Madurkathi Grass: A Journey Through History, Cultivation, Products, and Socio-Economic Significance.

Madurkathi Grass: A Journey Through History, Cultivation, Products, and Socio-Economic Significance.


What is Madurkathi material about?

Madurkathi is a type of sedge that is scientifically known as Cyperus tegetum and belongs to the Cyperaceae family. This is a rhizome-based perennial grass-like plant with slender, erect stems that can reach heights of up to two meters. Its leaves are long and narrow, resembling grass blades, and the plant typically features an extensive network of rhizomes beneath the soil. These rhizomes play a crucial role in the plant's propagation and adaptability to its environment. This mat sedge is commonly found in wet and marshy areas with seasonal flooding.

It is predominantly found in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu in India. Besides India, this plant is also available in the Indian Subcontinent, including Thailand, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Sumatra.

In India, Cyperus corymbosus, locally known as Korai, is found in the state of Tamil Nadu, while Cyperus tegetum is found in the state of West Bengal and is locally known as Madurkathi. Both Cyperus corymbosus and Cyperus tegetum are slightly different from each other.

History of Madurkathi

Madurkathi, also known as Madurkathi weaving, is a traditional craft and art form indigenous to India, particularly popular in the eastern state of West Bengal. This ancient weaving technique involves the use of a specific type of reed called "Madur" or "Madurkathi," which is a type of river grass. Madurkathi has a rich history and cultural significance in the region.

The history of Madurkathi weaving and the product, Madur or traditional Chatai can be traced back to ancient India. Atharva Veda's reference is found as Kapisu or madur, made from this Madurkathi grass. The reference to madur chatai can also be found in other ancient literature like Shatapatha Brahmana and Mahabharata.

The finest Madurkathi Chatai mat i.e. Masland Madur, started weaving in the medieval period under Royal patronage in the Medinipur region. It can rightly be pointed out here that the name Masland derived from the Persian word ‘Masnad’ which means throne. Nawab of Bengal, Alivardi Khan, in 1774 issued a Farman or Charter to his revenues collectors or Jaigirdars to collect taxes out of trade of Madur chatai mat in Medinipur regions. The super fine Masland chatai mats also were sent to the headquarters for royal use. 

Best quality Masland Madurs or Chatai were being weaved in Raghunathbari, Kasijora, and Narajol at Medinipur region. Permanent markets were established there for trade. In 1872, the British Government recorded that, almost 618 skillful artisans were engaged in this mat-weaving profession. An official report revealed that nearly 4, 48,300 chatai were being weaved in between 1907 to 1908. 

Madurkathi weaving has a long and storied history in India, particularly in West Bengal. Its evolution from a utilitarian craft to a revered art form showcases the cultural and artistic richness of the region.

In 2018, on 28th March, the Indian Patent Office granted a GI tag for Madurkathi as a handicraft, being Registration no. - 567.

The WBKVIB (West Bengal Khadi and Village Industries Board) has taken up initiatives to preserve and promote Madurkathi weaving and continues to ensure that this traditional art form remains a vibrant part of cultural heritage.

Cultivation of Madurkathi:

Cultivating Madurkathi, a rhizome-based plant, involves a three-season cycle:
1. Kharif Season: June to September
2. Winter Season: October to January
3. Summer Season: February to May

 Choosing the Right Land:
Madurkathi can be grown in various types of soil, making it adaptable to different environments. However, it thrives best in swampy, marshy, or flood-prone areas.
First-Time Cultivation (Kharif Season): Start the first cultivation cycle in the Kharif season, ideally in the first week of June.

Land Preparation:
• Begin by plowing the land and ensuring it is properly leveled.
• Ensure adequate watering to prepare the land for planting.

Rhizome Preparation:
• Collect Madurkathi rhizomes.
• Submerge the rhizomes in a water pond for 3 to 4 days. This helps eliminate unnecessary bacteria attached to the rhizomes.
• After 3 to 4 days, remove the rhizomes from the water and place them in a dry area, covering them with dry leaves or sheets.
• After 4 to 5 days, germination will begin, indicating it is time for planting.

