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Kalamkari Painting

Updated: Feb 4, 2022

India is one of the most diverse nations in the world has its roots deep-seated in the glory of its cultural heritage. They are not just a form of art or a source of earning but also a matter of pride to its natives who have been enriching its essence throughout. The cultural diversity and the social lifestyle of people are well reflected in the art forms and have carried forward the ethnicity.

Kalamkari, one of the traditional folk art forms of India originating from the state of Andhra Pradesh is a style of hand-painting or block-printing usually done on cotton or silk fabric using the bark of tamarind and natural dyes. The work 'Kalamkari' is derived from the word 'Kalam' which means pen and 'Kari' which means craftsmanship. It was originally called Vrathapani but eventually given the name since it was done using 'Kalam', a pen. It is also known as Pattachitra which is still found in the state of Odisha. Pattachitra roughly translated to picture on clot

Kalamkari has two distinctive styles- Srikalahasti and Machillipatnam.

  • Srikalahasti originated from the Srikalahasti in Chittor district which is entirely hand-painted. This style is predominantly evident in depicting religious stories on fabric.

  • Machillipatnam, also known as Pedana Kalamkari, is a native art style of Machillipatnam in the Krishna district. It involves vegetable-dyed block painting on fabric.

Earlier, artists used to go around places educating people about Hindu Mythology. They began depicting stories through paintings on the canvas which led to the emergence of Kalamkari folk art. Kalamkari art is mostly seen on the walls of temples portraying the scenes from Mahabharata and Ramayana. In recent times, the lost art of Kalamkari is given recognition by the fashion industry making the printed outfits a vogue.

Kalamkari art was at its peak during the sultanate period in the Golkonda region. The artisans were called as 'qualamkars'. After the Mughals, it lost its importance with time. But, due to the efforts of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, the 1st chairman of All Indian Handicraft Board, it was popularized again.

Kalamkari art involves a tedious and complicated 23 step process. Firstly, the cloth is dipped into a mixture of cow dung and bleach, giving a uniform color to the cloth. After being washed with normal water, it is soaked in buffalo milk with myrobalan flowers which helps in retaining the colors and prevents smudging. Myrobalan flowers help in preventing the little weird smell from the cloth due to buffalo milk. The process is repeated twice and then the cloth is set to dry under the sun. Outlines are drawn with tamarind bark and made bolder by using a solution of iron fillings and Jaggery. The uniqueness of this style lies in the use of only natural colors. Pomegranate flowers impart yellow color and manjistha or Maddy is used for red color. Alum is then used to avoid the fading of colors. It is then washed under the flowing water and dried. After drying, the cloth is again boiled in large vessels and left to dry. This intricate method requires a lot of skill and effort. Even today, Kalamkari art is a source of livelihood for some of the families in Andhra Pradesh. Due to the trend turning towards ready-made clothes, Kalamkari fabric has lost its charm lately.

However, the long-winded efforts of Jonnalagadda Guruappa Chetty have still kept this quintessential art form alive. He is renowned for his outstanding work of 'Mahabharata' and 'Ramayana' which is exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He always wanted to train his daughter in Kalamkari art and thus became the first artist to hold workshops for women. Later, his son J. Niranjan carried took this art a step forward. Guruappa has been awarded Presidential Award for Craftsmanship in 1976. In 2008, he was honored with the fourth highest civilian award of the Republic of India, Padmashree in recognition of his contribution to Kalamkari art.

Here"s the link to the video if you too want to try out and miss our Indian culture, Go check it out, guys!!!!-

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