Kalamkari - the textile art of pen
Kalamkari - the textile art of pen
Most of the Indian crafts evolve out of epics. They are labour-intensive and unique. Kalamkari is a craft prevalent in Andhra Pradesh. There are two styles of Kalamkari – Machlipaam and Srikalahasti.

Srikalahasti is more laborious as it needs to be entirely hand-drawn. Machlipatnam style uses wooden blocks and vegetable dyes to apply prints. literally means pen and Kari mean craftsmanship. Kalamkari uses themes from the Indian Hindu mythologies of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Storytellers who used to go from village to village used hand-drawn scrolls to tell stories. These later evolved into textiles of the common man. Later it was influenced by Mughal art. So do not be surprised when you find Persian elements in Kalamkari as even the name is adapted from Persian. The artform achieved peak status during Hyderabad’s Golconda dynasty.


Kalamkari uses cotton or silk as base fabrics. It has a lighter impact on ecology as it primarily uses vegetable dyes and printing inks. Dyes are extracted from seeds, flowers, jaggery, and iron. Almost 23 steps are involved in the making of Kalamkari. Fabrics are bleached using cow dung. The fabrics are even dipped in Buffalo milk to give colours higher fastening.

The motifs are filled with high intricacy. These can be on fabrics large as giant tapestries or small fabric squares. The outline is sketched with black colour or Kasami using a tamarind wooden pen. And colours are filled. They range from mustard, brick red to indigo.


Kalamkari fabrics now have a surge in popularity due to their unique designs. Many designers are using them to not only design traditional clothes like Sari, kurta and dupatta but also western wear. Kalamkari is also facing the threat of imitation from machine-made goods. Increased conscious buying abilities of India will help save this dying craft. People buying authentic Kalamkari should check for colouring patterns and non-uniformity of prints to see if it is authentic.


0 comment

Write the first comment for this!