About the craft
Madurkathi are mats woven from a locally available soft reed called Acirc. It is a rhizome based plant (Cyperus tegetum or Cyperus pangorei), which is found abundantly in the alluvial tracts of Medinipur district of West Bengal. It is an important economic non-food crop of this region. Madur is the Bengali vernacular for floor mats. It is a tradition and pride of Medinipur district of West Bengal.
Madur mats are an integral part of Bengal's lifestyle. The non-conducting property and ability to absorb sweat makes the mat a necessity household item in the hot and humid climate of West Bengal. These mats are also used for religious purposes Usually, women of the households are involved in weaving this beautiful craft. With change in the requirement of the market, the mats are now also used for making decorative and utilitarian items. It is the only source of livelihoods for about 77% of approximately 6000 mat weavers in this region.
Masland or Mataranchi is a superfine variety of madur mats that are handwoven using traditional methods. It uses a very laborious method of splitting the grass into ultrathin soft sticks before weaving these with silk thread in the weft. The Masland weave is soft and feels like fabric. It is very labour intensive and time-consuming craft and hence expensive. Due to diminishing demands for this expensive masland mats, there are only a handful of weavers left who can weave masland now.
Process of Mat Weaving
The land and climate of Medinipur districts is suitable for cultivating Madurkathi. The sticks can be reaped for a period of 3-4 years once the rhizomes are sown. Main seasons for cutting the sticks are April-July and September-November.
The process involves reaping the madur grass in the season, leaving 1-2 feet from the bottom, then cutting it to make it even, splicing and splitting it to make thin strands or sticks using teeth or knife, making bunches of sticks based on same length and thickness, dyeing the sticks with natural or vegetable colours or azo free dyes by soaking the sticks in the boiling water with the dye and then drying them in the sun.
Once the soft reeds are ready, the pre-loom process begins by setting the soft reeds and cotton (some cases jute thread) on a bamboo frame loom as weft and warp respectively. For weaving of masland mats at least two persons are required. One person places the reeds from left to right by placing one thread on top and another one down, the other person does the same thing from right to left at meeting the finishing lines, the threads are turned and the process is continued. The popular designs on Masland mats are of flowers, honey comb (mouchak), Rhomboidal (barfi), cascading (jharna) etc. The patterns are created by incorporating the designs according to graph. Once pattern is created, the mat is woven repeating the process from left to right and back. Once the mat is ready, the sides are trimmed and finished by stitching cloth border or stitching with thread. Weaving is also done on installed looms.
Madurkathi mats look beautiful and impart an earthy ethnic touch to the home decor. The craft needs to be supported and appreciated more.
Images Credit: Madurofbengal
Video Credit: Madurofbengal