A fine, handwoven textile made of cotton and silk, Kota Doria is largely produced in Rajasthan and is known for being comfortable and lightweight, even with the incorporation of decorative embroidery.
Believed to have been introduced to Rajasthan from Mysore in the seventeenth century by Maharaja Kishore Singh, Kota Doria is also known as Kota Mysuria and Masuria Malmal. The fabric derives its modern name from a combination of the word daria or doria, meaning “thread” in Hindi, and the town of Kota in south Rajasthan, which is renowned for its production of the textile. The region houses several communities that weave the fabric for the production of sarees, upholstery and other clothing items. At present, the Kota Doria industry in Kaithoon district, one of the only places where the fabric continues to be woven, is controlled by around fifty male master weavers and the Kota Women Weavers Organisation, which has 155 members who are involved in repairing the looms and producing and dyeing the yarn.
The fabric is considered to have been originally intended for men’s turbans, which required narrower and longer pieces of fabric. However, over time, it has begun to be used for odhanis and sarees, which have now become the primary item of production in the industry. The fabric is woven in a way that creates a transparent checkered pattern. Each check is known as khat and usually consists of fourteen yarns — eight cotton and six silk — with over three hundred khat squares occurring across a 46-inch-wide saree. The cotton yarns lend the fabric its transparency while the silk contributes to its strength and firmness. Kota Doria is also characterised by intricate butis woven and embroidered using silk, cotton and gold or silver zari. The fabric also sometimes features batik printing and applique work. Whereas the most familiar and traditional Kota Doria sarees have a cream-coloured, unbleached base, they are sometimes coloured using vegetable and azo-free dyes.
Kota Doria is manufactured on traditional pit looms using the throw-shuttle technique, which allows for considerable improvisation, and each stage of the process is carried out by hand, with a simple saree taking nearly twenty days to be woven. Lately, the traditional processes involved in the production of the fabric have been facing several challenges, including lack of product diversification, absence of contemporary designs and value addition compounded by international fabric production, which has resulted in the fabric being woven with materials such as bamboo viscose with the aim of modernising it. The widespread use of power looms has also threatened the Kota Doria handloom industry, especially with the introduction of power loom sarees woven in Varanasi and Kolkata. A number of steps have been taken to ensure the survival of the craft, such as the setting up of the Kota Heritage Society, which has been working with weavers to empower them with digital literacy and accessibility, sourcing of raw materials and financial stability.
Kota Doria received a Geographical Indication tag in 2005 for its regional specificities and significance for Rajasthani communities. Today, Kota Doria is being incorporated in the apparel of chains such as Fabindia as well as the works of fashion designers.
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