To live in harmony with nature is what we all desire, regardless of place, class or ethnicity. The ethnic handcrafts of Kerala are the best way to relish the boons of nature in its untainted form. Pulppaya, a traditional grass mat, is one of the oldest handicraft items of Kerala that brings you the assets of nature that too in the form of a utilitarian product.
You will be astounded to know the fact that the reference of this mat has been found in the Atharva Veda (3500-1500 BC) which is one among the four ancient sacred texts of India. This will give you a rough idea about the antiquity of the mat, which was used in the olden times by rishis (sages) who dwelled in the dense forests.
Killimangalam, a small hamlet in Thrissur district of Kerala is renowned for the production of traditional grass mats. Pulppaya (the word pul in Malayalam means grass and paya denotes mat) is crafted using the kora grass (sedge grass). Kora grass is found abundant along the banks of rivers. In the year 2006 Killimangalam village reached new heights as the UNESCO awarded its seal of excellence to the Kora grass mats produced here. Here, mat weaving is exclusively handled by the Kuruva community. The process is an equal blend of indigenous material, craftsmanship and aesthetic sense.
Mat weaving is a complex and painstaking process. Grass that reaches a height of 3-4 feet is cut green. The white pith inside is removed with a sharp knife and the outer sheath is used for mat weaving. The grass strips are dried in the hot Sun until they turn yellowish green colour. After boiling in water the grass is again dried in the Sun. Dried grass is made into bundles and soaked in running water for 3-7 days when the grass swell up three times the original size. It is then dried again and weaving is done in a floor loom. The mats after weaving are polished and dyed using natural colours. The grass is also used to make other articles like bags, table mats, wall hangings, etc.
This cool and soft seating material is widely used in Kerala during summer and has now found a large international market in the U.S., the U.K., Italy, New Zealand, Canada and Germany.