Kalamkari

Printing using natural vegetable dyes has caught the fancy of people across the world. But, one of the oldest traditions of creating intricate designs using vegetable dyes is India’s very own kalamkari.

The origins of kalamkari are said to date as far back as 3000 BC. Some historic sources say that samples of this fabric were found in the excavated sites of Mohenjo Daro.

Kalamkari refers to the art of decorating pieces of cloth by drawing and coloring with a pen. It was originally known as vrathapani. The currently used, more popular name, was given by the Muslim rulers of the Coromandel and Golconda provinces (centered around present-day Andhra Pradesh). They derived the term from two Persian words – kalam (pen) and kari (craft).

There are two distinctive styles of kalamkari, both of which originated in Andhra Pradesh, and are known by the names of their towns of origin. The ‘pen’ style, wherein the entire design is drawn by hand and then filled in with color, is from Srikalahasti. The other, which comes from Machilipatnam, involves block-printing of the main design on the cloth; later, finer details are drawn in with a pen.

To reflect upon

There are said to be 17 steps in the process of creating kalamkari. Why don’t you ask an adult to help you find out more?

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