• Plant the germinated rhizomes on the prepared land.
• If there is insufficient rain or the land starts to dry out, regular watering is essential.

Organic fertilizer and pesticides:
• Use organic fertilizers and pesticides for Madurkathi cultivation. Avoid chemical fertilizers and pesticides to maintain the plant's health and environmental sustainability.

• Continue to monitor the plants for signs of pests or diseases and take appropriate organic pest control measures if necessary.

• If planting commenced in the first week of June, harvest the Madurkathi reeds in the last week of September.

Subsequent Seasons:
• After harvesting in the Kharif season, prepare for the next cycle of cultivation in the winter season (October to January), following a similar process.
• Continue this three-season cycle, rotating between the Kharif, winter, and summer seasons, for sustainable Madurkathi cultivation throughout the year.

By following this cultivation process, Madurkathi can be grown successfully, providing a sustainable source of this valuable plant material for various purposes.

Preparation of Madurkathi as raw materials: 

The preparation of Madurkathi raw materials is a crucial step in the production process, as it sets the foundation for creating durable and attractive items. This essay explores the meticulous process of preparing Madurkathi as raw material, starting from the harvest of reeds to the final storage of the processed material.

Harvesting and selection:

The process of preparing Madurkathi begins with the careful selection of reeds. Typically, reeds are harvested at the end of the season, approximately four months after plantation. During this time, the reeds are at their optimum stage for Madurkathi production. The first step is to cut the reeds, ensuring that only the tall and mature ones are chosen while leaving behind any stunted or immature ones. This selection process is essential to ensuring the quality and durability of the final product.

Cleaning and sun drying: 

Once the reeds are harvested, the next step is to clean them thoroughly. All leaves and extraneous material are removed, leaving only the reeds behind. These cleaned reeds are then divided according to their sizes. Sorting them by size is crucial for ensuring uniformity in the final product.

To make the reeds more pliable and easier to work with, they are exposed to direct sunlight for a short period. This exposure allows the reeds to become slightly soft, making them more flexible and easier to manipulate during the weaving process. However, care must be taken not to overexpose them to sunlight, as this can lead to excessive drying and damage to the reeds.

Cutting and Removal of Inner Tissue:

The reeds are now ready to be cut into smaller, manageable sections. This is done using thin knives, with each reed being cut into 2–3 parts. During this process, the soft inner tissue of the reed is carefully discarded. Removing the inner tissue is essential to ensuring the durability and longevity of the final Madurkathi product.

Sun drying and storage:

After the reeds have been cut and the inner tissue removed, they are once again exposed to direct sunlight. This final round of sun drying is crucial for completely removing any remaining moisture from the reeds. Proper drying is essential to prevent mold or rotting during storage.

Once the reeds are completely dry, they are stored in a moisture-free environment. Proper storage ensures that the prepared raw material can be used for Madurkathi production for up to one to two years. This long shelf life allows artisans to have a steady supply of quality raw materials for their craft.

The preparation of Madurkathi as a raw material is a meticulous and labor-intensive process that lays the foundation for creating exquisite handcrafted products. From the careful selection of reeds to the precise cutting and thorough drying, each step is essential to ensure the quality and longevity of Madurkathi items. This traditional craft not only produces beautiful and functional pieces but also preserves a cultural heritage that has been passed down through generations.

Products of Madurkathi:

From this humble grass, a wide array of products are crafted, each showcasing the skillful artistry and creativity of craftsmen. Here's a description of some products made from madurkathi grass:

  1. Madurkathi grass Chatai mats: Madurkathi chatai mats are traditionally of three types: 1) single mat, locally known as Ekahara; 2) double mat, locally known as Dohara; and 3) Masalanda mat. 

In modern times, another foldable chatai mat has been also introduced. 

Madurkathi chatai mats popularly known as grass mats in West Bengal are famous for their strength and comfort. Woven intricately, these mats are ideal for sitting, sleeping, yoga, meditation, and indoor and outdoor activities. They are also often used in rural households and are appreciated for their natural cooling properties, making them perfect for warm climates.


