Indian Quilts

 

This winter buy yourself a genuine Jaipuri Razai (quilt) and know what it is to roll up in a chunk of cloud. Incredibly soft and light and warm too; that is Jaipuri Razai for you. Craftsmen used to boast that wrapped overnight in several folds of Jaipuri Razai a raw egg would come close to setting! Origin

Nobody quite knows when and how this mini marvel came into being. Why did Rajasthan alone become the home of this unique form of winter covering when quilts were common all over? Certain factors seem to have played a part, the inhospitable desert terrain, the bitter winter and the age-old Rajasthani penchant for being constantly on the move. Sundown in winter always sent the temperatures

plummeting among the dunes. For those who stayed home, there was warmth enough but to many a Rajasthani male, home was none other than the dunes themselves with only the sky for cover. Princes and chieftains on the warpath, soldiers in the saddle, banjaras (gypsies), bhopas (itinerant bards), shepherds, traders, camel caravans rolling along the featureless sands on private business? all needed something to keep the chill out without adding significantly to their saddle bags. And some genius who remains unsung to this day found the perfect answer in the Jaipuri razai.

 

The Real Experience

Moving along the Jaipur's Hawa Mahal bazaar, you can come upon some of the oldest establishments turning out Jaipuri razais. There are shops being run by three generations of men in the trade.

Just what goes into making a Jaipuri razai superior to others? Do they put in a special variety of cotton? You can ask them any question. According to the shop owners, they have the same quality of cotton all over. Good desi stuff but nothing exceptional. In their case they get it from Sri Ganganagar just when the fresh crop comes in. The trick lies in the carding. They card away all the dross to get the finest fibers.

According to some of the master craftsmen of this bazaar, their families have been carders for generations. They excel at the job as they say and there is no reason to disbelieve them. According to these craftsmen, one kilo of cotton weighs not more than 100 grams after a whole week of carding and fetches approximately Rs. 250. But, they create even lighter quilts weighing not more than 50 grams by carding the cotton over and over again. These quilts are done according to the order and take almost three months to complete costing not less than a thousand rupees. Lighter the quilt, the more evenly it is filled and you will find it warmer and comfortable.

Time was when these quilts were made only from the gossamer light, world famous 'Dhake ki malmal'. To this day, old, fine textured cotton and georgette saris are used. But the cloth for the Jaipuri razais, a soft quality voile, mainly comes from Bombay. A single quilt takes six meter and a double quilt eleven meters of cloth. A lot of hard work goes in creating these amazing pieces of craftsmanship.

Quilting is the sole purview of women and three or four standard patterns have been in vogue for as long as anyone can remember. Gol (concentric circles), phool (flowers), paan (the betel leaf) and lahariya (vertical stripes zigzagging down the face of the quilt) are the most common patterns in use. Two women work together on one quilt and between them they manage roughly two quilts a day, depending on the complexity of the design.