In Bengal, the word Madur is a generic for floor mats. Mats are an integral part of Bengal’s lifestyle. Madur is a tradition and pride of Medinipur. Women of the households are involved in weaving this beautiful craft.
The origin of the craft in West Bengal dates back to the Muslim period, when ‘Masland’ mats of superfine variety with fine cotton as weft were produced under royal patronage. Mats were collected as revenue of the Jaigirdari system. In 1744, Nawab Alibardi Khan issued a charter to the Jaigirdars in this regard and as a result, it was obligatory to supply ‘Masland’ mats for use in the collectorate. Mat weaving is the primary source of income for 77% of the craftpersons. Around 74% of the weavers make hand woven mats and the remaining develop loom based products. Few of the traditional mat making families still retain the knowledge of weaving a fine variety of exclusive mats locally known as Masland or Mataranchi. The loom based weavers have been organised into units by local entrepreneurs. There are around 40 of these small units across Purba and Paschim Medinipur. Besides making folding mats, these units have diversified into making various utility items and accessories such as bags, folders, table mats , runners , coasters , boxes etc.
It is sold in the local markets for day to day use and also transported to adjoining states to be used for ritualistic purposes. With the shift in market needs, the weaves are now also used for making decorative and utilitarian items.
WBKVIB (West Bengal Khadi & Village Industries Board) has taken up an initiative to develop skill, capacity and institutions of Madurkathi artisans, facilitate market linkage in order to augment their earnings and provide infrastructural support in Purba and Paschim Medinipur.
Madur weavers are scattered around in different blocks of Purba and Paschim Medinipur. Bhagabanpur and Sabang has the largest concentration of Madur weavers.
Bhagabanpur block is the hub of Madurkathi weaving in Purba Medinipur. Barbasudevpur which is the main centre in Bhagabanpur is located between Mecheda and Digha. The place is well connected to Kolkata by bus and takes about 3 hours to reach there. The nearest railway station is Bajkul (Deshpran railway station) which is almost 1.5 km away from the place.
Getting There: Purba Medinipur: Reach Bajkul by train from Howrah. It takes 3 hours. Take a car from Bjkul to reach the blocks where Madur is made. They are within a radius of 30km.
Accommodation: Hotels are available at Debra, Contai and Tamluk. One may also stay at the residency set up by the Madur society at Bhagawanpur in Purba Medinipur.
Sabang is the largest concentration of the Madur weavers in Paschim Medinipur. Another areas are Pingla and Narayangarh. Madur artists of the district regular visit craft fairs and events.
Getting There: Paschim Medinipur: Reach Balichak by a train from Howrah which takes about 3 hours. Take a car from there to reach the blocks where Madur is made. They fall within a radius of 30km.
Accommodation: Hotels are available at Balichak. Also, one may stay at the residency set up by the Folk Art Centre of the Chitrataru Patachitra Cluster at Pingla in Paschim Medinipur.
During the weaving of a standard size madur (mat) the raw materials are required – Madurkathi, thread and cloth. Madurkathi is collected from the Sabang in Paschim Medinipur. Other raw materials for diversified madur products like thread, dye and cloth are directly procured from the main market – Radhamoni Haat in Tamluk.
The Green Connect: About the Fibre
Madurkathi is a rhizome based plant (Cyperus tegetum or Cyperus pangorei), which is found abundantly in the alluvial tracts of Purba and Paschim Medinipur. The land and climate of Purba and Paschim Medinipur districts is suitable for cultivating Madurkathi. The sticks can be reaped for a period of 3-4 years once the rhizomes are sown. Main seasons for cutting the sticks are April-July and September-November. Best quality Madur sticks are reaped during the September-November season. The raw Madursticks are mainly found at wholesale rate in Sabang.
The process of Madur (Mat) production involves a series of toilsome activities
Cultivation of Reed (MadurKathi) :The Madurkathi cultivation is done at the swampy land. The Madhurkathi sapling is planted around the month of April-May. When the reed grows up to 4 to 5 feet it is cut just above the ground leaving tiny part of it for its re growth.
Processing of Madur Kathi (reed) – From each of the stalks 4 to 8 strips can be prepared by discarding the soft inner tissue. The strips are further processed by soaking water to make it soft. The grown Madurkathi is processed by sizing and dyeing of the reeds.
Dyeing of Madur Sticks – The colouration of Madurs was done with vegetable dyes only. However they nowadays use Azo-free dyes to add different colours to the weave. In the purpose of further decoration of the marginal part of the mat maroon or black vegetable dyes are used. The vegetable dye preparation comes from natural sources. Black dye is produced using Haritaki fruit, fruit and barks of Babla tree. Reddish dye is formed from a local tree known as Rang III. Prior to start of dyeing the mat is tightly bound with palm leaves at the places where natural colour will be retained. The bundle has to be kept in a container filled with dye powder and cold water prior to submerging. In the next step they are boiled. The boiling time is different with respect to different colours. The moisture is evaporated by sun drying and then the reeds are used for weaving purpose.
This loom is operated by a single person. A length of a mat is produced which is then tailored according to the size of the product. The setting process includes – setting up Charkha and winding thread in bobbin, development of colour combination and patterns, setting up bobbin in frame, setting up drum, warping and setting up Pedals and Pakhi for weaving.
Fine Weaving – The working series activity begins with the preparation of basic raw material which is commonly termed as pre-loom weaving. The painstaking works starts from the steps when the soft reeds and cotton (some cases jute thread) are arranged on a bamboo frame loom as weft and warp respectively. For weaving of Masland mats at least two persons are required. One person places the reeds from left to right by placing one thread on top and another one down the other person does the same thing from right to left at meeting the finishing lines the threads are turned and the process is continued. The popular design on Masland mats are of flowers, Honey Comb (Mouchak), Rhomboidal (Barfi), Cascading (Hama) etc. The process of weaving of the Masland mats very much resemblance to the weaving of sari. Weaving is also done with the help of installed looms locally called as Du Dhap looms. This loom is operated by a single person. A length of a mat is produced which is then tailored according to the size of the product. The edges of the mat under preparation are cut and the edges are bound with coloured cloth. Then it is polished to have a glossy appearance. The Do Rokhe mats are also bound with ribbon at the edges to make it foldable. The production of a specific mat depends on the demand of the customer
THERE ARE AROUND 6000 ARTISANS IN PURBA AND PASCHIM MEDINIPUR. AS PART OF THE INITIATIVE BY WBKVIB, AROUND 4500 MAT WEAVERS HAVE BEEN COVERED ACROSS THE 2 DISTRICTS.
Mat weaving is the only source of income for 77% of the weavers. Around 74% of the weavers make hand woven mats and the remaining develop loom based products. The loom based weavers have been organised into units by entrepreneurs who cater to orders professionally. There are around 40 of these small units across Purba and Paschim Medinipur. Besides making folding mats, these units have diversified into making various utility items and accessories such as bags, folders, table mats, runners, coasters, boxes etc. 93% of the mat weavers are women. The women of the households spend their leisure time weaving mats.
A few of the traditional mat making families still retains the knowledge of weaving a fine variety of exclusive mats locally known as Masland or Mataranchi.
The traditional mat weavers of Medinipur have won accolades at different levels: International, National, State and district levels for their excellence in weaving. Madur weavers are scattered around in different blocks of Purba and Paschim Medinipur. Bhagabanpur (Purba Medinipur) and Sabang (Paschim Medinipur) have the largest concentration of Madur weavers. It is in Sabang that the craft has reached its pinnacle through the hands of the practitioners.