Traditionally, the craftspersons make hand woven mats with Madurkathi. Nowadays craftspersons use loom to weave mats. Apart from making the mats the craftspersons also make diversified products like bag, purse, curtain, tablerunner, jackets, pen holders etc.
The process of Madur weaving involves a number of labour intensive activities which starts with cultivation of Madurkathi. The alluvial tracts are ideal for growing Madurkathi. Saplings are planted during Baishakh-Jaishthya (April-May).
When the grass is fully grown, the stalks above ground are cut, leaving the tubers below the ground to sprout anew. The stalks are dried, cleaned and each stalk spilt into 4 to 8 strips. The soft inner tissue is removed and discarded.
Before weaving, the reeds are soaked in water and dried under the sun. Then the mats are weaved, either in loom or by hand. The mats weaved with thick reeds are called ‘Dopura' Madur and thin reeds weaved with jute threads are called ‘Ekpura’.
To enhance the quality, cotton and silk threads are also used. Diamond or spread patterns are weaved in the mats. Previously the colours were made from natural source but now the chemical colours are used by the artists.
The steps of weaving Madurkathi
The history of mat weaving in India dates back to the Indus Valley Civilisation and its socio-cultural relevance can be traced to the references found in our ancient literature. Records of the medieval period provide the first information of mat weaving in the region of Bengal. Before the advent of concrete or brick, furniture as we know it, had not been introduced in the rural Bengali homes and people sat or slept on the floor. Since the floors were cool in summers but cold and uncomfortable in winter, mats and pallets or straw mattresses made from grass, leaf and reed, etc. were used to keep out the cold.