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Colours Of Kalamkari

KALAMKARI DESIGNS

 

“Kalamkari is an expression of love towards art, a form of creativity. It is a celebration of emotions that we experience in our daily life. Each art work is a unique piece that attracts the viewer.”  These are the words of a famous designer working tirelessly to revive the love of Kalamkari among fashion mongers.

 

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. 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. 

 

Kalamkari gained popularity as a temple art in the south of India in the Kingdom of Vijaynagar. It flourished around Hindu temples as supplements for murals in the interiors of temples. At that time the themes were mainly religious. Minstrels would paint mythological figures on cloth and wander from place to place singing and spreading the word of God. It was a part of a popular cult and due to its vast rural base became a representative of the grass root culture of India.

 

The Kalamkari tradition chiefly consists of scenes from Hindu mythology. Figures of deities with rich border embellishments were created for the temples. In Masulipatnam, the weavers were involved in the block printing art, while at Kalahasti, the Balojas (a caste involved in making bangles) took to this art. 


Owing to Muslim rule in Golconda, the Masulipatnam Kalamkari was influenced by Persian motifs & designs, widely adapted to suit their taste. The outlines and main features are done using hand carved blocks. The finer details are later done using the pen. Under the British rule the designs as well as the end use of the fabric differed - for garments as well as furnishings. During this period floral designs were popular. The artisans were made to create even portraits of English men. 

The Kalahasti tradition which developed in the temple region mostly concentrated on themes form Hindu mythology, epics (Ramayana, Mahabharatha), images of Gods and heroes. 

The artists use a bamboo or date palm stick pointed at one end with a bundle of fine hair attached to this pointed end to serve as the brush or pen.
The dyes are obtained by extracting colours form parts of plants - roots, leaves along with mineral salts of iron, tin, copper, alum, etc., which are used as mordants. 


Karrupur is a style of Kalamkari that developed in the Thanjavur region during the Maratha rule. The Kalamkari work was a further embellishment to the gold brocade work in the woven fabric, which was used as sarees & dhotis by the royal family during the period of Raja Sarfoji and later Raja Shivaji.  After independence of India, the Handicrafts Development Board took up the task of reviving this art, which had dwindled due to lack of buyers. 

 

The specialty is that the finished products are mellow. Bright colours are used but the finish is not gaudy. The fabric looks better and better with further washing, with the designs standing out even better against the background.

 

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.

 

Till today, many families in Andhra Pradesh continue to practice this art and this has served as the prime source of livelihood for them, over the generations.

 

The Making

 

The process of making Kalamkari involves 23 steps. From natural process of bleaching the fabric, softening it, sun drying, preparing natural dyes, hand painting, to the processes of air drying and washing, the entire procedure is a process which requires precision and an eye for detailing.

 

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 odor 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.

 Kalamkari @Kasturi-B

 

Kalamkari in Fashion ~ 

The richness of the hand-woven Kalamkari fabric has drawn innumerable fashion designers to use this subtle colourful work to create new age contours and contemporary ethnic fashion. Fashion designers at Kasturi-B Design Store have been trying their hand at creating more day uses of Kalamkari without disturb the ethnicity of the Kalamkari craft. They are adding a touch of contemporary flavour in a proportionate ratio keeping its classic grandeur intact while stitching it according to the demands of the present times. From flared skirts to exquisite Kalamkari gowns, Kasturi-B' collection showcases glimpses of renaissance in the silhouettes and sartorial techniques.