Sitalpati, a kind of mat, is perhaps the most notable and popular product among the handicrafts of Cooch Behar; unlike other kinds of mats woven in Bengal, Sitalpati is more exquisite, with Barokodali, Ghughumari and Nakkati-Pushnadanga of Cooch Behar district being the hubs of Sitalpati craft.
The quality of the Sitalpati mat is judged by its glossiness, smoothness and fine texture, and it is said that the best kind of Sitalpati is so smooth that even a snake cannot glide over it.
Sitalpati mat provides a feeling of coolness (hence the name 'Sital' or 'Sheetal') to a person sitting or sleeping on it (suitable for the warm and humid climate of West Bengal) – this, coupled with the aesthetic appeal and utilitarian value of these mats, has made them increasingly visible in large towns and metropolitan cities, thus expanding their traditional market.
While the women folk specialise in the weaving, the men collect green patidai or mohtra reeds - the raw material required for these mats, made with long-stemmed knotless reeds that grow profusely in marshy areas.
Coarse pati (mat) is generally made of cane, bamboo and straw, while an improved pati is made of cane; one variety of pati is made of leaves of the date tree; the wide and substandard pati is called ‘Fat mat’, and thin layered pati is called ‘Sitalpati’.
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