Being Women

Kotpad Saris – Orissa’s Pride : 4 Reasons Why It’s Languishing

The Kotpad sari is one of the tribal weaves which is facing grave crisis today. Simple, organic and eco-friendly, its a treasure of the state.

“I am Naren, a Kotpad weaver. I don’t remember when I first sat on the loom as a professional weaver. There are faint memories from my childhood when my grandfather and father would sit on the loom and work for hours, weaving beautiful fabrics. My mother told me that one day I demanded to try my hand on the loom. But what began as a playtime soon became my profession. I don’t exactly remember the date but it has eventually become a part of my life.

My great-grandfather started the weaving unit. I took over completely from my father in 2018. Now it’s just me and my elder brother. There are two looms. We make 4-5 sarees a month. So you can understand that we don’t make much money. Before COVID, people used to visit us and pick up sarees from our houses. But everything came to a standstill during COVID. The pandemic also taught me a lesson. I learned how to take my business into the virtual world. And that’s how I met Vedaprana Ji. But with only two people working, though endlessly, how much can the production be? We can hardly meet the demand at times.”

Naren is a master weaver of Kotpad saris. The drape derives its name from the village of Kotpad in the Koraput district of Odisha. Odisha’s first Geographical Indication (GI)-tagged product, these saris are handwoven by the members of the Mirgan community of southern Odisha.

Exclusive motifs

A unique weave that it is, the fabric is mostly cotton and cotton by tussar. Coarse but soft against the skin, it is popular for its simple design and motifs. The motifs on these saris are mostly inspired by nature. The tribals, who revere Mother Earth and the forces of nature, are said to draw inspiration from the various elements around them and then give expression to it through various symbols drawn by hand on the walls of their house, on the ground, and on their fabrics. These motifs are almost like a visual language.

Kotpad is nothing, but an expression of their creativity on fabric.

Natural dyes and no trace of any chemicals

Natural dyes used on the sari are made from the roots of the Aul (madder) tree. Red, black, and maroon are typical of these saris. Each and every yarn is carefully treated to ensure that it lasts a long time. While the men are weavers, the women are dyers.

Different weavers have different preferences. Our Naren loves working with motifs like peacocks, turtles, fish, trees, lotus and temples. In his words, “they express the state of my mind”. Also, various tribes have their own motifs. These symbols are almost like the weaver’s signature. It is said that the Kotpad is the reflection of a weaver’s inclination and the wearer’s identity. Organic and eco-friendly, these drapes offer comfort during the harsh summers and even prevent the wearer from getting skin diseases.

Kotpad today!

A laborious process, there has been a steady decline in the number of weavers today.

  • The younger generation refuses to follow in the footsteps of their fathers and forefathers. ‘I don’t think my children will become weavers. They see the hours I toil.’
  • It is also getting increasingly difficult to acquire the roots of the Aul tree. The State Forest Department of Koraput has placed restrictions, saying that the root picking affects the life of the Aul tree.
  • Massive deforestation has also made these scarce, often forcing the tribals to venture deep into the forests, exposing them to the risk of man-eaters. Thus, the supply of dyes has been adversely affected.
  • The biggest deterrent to the sale of Kotpad saris is the lack of awareness among consumers. Such a painstakingly created product demands a greater premium, which they refuse to pay. If an organic, eco-friendly product doesn’t deserve a premium, then it’s a huge tragedy for the handloom and its talented weavers.

Adequate compensation in the form of fare wages for the weavers of the Kotpad is the need of the hour. And this will be possible only when we start supporting them by investing in their crafts and skills.

CONTACT VEDA’S @9886262255

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