Here is another blog post from our natural fibre series. This blog is all about cool mats.
Shital pati, literally means cool mats. These are produced in several parts of North-Eastern India, from Tripura to Assam to West Bengal, as well as in Bangladesh. They are thin and smooth pliable mats made by plaiting an indigenous reed, the maranta dichotoma – locally known as Muter or Murtha reed – a long stem knotless reed that grows abundantly in marshy and water logged areas. Shital pati production is a household industry, wherein men traditionally collect the reeds and prepare them, while women are into weaving. It is quite laborious and it involves several steps for the preparation of the weaving material. After cleaning and splitting the stem of the reeds into desired size, the slips are soaked or boiled in water for several hours and then dried. The colouring of the slips is obtained mainly through natural methods, using ingredients such as boiled rice juice, hibiscus, tamarind leaves and mango barks. Once ready, the thin slips are finely woven incorporating designs made using the dyed slips.
In Assam, main clusters for shital pati production are located in Kathakhal, Kaliganj, Basigram, Karimpur, Sridurgapur (Cachar district), Pharsingpara and Goalpora villages. In Tripura shital pati are produced in Belonia, Soonamura. In West Bengal, Barokodali, Ghughumari and Nakkati-Pushnadanga (all in Cooch Behar) are the most important clusters for shital pati.
Shital pati owe their name to the fact that they provide a cool surface to those who sit or sleep on them. Hence shital pati are perfectly adapted to the hot and humid weather conditions of North-Eastern India, where they are mainly used in traditional households as sleeping or prayer mats. Recently new ranges of products using shital pati have entered the market, such as bags, cushions, pen stands and other similar items. There is certainly a need for new designs to foster this indigenous craft.
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