Mat weaving is an age-old cottage industry in India, with references dating back to the Atharva Veda
(reference to kapisu
or mats from grass). Indian folklore is also replete with incidental references in which the ancient sages were offered grass mats as seating. Mats made from grasses and reeds are abundant in India, especially in the more humid and swampy areas; local variations depend on the raw materials available and on other local conditions.
mats - made from the madur kathi
reed (Cyperus tegetum and C. Pangorie) that grows in the swampy area around Midnapore in West Bengal - are the most popular of the mats produced in the state. The madur kathi
grass from which these mats are woven grows particularly in the area around Midnapore, the coastal area of West Bengal west of the Ganges. Pranabes Das who along with his wife Saraswati Das weaves madur
mats, says that the particular extent of the flooding in this area creating a particular kind of swamp condition - is what allows the madur kathi
to grow here and nowhere else, for this grass needs a fairly specific amount of water. The overflooding in the three to four villages around Midnapore is not conducive to agriculture, not even to growing rice (which needs a fair amount of water). Thus, madur mats are specific to the Midnapore area.
T.N. Mukherji in his book 'Art Manufacturers of India' published in 1888 states that "In an artistic point of view two kinds of ma...