A Nearly-forgotten Art

Kalamkari is an art that was perfected around 3000 years ago! Traditionally, it’s done with organic dyes on cloth, using twigs as pens and brushes. It’s a complicated process involving more than 20 steps. Only some people in some regions of India know how to do it.

The word Kalamkari is a combination of two words – Kalam and Kari – meaning pen and craft respectively. The designs are drawn with a ‘pen’ made of twigs, usually from the tamarind tree. The paint used is made of ingredients available in nature. The outlines are drawn in black, which is got by mixing jaggery and water with iron filings, for instance. Another technique is to print the cloth using carved wooden blocks dipped in dyes, and then painting in the details by hand.

But before the paint can be applied, the cloth which is to be painted or printed has to be treated in various ways, including soaking it in a solution of cow dung and bleach, to give it an off-white shade, and then putting it in buffalo milk and various other things, and washing it many times.

The Kalamkari textiles are made into clothes, including sarees, as well as household items like bedsheets.

Machilpatnam and Srikalahasti in Andhra Pradesh are two centres famous for Kalamkari work. It is also done by people in pockets of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. The usual designs are either drawn from nature or from Hindu mythology.

In olden times, Kalamkari textiles were carried by traders to countries like Thailand and Indonesia where the upper classes bought them. But once modern textile printing technology came in, this art started dying out. Fortunately, some people realised how important it is to preserve it. Now, it is very popular with top fashion designers in India and abroad.

Share Article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *