Grass and Fibre Mats are woven all over India by local communities to provide floor coverings for rural dwellings. From Banana Fibre to Bamboo to Sabai Grass, the variety of these hand woven floor coverings seems endless, with every state and region in India having its own speciality in woven mats.
Amongst the most spectacular of these are the Kora Grass mats of the Pattamadai region in Tamil Nadu. Mat weaving in this region is said to have originated over 100 years ago by the Muslim community from the Kabbai and Rowther communities. Legend has it that these fine quality mats were pioneered by Hassan Bawa Labbai when he discovered that Kora grass could be spilt extremely fine to a 120 count (after being immersed in the water of the Tampraparani River) instead of the traditional thicker mats that were split to a 30 or 40 count*. Once split, the mats are then woven by the women of the community, and the craft if passed on from generation to generation. The finest and most closely woven mats are called "pattu pai" or silk mats as they feel like silk and have the fall of cloth.
Traditionally, these mats were woven for a bride and a groom, when a pair of these mats was made and inscribed with their names and wedding date and presented to them. The hardiness and durability of these mats ensured that they would last for the lifetime of the couple.
*Handmade in India: Aditi Ranjan/ M P Ranjan