  1. Baskets and Bags: Skilled artisans weave madurkathi grass into sturdy baskets and bags of various sizes and shapes. These products are not only visually appealing but also functional, serving as excellent storage solutions and elevating the fashion statement.
  2. Pooja Aasan:  Pooja mats made of Madurkathi grass are considered suitable and auspicious. People use these mats as a clean and sacred surface for performing their prayers, rituals, and meditation. They can also be used as decorative items in homes and temples. There are two types of pooja aasans made by Madurkathi grass, namely,- 1) Natural color pooja mat and, 2) Designer pooja mat.
  3.  Home Decor Items: Madurkathi is utilized to create an assortment of home decor items such as table mats, table runners, coasters, decorative wall hangings, and door and window curtains. These items add a touch of rustic charm and elegance to any interior space.
  4. Sustainable Products: One of the key advantages of Madurkathi products is their sustainability. Being biodegradable and renewable, these products contribute to eco-friendly living and support local communities engaged in traditional crafts.

 The products made from madurkathi grass are not just functional items but also pieces of art that reflect the rich cultural heritage and craftsmanship of the regions where they are made. Each product tells a story of sustainable living, tradition, and the harmonious relationship between humans and nature.

Madurkathi grass Chatai Mat and Korai pai vice versa:

Madurkathi grass chatai mats and Korai pai, although both belong to the same scientific family, Cyperaceae, exhibit several notable differences. Scientifically known as Cyperus tegetum, Madurkathi differs from Korai pai (Cyperus corymbosus) in the distinctiveness of their glumes. In the case of Korai pai, the glumes have more pronounced margins that are incurred and do not overlap, whereas Madurkathi glumes exhibit different characteristics.

In terms of production, Korai pai are typically machine-made, using nylon threads as warp and often incorporating chemical colors for aesthetic appeal. On the other hand, Madurkathi chatai mats are meticulously handwoven by skilled artisans, resulting in a more compact and durable final product. Unlike Korai pai, Madurkathi chatai mats do not employ chemical colors, which adds to their natural appeal.

Furthermore, Korai pai tends to be more affordable compared to Madurkathi chatai mats, making them a practical choice for those looking for cost-effective options. These distinctions highlight the varied characteristics and production methods associated with Madurkathi grass chatai mats and Korai pai, offering consumers a choice based on their preferences and priorities.

Why Madurkathi grass Chatai mat is famous and best for home:

 Madurkathi grass Chatai mats have earned their reputation as the best choice for home decor for a multitude of reasons. Crafted from natural grass, these mats boast a significant advantage over their synthetic counterparts by being free from harmful chemicals, ensuring a safe and eco-friendly environment within your home. Unlike plastic chatai, Madurkathi mats exude no unpleasant odors, enhancing the overall ambiance of your living space. The meticulous handwoven craftsmanship involved in their production not only adds to their unique charm but also guarantees their durability. Furthermore, these mats are bio-degradable, making them a responsible choice for those who care about the environment. In addition to being environmentally conscious, products made from Madurkathi, such as chatai mats, provide a comfortable and easy-to-clean surface that can withstand the test of time. All these qualities combine to make Madurkathi grass Chatai mats both famous and the best choice for enhancing your home's aesthetic and sustainability.

In conclusion, Madurkathi grass stands as a testament to the rich heritage and cultural significance deeply embedded in the Indian subcontinent. Its history, spanning centuries, showcases the skill and craftsmanship of artisans who have passed down the art of cultivating and weaving this versatile material. From the humble chatai mats that have adorned our homes for generations to the eco-friendly yoga mats that support our wellness journey, and the intricately designed table runners and pooja aasanas that enhance the aesthetics of our sacred spaces, Madurkathi grass continues to play a vital role in our daily lives. It reminds us of the sustainable and time-honored traditions that not only connect us to our roots but also offer us practical, beautiful, and eco-friendly solutions for modern living. So, the next time you unroll a Madurkathi mat or place a Madurkathi product in your home, take a moment to appreciate the history, artistry, and sustainability woven into every strand of this remarkable grass.
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