It’s airy, translucent, and made from cotton and silk; ideal for hot and humid weather, this gossamer-like fabric, known as kota doria, has been recognized as the fabric of the future by fashion designer and former model Bibi Russell. Indian and international designers have shown a numerous designs using the versatile kota doria in recent collections, which have ranged from apparel for men and women to accessories like handbags and pouches to home furnishings that include diaphanous window coverings, and delicate lampshades.
Koto doria’s weaving tradition goes back to the southern state of Mysore and then moved to Rajasthan, where a Mughal army general and his son Rao Ram Singh aided weavers to migrate to the area during the late seventeenth and very early part of the eighteenth century. Initially called kota masurias, there were later renamed kota doria as the weaving practice became more entrenched in the Kota district of southeast Rajasthan, primarily in Kaithun, which is located approximately fifteen kilometers away from Kota.
Over time, two types of weave emerged–a cotton weave for the general population, and the second, the more ornate kota doria, which was primarily worn by local nobility and wealthier urban dwellers. Unique to kota doria is the special type of check pattern in the weave called khat, which emerges from the different gauge compositions and thickness between silk and cotton yarns. This type of weave makes the fabric appear translucent, and is considered a distinctive feature–one that has merited a GI registration under the Geographical Registration act 1999. This distinction was accorded in 2005 based upon this unique character in the exclusive geographical region of Kota.
Materials used to weave kota doria are cotton, silk and zari (very fine metallic threads) in a wide range of colors. The fabric can be embellished with decorative borders and small floral patterns called bhuti. Other surface ornamentation techniques include batik tie-and-dye, hand-block printing, and applique work.
The loom used is the traditional throw-shuttle pit loom, which hasn’t changed over time. Producing kota doria is no different from textile production methods in other parts of India. Considered a household activity where the entire family is involved in the entire process, the main weaving is done by the women.
Kota doria is made in a series of steps. The first step is the pre-loom process where a traditional technique is followed to spin the yarn. Under this process of weaving, peg warping and brush sizing that includes applying rice paste and onion juice to the yarn to strengthen it. The second step is the application of natural and vegetable dyes to the weft, warp, and the hanks. The dyes are mixed in proper proportion by traditional dyers—typically men—to give a colorful and vibrant look to the fabrics. The final step is the design and weaving, where the fabric is woven on the pit looms using the shuttle technique. The designs are made in the cloth using Jacquards, or dobbys. Dobby is used for ground motifs and pallus, while jacquards are used for making the exquisite borders on the saris.
Currently, weaving kota doria provides a living for 3,000 weavers families who use pit loom. In Kaithun, where the majority of kotia doria is woven, there is an estimated 1,500 handlooms, and the majority of the weavers are women. The handloom business in the area is controlled by forty-five male master weavers and the Kota Women’s Weavers Organization (KWWO), a cooperative established by the government, which helps the women with management training, and provides health care. Others associated activities related to the weaving incude repairing looms, production and dying of yarn and so forth are still economically independent and not managed by non-governmental organizations. The annual production of kota doria is estimated at 82,000 saris at full capacity, or 1500 looms working 200 days and preparation time of 50 days.
The following sources were used for this article:
Hand Loom India, An IMC-UNCTAD Initiative, http://www.unctadimcnet.org/images/Handloom%20India%20September.pdf
Ritu Jain and Victoria Singh are members of the Kota Heritage Socitey which is working to spread awareness of Kota’s cultural heritage. Kota is famous throughout India for its Kota Doria Sarees. For more information about the Kota Heritage Societyt please visit http://www.colsudhirfarm.com/khs/kota-doria.html