Of grace and charm: The ethereal Kota Doria from Rajasthan

20-02-2021

Of grace and charm…

I feel blessed to grow up in a traditional family where women prefer to wear saris most of the time. And the icing on the cake is when your mother belongs to the vibrant state of Rajasthan. Since childhood, I saw my mother mostly clad in crisp cotton saris. And Kota Doria was perhaps her favourite. Her love for this graceful and elegant fabric was so intense that Kota Dorias were a significant part of my wedding trousseau. These opulent designer saris occupy a special place both in my heart and closet. 

If silk is associated with winters, cotton saris rule through summer. An extremely airy, breathable and almost weightless textile, Kota saris are the best bet to beat the summer heat of northern India.

The word 'Doria' means thread. The thread from the city of Kota is Kota Doria. 'Kota Doria' or 'Kota Dori' is crafted from the perfect blend of two natural yarns - cotton and silk, interlaced in such a manner that it results in a square check pattern known as ‘khat’. It is believed that Kota Doria did not originate from the city of Kota. But this special weave was first invented in Mysore, Karnataka. Around the 18th century, on one of his campaigns down south, Mughal army general Kishore Singh was so impressed by this weave from Mysore that he brought some weavers from Mysore with him and settled them in Kota. Since then these traditional saris are exclusively manufactured in Kota.

Many villages surrounding the districts of Kota, Bundi and Baran in Rajasthan are involved in the making of Kota Doria fabric.  This includes villages of Kaithoon, Siswali, Keshoraipatan, Sultanpur, Mangroal and Saursan.

Popularly known as ‘Masuria‘ in Kota, this auspicious fabric became the ultimate choice among the wealthy and royal women of Rajasthan who used to wear it for all religious occasions. During ancient times, Kota Doria was fabricated in only two basic colours of white and beige. But as times evolved, to meet the contemporary needs, Kota Doria was manufactured in numerous shades. These colourful saris are ideal for all occasions, casual and formal.

Kota Doria is available in three basic designs

Basic Kota Doria

It is the traditional and simple Kota Doria fabric made of cotton or plain golden threads.

Block printing Kota Doria 

Block printing was introduced to make the traditional Kota Doria more attractive.

Zari border Kota Doria

The use of golden zari, especially for the borders, adds a regal look to this stunning fabric.

Initially, only saris and dupattas were made out of Kota Doria. But it is used for all kinds of clothing like dresses, tops, scarves, jackets, shirts and even home furnishings like curtains, table cloths etc.

An elegant Kota sari, though easy to manage and maintain, requires a lot of hard work and dedication in manufacturing since it is a completely handmade fabric. Right from winding the thread, warping it, dyeing, sizing, weaving and designing the fabric, all are manual activities. The artisans take a lot of time to complete a single round of weaving making it one of the most difficult weaves. The weaving of Kota Doria is a time-consuming process requiring a lot of accuracy and patience. This craft has been passed on from one generation to another, but now it is on the verge of decline. The poor condition of weavers, and the competition Kota Doria is facing from fake products and other similar but less expensive power loom craft, are some of the factors forcing the younger generation of weavers to look out for alternate professions.

Kota Doria, due to versatility, free flow and translucent appeal has become the favourite choice among the fashion fraternity of the country. With the view to revive and restore this traditional handloom, many designers have come forward with designs that suit contemporary needs.

With an aim to preserve the uniqueness and customs and traditions associated with this ethereal fabric from the city of Kota, it was awarded Geographical Indication (G.I.) certificate in the year 2010.   

But whatever said and done, the spectacle and grace of this fabric is unmatched to any other traditional Indian fabrics and is indeed a priceless gift from my mother.