“There are about one hundred thousand weavers in the state of Odisha. Of these just about 50 weavers are from Kotpad town, Koraput district, located in south-western Odisha. Their work stands out for the beauty of the red colour of the cotton cloth that has been woven there for centuries. Kotpad handloom fabric received the Geographical Indication of India tag in 2005”, says Surendra Kumar Patra.
Patra is an award-winning, ikat master weaver hailing from a weaver family from Nuapatna village, Cuttack district, Odisha, a coastal state in eastern India. He worked at the Weavers Service Centre that is under the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India, and is located in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. His work brought him in touch with textile artisans from different parts of India. He retired as Deputy Director, Weavers Service Centre at Bhubaneswar.
Among the textile artisans he has worked with are weavers from Kotpad, and he has marvelled at the effort they put in to obtain yarns of a beautiful rich, deep red from Ala, a natural dye. He believes that apart from the beauty of this colour, the fabrics are safer to wear as they are woven with yarns that are dyed with a natural dye that is skin-friendly, unlike yarns dyed with unsafe synthetic dyes.
“After 1993, awareness of using safe dyes and avoiding cariogenic synthetic dyes was created. Subsequently there was focus on the revival of natural dyes and dyeing in different parts of India. The traditional process of dyeing with Ala is eco-friendly as only natural ingredients are used. Ala is a wonderful natural dye and has immense potential for use in dyeing yarns and fabrics. The fabrics woven with yarns dyed with Ala are truly unique for their beautiful colour, being skin-friendly, for being soft to the touch and being extremely comfortable to wear on account of the processing the yarns go through”.
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