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Kalamkari - a coastal amenity

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Dear art lovers, let us head on a voyage to know about an art form that proved to be a blessing for the artisans of the east coast of India. The Kalamkari.

‘Kalam’ is a Persian word for pen and ‘kari’ means craftsmanship. This art form is widely practiced in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. There are two styles of Kalamkari, namely the Machilipatnam style that is related to the Persian version and the Srikalahasti style, which relates to the Hindu version of this art form. 

Kalamkari artwork involves hand painting or block printing on fabric. With its earliest traces in the ancient times around 13th century C.E., this art form has evolved creatively for over 3000 years. A nomadic group called ‘Chitrakati’ is responsible for the evolution of Kalamkari. Chitrakati was a group of singers, painters and musicians. They use to wander from one place to another narrating the stories from Hindu epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is said that many centuries ago, this group of nomads settled in Srikalahasti and they are serving the popular Shiva temple of Srikalahasti even today. As such, a temple became home to this art form. 

Srikalahasti style Kalamkari paintings are originally for temple hangings. The traditional procedure for a Kalamkari design on fabric involves 23 steps. All the colors used are plant and vegetable dyes. These natural colors provide longevity, robustness and give the painting an earthy tone. The most commonly used colors are red, yellow, green, blue and black. Fabric such as Tussar silk, Malabari silk, cotton and jute are used for this painting.

Numerous stages of Kalamkari involve the use of flowing water of rivers, river sand, sunlight and other natural factors. Like a farmer, a Kalamkari artist too holds great reverence for Mother Nature. The quality of Kalamkari is affected by the temperature of a place and other weather conditions. The eastern coast of the Indian subcontinent has proved to be helpful to these artisans so far. The flourishing ports along the long coastal line have helped this art form to travel across the other parts of the world. 

The plant dyes, traditional fabrics and natural procedures have provided high durability to Kalamkari paintings. These days, Kalamkari is not merely limited to temple hangings but is evident on sarees, outfits, jewelry, footwear, bags, toys and curtains. In addition to this, Kalamkari is also painted on paper, canvas, ceramic utensils, glass showpieces and even on metal artifacts. Thus, providing additional prospects for the further growth of this art form across the world.

The popularity and affinity of this art form are growing so widely that you can get your whole house customized in your favorite Kalamkari theme. So, what are you waiting for?

 Thank You! 


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By Surabhi Thakur
In this blog, Surabhi takes us on a voyage to learn about Kalamkari art - widely practiced in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
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