This is a true story of a princess who might or might not have been beautiful, but she was definitely very hot. She married a prince of a tiny kingdom that stood on the edge of a desert, not terribly far from home, but nothing like home either, which was Udaipur, lauded even in those pretourism days as a city of lakes. Though Kota had a lake too, our princess simply couldnt take the heat that would rise from the ground in the hot summer months. So circa 1740, a palace called Jagmandir was built specially for her in the middle of a lake called Kishore Sagar. But the going was tough even then. And so, the tale continues, the princess decided that she needed clothes that were friendlier to the light breeze that sometimes blew her way.
A royal order was passed and the weavers got to work. Perhaps they took inspiration from the thin, ribbon-like clouds that streak the summer skies here, for the new sari they wove was just as light and ephemeral. The number of threads in the warp and weft was reduced drastically but to make up for this lost weight, they wove the Kota-doria saris in solid geometric patterns of alternating checks. Further, these were woven only in five different shades of white the colour that would best keep out the horrible heat. These fives whites were lyrically named conch shell, sea-foam, jasmine, August moon and clouds after they have spent their rain. Today of course these saris are available in many other colours. Drive to Khaithoon, a village of weavers 22 km from Kota, and you will see these saris stretched out on the looms. These will cost a few hundred rupees, perhaps a little more if the gold border has used real zari. But do pick up one, for a princess suffered for it.