weaving The production process of Kota Doria is quite unique and traditional. The various steps involved in the production process are:
2. Preparation of yarn: Winding
Cotton and silk act as raw material of Kota Doria. Raw materials obtained from Ahmedabad and Surat in the form of hanks. Pirn winding is a type of winding. It is a process of transferring the yarns from the hanks into spools of the shuttles used in the weft while weaving. This process is done using indigenously made ‘charkhas’.
3. Warping is the process of getting a predetermined length of warp having desired number of threads as required for the whole width of the fabric. The warping method generally being used for Kota Doria is known as Peg Warping (also known as ground/street warping), since wooden pegs are used in the process. A pinjara (thread reel holder as shown below), is filled with thread reels and as per the no. of yarns required in the warp, then each yarn is manual tied to the hatha, (kept near the feet). This is done for preparation of the next step where the hatha and the pinjara is taken outside.
These wooden pegs locally called pinjaras and are placed along the whole length of the yarn so that continuously criss-crossed set of two yarns may be obtained by the weaving process. (The criss-cross later on helps in finding out the broken yarn on the loom during the course of weaving). These wooden pegs are placed below a thick rope tied to a pair of iron pegs on each end and it is the length of the rope that determines the length of the warp being prepared. Presently this length is 40 m, keeping in mind that a time 5 saris are woven on a loom.
Dyers dye both silk and cotton yarns. Generally, direct dyes are used owing to their easy use and good retention on silk as well as cotton. Apart from direct dyes, wet as well naphthol dyes are also used occasionally.
a. the yarn bunch is washed in a solution of detergent and water
b. direct dyes are added to boiling water on a stove in case of cotton, in case of silk direct dye is added to warm water with acetic acid.
c. Once the correct shade of dye is prepared cotton hanks are added in the dye pool and circulated in the solution with help of two metal rods
d. The cotton hank is left in the dye solution for a few minutes and the vessel is removed from stove.
e. Silk yarn is left in the dye solution for 10-15 min. and then removed
f. Lastly silk and cotton yarn are both added in a dye fixer solution and dipped 4-5 times delicately.
g. Dyed hanks are then hanged to dry all day.
Sizing is done for imparting the yarn enough strength, surface glaze and stiffness so that it can withstand the beating the reed during the weaving process and also maintain the stiffness necessary for even weaving process and a proper look of the sari one the weaving is complete. Wild onion is used for preparing the starch as it is better than rice as it avoids any insects. The process of sizing is unique as practiced in Kota Doria and is important since no post – weaving finishing of the fabric is done by the weaver.
Sizing process (Charakh), is done in the city of Kota, and is practiced since more than 100 years by The Kohli community or The Kataiya. The Masaan area (Royal Cremation ground) for the process was provided by the Royal family of Kota to this community to perform their work as it required a large open area which is free of dust and other pollutants. Following is the sizing process step-by-step:
a. The cotton yarn is first spread lengthwise with help of a wooden sticks stand called (Kamri)
b. Wild onion (grown in the nearby forest area and only grows in monsoon season) which is used for the preparation of starch is first boiled and then grinded on a plate called (gholni), into a paste and mixed in water, which results in a thick white paste.
c. Before applying paste to a 2.5 kg, brush called (Kuchi), oil is applied.
d. The cotton yarn is then beaten with a stick to shed off any dirt stuck.
e. Then the starch is applied on the yarn with the help of the brush, with a back- and-forth rhythmic action, which is repeated till the starch sticks to the yarns and is completely dried up.
Cotton yarn as long as 5 sarees is provided to the workers by the weavers from Kaithun, which takes them 2-3 hrs to complete and they are paid 200 rs. For the same.
6. Preparation of the loom:
a. Drafting: the process of passing the yarn through the healed of the loom as per design to be woven
b. Denting: the reed, a comb-like structure locally known as ranch, filled with the yarns by skilled craftsmen on their own or through the men adept at this skill. The reed is made of a special variety of bamboos found only near Banaras.
c. Piecing: the addition new yarn to the left-over yarn in the reed to continue weaving.
The loom setter, prepares the loom by setting threads in warp direction manually, by checking the graph paper designs for motifs and colour placements of yarns. It can take from two hours to five hours to set up a loom, depending on the designs.
Weaving of Kota Doria involves a simple pit loom that can be erected by the local carpenters of the villages and the technique of weaving is quite traditional, i.e. the throw shuttle technique wherein no gadgets are used for the to-and-fro motion of the shuttles along the width of the fabric. this provides a lot of flexibility to the weaver in controlling the design and also the beating of the reed to achieve the ‘khat’ pattern. It is the fine skill of the weavers of this region that structural pattern is created in Kota Doria fabric with just two pedals, the square check pattern, the ‘khat’. While the cramming of the yarns is mechanically achieved in the reed for the warp way, it is the only inherited skill of these weavers that helps them throw silk as well as cotton yarns double and keep the silk yarns lightly beaten to evolve the square check. The characteristic square – check patterns can be numerous with different ratios of cotton and silk yarns as necessitated by the structure required. Thus, for a 300- khat pattern, there are 14 yarns in a ‘khat’ wherein 8 are of cotton and six are of silk. Some more typical designs and motifs are made using Jacquard loom, which saves more time but requires more skill.
List of craftsmen.
Documentation by Gargi Sethia for Gaatha
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