Bangladesh is a tropical country, with a mild winter and humid summer. In the northern side, the winter is stronger than the rest of the country. The span of winter is also very little. Thus the use of heavy blankets is limited to only few days of the year. Rest of the year we use Katha. Katha is a light sheet made of 6 to 8 sarees together. Making katha is an art like American quilt, only difference is, we didn’t market it as we should have. The art of Katha could have been a national symbol for Bangladesh. Though “Nakshi Katha” another variant is, however the everyday kathas are extremely under-rated.
It takes several months to stitch one Katha, as the entire thing is handmade. The wives of rural households stitch the kathas in their leisure time. Long vertical small stitches are used on the entire piece. The Achal is discarded and the paar of the saree is used as a border of the katha. The kathas have different design patterns. All done with hand little at a time.
My mother in law is a great Katha collector and designer. She has given me beautiful kathas ever since I stepped into the family. I have been collecting all these as I fear; there will be a time, when no one will make kathas anymore. The modern blankets, quits, comforters and other materials is winning its place. Making katha is very time consuming, thus not profitable for the women, as one katha takes several months to complete. However, many have started doing the stitches in machine, this way they can make more kathas and contribute more in the family. My mother in law says, these machine stitched kathas are not as comfortable as the hand stitched ones as, the machine stitched are hard, whereas the hand stitched are rather soft and very smooth on the skin. I personally have used both and I couldn’t but agree with her.
When I was young, I saw mom or grandma asking the female house-helps to make these kathas for us. They used to be paid as these are extra work. Small kathas are also made for new born babies. Used sarees are great for katha as it gets soft with time. Living blue is making these hand stitched kathas, naming them Daal Bhaat Katha and selling them world wide, and also improving the lives of the artisans. I do feel our kathas have a huge potential if taken seriously with good intentions. The artisans too can improve their lifestyle if given the proper wage.
I am sharing my collection with you. I am eternally grateful to my mother in law for such valuable gifts.
Katha: personal collection.