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Kaithoon Village near Kota, Rajasthan

Kota sarees (saree is the traditional Indian dress for women) rule through summer. Light and airy, these are an excellent protection against the north Indian heat. The ‘real’ Kota sarees are still made as they were 250 years ago, by a tedious, fully manual process, in a village called Kaithoon, 22 km away from Kota city. And how many sarees does Kaithoon weave in a year? Well, it has 1,200 looms, each one producing no more than five sarees a month. That is 60 in a year from one loom or 72,000 from the entire village. The actual figure, however, is closer to 60,000.

The weavers are all Muslim. The women also weave, often better than their husbands. They cover their heads and go about their business cheerfully. The burqha (head dress covering the face) is a rare sight indeed in Kaithoon. Money is also in short supply, and you’ll find the family, their loom and their goat coexist in the one-room-veranda dwellings. The future prospect of the craft lies in the hands of the women, who start inheriting weaving skills in their maiden homes at the age of 10/12 and become fairly skilled at the age of 15 to 16. They usually get married at the age of 18 to 20 but the marriage is strictly within the community and within clusters so that the craft remains limited to the clusters. Miriam, who you see in this picture is one such woman. She works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week to create a Kota Saree which would adorn many a beautiful woman. A saree takes 7 to 8 days to make at the minimum, but the wages received by the weavers are insufficient and there are no savings practically.

The Loom

Kota saris are woven on a traditional throw shuttle pit loom, which consists of a pit. The weaver controls the treadles with his foot placed in the pit and passes the shuttle that contains the weft threads manually across the loom from right to left and left to right through the shed. The main advantage of such a loom is that it occupies very little space and is relatively cheap. But its productivity is low, it is cumbersome to operate and only suitable for narrow width fabrics. There are hundreds of such looms, one existing practically in each household.

My endeavour to try something different photographically, with my DSLR camera. Hope you'll like it.

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Additional Photos by Angshuman Chatterjee (Angshu) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7739 W: 324 N: 15534] (54763)
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