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    Map Academy

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    A cotton quilt made in Jaipur, the razai is popular across households in South Asia for its warmth, elaborate designs and wide range of thicknesses for various climates.

    The razai consists of two outer layers of plain weave, scented cotton fabric and a third layer of flattened raw cotton filling called bharai that is traditionally prepared by men. The outer layers may also be made of silk or alternative varieties of cotton fabric such as muslin or satin. For the bharai, cotton fluff was historically carded — a process by which the finer, softer cotton fibres are separated from the rougher ones — using a long bowed instrument called pindar by artisans from the Dhunia community, although this process has largely become mechanised today. The resulting fine fibres are placed on the lower sheet of the razai and beaten until it is flat and even. Old razais are carded and re-stitched every winter to maintain the uniformity of the filling.

    The designs on each side of a razai are different but complementary. While some are patchworked or screen-printed, block printed razais are the most popular. The designs are usually made of buta, paisley, bel and other floral motifs that occur in Sanganeri and Mughal design. Traditionally, Muslim women stitch all three layers of the razai together in a process called tagai. These stitches are applied in patterns of regular geometrical motifs like diamonds, rounded spades or paan ki patti, and circles or thaalis. Newer tagai designs include floral shapes, checks, stripes, waves and spirals. In the more elaborate razais, these motifs are used in combinations that complement the printed pattern on the outer sheets. Thin razais, a contemporary variety for mild weather, are not stitched down with such patterns as the bharai is thin enough to function as a middle sheet.


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