KOTPAD HANDLOOM WEAVING
Mr Dayaran Panka
Koraput district in Odisha is renowned for its indigenous practices of natural pigment extraction and dyeing.
In a nutshell, raw materials are procured from the forests by regional tribal communities and sold to the weavers. The dye is extracted and processed by Kotpad women, who are integral to the Kotpad craft. Cleaned and dyed yarn is then provided to the men of Kotpad, who weave running fabric, as well as saris, stoles, and tribal garments, incorporating the motifs of different tribal communities into their creations.
The Madder Root
This is Aal, also known as Indian Madder. The Dyers of Kotpad process the dried root, which is found in the wild, by mixing it with substances such as alum mordant and calcium carbonate (chalk). Different mixtures and processing times produce variety in the shades of reds and browns, that one can procure from a single plant species.
A Mysterious Green Stone
To a lesser extent, Kotpad dyeing also uses this green stone, from which to extract dyes. Contrary to what we might expect, processing this green stone yields shades of maroon, brown, and even a deep rich black, as indicated by Mr Panka.
Mr Panka explains to us that these raw materials are increasingly scarce, principally due to deforestation by industry and the effects of drought and climate change.
The jungles from which they are obtained are far away from the Koraput District. The weaver community pays regional aadivasis (tribals) to gather roots and stones from deep in the forests. After buying them from the tribals, the village women get to work on processing the dyes. The entire operation takes over a month, at the mercy of the prevailing environmental and climactic conditions.
In 2005, Kotpad Handloom Fabric was awarded a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for its unique tradition, and its environmentally neutral, natural processing and production methods. Kotpad weaving is a living embodiment of the symbiotic relationship between man and nature, and how industry can exist without damaging the environment. Its survival hinges on cooperation between men and women from diverse castes and tribes throughout production and marketing, and instills immense pride in the community.