Kalamkari is an ancient style of hand painting done on cotton or silk fabric with a tamarind pen, using natural dyes. The word Kalamkari is derived from a Persian word where ‘kalam’ means pen and ‘kari’ refers to craftsmanship.
Kalamkari is essentially an art of painting and printing fabrics. The Kalamkari fabrics are known world-wide for their attractive designs on carpets, bed sheets, wall hangings, sarees, chintz, table clothes and curtain clothes. Polavaram and Pedana are the major centers of manufacturing Kalamkari block prints. During the rule of Qutub Shahis, Kalamkari art was introduced in the region. Commonly used designs include flowers, birds and animals.
Who introduced them?
Centuries ago, folk singers and painters used to wander from one village to other, narrating stories of Hindu mythology to the village people. But with course of time, the process of telling tales transformed into canvas painting and that’s when Kalamkari art first saw the light of day. This colorful art dates back to more than 3000 B.C. According to the historians, fabric samples depicting Kalamkari art was found at the archeological sites of Mohenjo-daro. But it was during the Mughal era when this style of painting got recognition. Mughals promoted this art in the Golconda and Coromandel province where skillful craftsmen (known as Qualamkars) used to practice this art, that’s how this art and the word Kalamkari evolved. Under the Golconda sultanate, this art flourished at Machilipatnam in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh and further was promoted during the 18th century, as a decorative design on clothing by Britishers in India.
Process:This art involves 23 tedious steps of dyeing, bleaching, hand painting, block printing, starching, cleaning and more. Motifs drawn in Kalamkari spans from flowers, peacock, paisleys to divine characters of Hindu epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. Nowadays, this art is primarily done to create Kalamkari dresses.
Cotton fabric used for Kalamkari is first treated with a solution of cow dung and bleach. After keeping the fabric in this solution for hours, the fabric gets a uniform off-white color. After this, the cotton fabric is immersed in a mixture of buffalo milk and Myrobalans. This avoids smudging of dyes in the fabric when it is painted with natural dyes. Later, the fabric is washed under running water to get rid of the odour of buffalo milk. The fabric likewise, is washed twenty times and dried under the sun. Once the fabric is ready for painting, artist’s sketch motifs and designs on the fabric. Post this, the Kalamkari artists prepare dyes using natural sources to fill colors within the drawings.
Incorporating minute details, the Kalamkars use ‘tamarind twig’ as pen, to sketch beautiful motifs of Krishna Raas-Leela, Indian god and goddesses like Parvati, Vishnu, Shri Jaganath; designs of peacock, lotus; and scenes from the Hindu epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana.
SEE THE KALAMKARI COLLECTION BY SEJAL JAIN on www.styletriggers.com