Palmyra Palm Leaf Handicraft Products
Palmyra Palm Leaf Handicraft Products
Kottan - Palm Leaf Basketry of Tamilnadu
Palm leaf Basketry is one among the well-known crafts of Tamil Nadu State. Palm tree also known as Palmyra tree is one of the important trees in Tamil Nadu, whose basketry is the major source of income for the rural communities. Palm leaf baskets are made of very intricate designs, which have a special attraction. The products are mainly used for local or daily activities. The palm leaf basketry is locally called "Kottan" in Tamil Nadu. The experienced and skilled artisans develop new varieties of designs according to the taste of the local people and market.
This craft originated with the Nadar community, who used to climb the Toddy Palmyra trees to tap toddy.
The craft was perfected by the ancestors of 'Nagarathars' who used palmyra leaves for writing, drawing, crafting artistic items and making utility products. The Kottans had wide and varied uses in their daily life, most importantly during marriages. The 'Aachis' of Chettinad used to make varieties of baskets out of tender palmyra leaves and leaf stems, which are called 'Kottans' and 'Koodais' respectively.
Mainly women artisans are engaged in making these baskets in a traditional way. The pliable, tender Palmyra leaf has good structural strength, so it is used to make decorative Olai (leaf) baskets. The midrib of the leaf is removed with the help of sathagam (knife) and the leaf is cut into strips of required size with the help of a cutting machine locally called Ole machine. These strips are then taken for dying process. For plain baskets the leaf strips are dipped in boiling water and kept to dry; for colored basket the strips are dipped in colored water. Before weaving, the basket water is sprinkled on the strips to keep them moist and avoid breakages while weaving.
Based on the required size of the basket the palm strips are arranged vertically and horizontally interlocking each other. A wooden slab is placed on it and held with hands and feet for support. Once the base has been woven, the strips are bent and the sidewalls of the baskets are interlaced and woven. At the end, the midrib of the leaf is used as a rim and is woven at the mouth of the basket with a thread for strength and for enhancing the look of the product. Palm leaf baskets are double-layered and reinforced at the rim with a stronger material.
Tools and Raw Material
Palm leaf basketry making is craft practiced from many generations and has been a culture and tradition in Chettinad. The tools and raw materials used for making the products are easily available in the local market. Palm trees are abundantly available in Karaikudi as well as nearby villages. Artisans use long knives to harvest the leaves and small sized knives to separate the mid rib from the leaves. The strips are dyed with vibrant colors to make the products more attractive. Leaf strips are dyed in different colors.
This knife is used to cut the midrib of the palm leaf.
Needle (Posi) and thread
Needle and thread are used to stitch the outer rim of the basket to give it strength
Ole is a cutting machine used to cut the leaves into equal strips.
Colors are used to dye the leaves.
Beads are used to decorate the baskets.
Alum is added in the color for dying process, helps to strengthen the color richness.
Varieties of products are made using the palm leaf - baskets, fruit baskets, mats, pen stands, flower vases and gift boxes. The baskets are used as storage containers as well as decorative items.
Earlier, kottan baskets were mainly used during marriages for packaging gifts and for containers filled with offerings to give at family functions and rituals.
The art and craft is being revived with design, process and marketing interventions and many articles of modern utility are now being made.