Pattamadai, the world-famous place for its silken mats woven from grass, is the neighbor village to Cheranmahadevi near the banks of river Tamaraparani, in Tamilnadu. Majorly, known for its cotton warps and korai wefts mats, this place is a treasure of art and culture.
The spectacular Korai Grass mats are said to have originated nearly 100 years ago in Pattamadai region by the Muslim community. According to rumored stories, the art of weaving mats was pioneered by Hassan Bawa Labbai. To his surprise, the soaked grass can be split into 120 counts, instead of the traditional thicker mats that were split to a 30 or 40 counts. This led to the invention of the thinner Pattamadai mat. The descendants of the artisans then carried the art form.
The process starts with the collection of korai grass. Korai is then soaked in the running water to rot them before they are taken up for the cleaning. After soaking, the central pith is scraped off, and the splitting of stems is done. The thinner the mat required, the more time artisans soak it. The strands are once again dried, and the mats are then woven by the women of the community and are finally dyed according to the patterns and designs. Traditional colors include “Indian” colors such as black, brown, red and green, which are obtained from sappan tree. This is a long and time-consuming process which takes nearly a month to complete. There are a wide variety of products obtained from this art-form, such as handbags, wall hangings, table mats, doormats and many more. Mostly womenfolk are into this craft business.
What makes it special?
Traditionally, these mats are a token to make occasions memorable. The mats were woven for the bridegroom, with their names and wedding dates inscribed on them. The Pattamadai mats are now internationally famous for its eco-friendly nature and, are now mass-produced on the power looms to meet domestic and other utilitarian uses. The Indian GI authority has granted the status of Geographical Indication (GI) to the Pattamadai mats for its quality and reputation. To highlight the craftsmanship of these world-famous mats, they were gifted to Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth during the British Regime.
The Pattamadai mats have gone through a cycle of transition in the past few years, from being most popular to the most ignored and then back in trend. The increased demands in both national and international market have led to the introduction of synthetic dyes in this eco-friendly art-form, waning in the use of traditional methods. The Pattamadai mats also face stiff competition from the plastic mats. The mechanization and low cost of plastic mats have led to the depletion of the production of silk mats and have lost its foothold by time.