India is known throughout the world for its abundance and diversity in traditions, culture, landscape and handicrafts. Amongst the variety of handlooms in India, the traditional Kotpad sarees were the first to receive the Geographical Indication of India tag. Kotpad handloom originates from the Kotpad village in Koraput district, Odisha. It is a vegetable-dyed fabric woven by the tribal weavers of the Mirgan community of this village. The cotton sarees with solid borders, dupatta with typical motifs, silk, handloom stoles, and dress materials are all dyed with organic dyes.
Materials used and dyeing process:
The handloom dress materials include cotton yarn, Tussar silk and Aul tree roots for the textile work. The most important aspect of these products is the organic dye used. The natural dyes are extracted from the Aul tree, which grows in the Kotpad area. It takes about 15 to 30 days for the color to be extracted and for the threads to be dyed. This dyeing process is long and tedious. The natural cotton used is bleached to make it whiter and then massaged using castor oil and paste of cow dung. It is soaked in ash water, sun dried for almost two weeks to obtain an even color tone. This also ensures the fabric is incredibly soft. Black and maroon are the prominent colors obtained from their extraction process. It is prepared in an eco-friendly manner, non-toxic and unharmful to the skin. Some artisans also add a vibrant yellow color to their handlooms by making the use of turmeric or ‘haldi’ root in their dye extraction. Typically, these sarees are done in two colors; one being the base and other being the ornament color for the motifs.
Design of the fabric:
The motifs used on the fabric that is crab, fish, conch boat, axes, fan, bow, temple reflect the cross-cultural linkage of the Kotpad area. These motifs are developed by using extra wefts or yarn. Expert craftsmen work on as many as 2 to 4 sarees at a time. They are warped on the loom at the same time. Solid border effect of the fabric is brought up on which pig by pig insertion of thread by use of multi shuttle and interlocking method.
Popularity among the younger generation:
Kotpad sarees offer an excellent blend of colors and soft fabric, which provide the most comfort to the wearer. Although they generally weave this material for “Bhotada”, “Dharua” and different themes of their neighbouring tribal groups, these are the reasons it is growing more popular amongst the younger generation.