History speaks for itself, as primordial expeditions in the past have forever doled out pearls of unique artistry, enchanting one and all. It is evident by now, that the Tribals have been major contributors to making India what it is today- the land of beauty and diversity. Therefore, stumbling across the records of different tribes thrills me to no extent!
Residing deep in the lush, green forests of the Eastern Ghats is the small family of little districts, namely Nawrangpur, Phulbani and Ravagada under the Koratpur region. The area is the birthplace of Kotpad- a simple weaving technique that now rules the textile industry like no other. The region was successively ruled by several royal dynasties and finally came under the modern state of Odisha in 1936. These hills are home to tribes like the Santhal, Kondh, Gond, Munda, Oraon and Bondo.
Famous for its eye-catching sophistication and minimalism, Kotpad was discovered in the early 1980s in the jungles of Central Asia during the then on-going festival of India’s Viswakarma exhibitions. The weave has never seen embellished or glittery design; it epitomizes simplicity in its essence. The craft is utility, decoration, ornamentation, meditation and aesthetics all rolled into one.
Being developed through tribal influences, the art possesses a unique and elegant creative edge, owing to its ability to view the wider picture. Heavily inspired by nature, the Kotpad fabrics are woven to essentially impress and are absolutely non-chemical. The origin of the weave is through the Indian Madder (Aal) tree, which gives it a reddish tinge. Indebted to its eco-friendly nature, the Kotpad fabrics are also ‘magic fabrics’, said to own healing powers and totally non-harmful to the skin.
Typically used for sarees, the minimalism symbolizes many rites of passage in a woman’s life. The weavers, called ‘Mirgan’, specialize in making sarees, gamchas, and tuvals. However, Kotpad is a favourite among wedding occasions, and the intricacy deepens depending on circumstances, around the borders and the ‘pallavs’, dominated by the kumbha. The tuval is worn by men as a lower garment which also has typical Kotpad borders and motifs. The dimensions of the sari too vary from the short knee-length eight haath to the ankle-length 16 haath.
The motifs are inspired by the harmony and elegance of the tribal way of life, which is beautifully depicted through the craft on the roughly-spun natural fabrics, adorned by dark, bejeweled and supple women. The palette for a Kotpad material stops to no degree; the vibrant colour patterns are often a subtle reminder of the boundless ethnicity of the art form. Colours varying from deep maroon to dark brown can be easily spotted, depending on the proportion of dye used and the addition of sulfate iron.
As specified, the materials are never too blingy, but stunning to look at. The deep and mysterious color range is offset by the natural unbleached off white of the major portion of the fabric, producing dramatic results. The reddish color is offset by creams and blacks with motifs drawn from nature and their way of life. Some of them are crab, conch, boat, axes, fan, bow, temple, pots, snakes, palanquin bearers, and huts.
The art is as enchanting as it comes, definitely a must-own for women and men alike!