About the Kota Doria
Often regarded the finest amongst the gossamer textiles and sarees of India, the Masuria Malmal or Kota Doria is recognized by it’s graph like geometric pattern called “khats”. Woven in pure cotton and silk in different densities, the saree is much loved and treasured for it’s lightness that retains a very versatile grandeur.
It’s origin as a craft are shrouded in mystery and there are several myths all handed down from generation to genertation. One theory is that the word “Masuria” part of the local lexicon of the Kota saree attributes it’s name to its origin – the erstwhile Kingdom state of Mysore, while other’s believe that it is a tribute to the use of silk from Mysore. The Sari’s of India by Rta Kapur Chisti and Amba Sanyal refers to the finesse of the weave resembling “Masoor” lentils, a more plausible theory that has no reference to the state of Mysore. In earnest, the finest Kota sarees that are handmade, of the 300 to 400 khat variety do indeed bear resemblance to the Masoor lentil.
Locals in Kota attribute their weaving patronage to Rao Kishore Singh (1684 – 1695), a general in Shah Jahan’s army and also a Prince of Kota who facilitated the settling of weavers from Mysore in Kaithun. However references of fine cotton and growing of cotton and Indigo in the region are reported in 13thcentury Bundi court records as well as later British State records. Therefore it can safely be assumed that the region was already home to weaving centres before Rao Kishore Singh. The beauty of the Kota Doria saree is that it is an extremely fine weave compared to other parts of the same region that largely practice corase yarn weaving and herein lies its wonder!
Kota Dorias started out as headgear or “paris” for the royal court ( 8 to 9 inches) and then moved into dhoti’s of 36 inch width. Only when the width was raised 46 inches did the versatility of the fabric as a saree come into vogue.
The handloom kota cotton saree is quite remarkable in texture and can quite easily by feel be recognized from it’s powerloom counterpart. The differential beating of the cotton used for handloom sarees renders the fabric a soft and very delicate almost powdery feel to touch which is missing in the powerloom saree.
In theory, it is not possible to create a “structure” in fabric using a simple two-pedal loom. Remarkably it is the fine skill of the waevers of this region, that a structural square check pattern or khat is created using a two –pedal loom. So how do they do it?! And why is it so hard to replicate?! The yarn is “crammed” skillfully for the reed warp and the waevers learn to “throw” the silk or cotton yarn along the width. The cotton yarn is beaten “double” and the silk lightly beaten to evolve the square check. As a skill this is practiced in Kota only and is quickly dwindling. Making the handloom sarees highly coveted.
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. Over time the surface embellishments have also lent their distinctive identity to the saree and in this collection at The Registry of Sarees, Pragati Mathur has brought exactly this to life.
Pragati Mathur, began by accessing her own roots and memories. From Bundi that neighbours Kota, Pragati accessed her own mother’s wadrobe and shared a beautiful, sheer and gossamer Kota saree that is about 30 years old with the weavers. Few joys can be shared like recognizing a work of art: unlike other fabrics that tear along the fold lines a well maintained Kota handloom will endure : this is because of the beauty of the construction of the saree where very skillfully and subtly the cotton yarns are crammed to obtain a corded feel and thus act as major stress receivers in the fabric keeping it intact over many years.
Over a period of several months, a collaborated effort brought together beautiful sarees. The design process was inspired by vintage Benares textiles. Blocks were created at Sanganer with Monicaji and Brij Balabhji that were fine, while colour experiments were also done with an old world feel. Mukaish, a metal embellishment craft of the region was also included after an afternoon spent in the dusty bazaar. Inspiration unfolds in many ways – but for us at The Registry of Sarees this is truly a collection that we are grateful for!