The genius of kalamkari shawls
“Simplicity is the glory of expression”
The best thing about arts in India is how they all are interwoven and omnipresent through regions, times and cultures. The same element of art when placed in different ages and regions of the country translate into different stories that are woven through artisans through their own versions. The diversity gives flavor and uniqueness to each form of art.
Kalamkari is one the most traditional art forms of India known for its extraordinary exquisite hand painting on the fabric. Kalamkari is an amalgamation of two words “kalam” means pen or brush and “kari” which means work. Together they form “kalamkari” which means work of pen/brush. The pens used in kalamkari art are specially crafted from the bamboo tree. The specialty of Kalamkari is that the artists only use natural dyes. There is a total of 23 steps in the process of hand painting the textile. Once the textile is ready after the weaving process, the fabric is mixed in a blend of milk and natural dyes. After that, with the help of special pens, the design is crafted on the fabric. The outcome of the kalamkari is very complicated with precise details.
The colorful art of Kalamkari dates back to 3000 B.C. Historians also say the art form has bee found in archeological digs on the sites of Mohenjodaro. In Andhra Pradesh, there are two distinctive styles of kalamkari – Srikalahasti style and the Machilipatnam style. The Machilipatam style involves block painting on the fabric whereas Srikalahasti style is a detailed pen work which involves filing in and designing through the special “kalam”. After that, kalamkari saw its peak during the Mughal period and during the time of Golconda Nizams, involving both hand and block painting.
In the 17th century there was a lot of demand for the kalamkari from the international market from countries like Iran, Siam, Burma, Maldives and Europe. There was dip in international trade in between these years. But within British rule, the demand rose up. However soon after that the government and NGOs with other various companies came up with plans to enhance and preserve the art. This art is bread-earner for so many families in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. With all the challenges and problem these artisans face, government should step in between and uplift the art.
The unique feature of kalamkari is it’s color patterns which revolve around different themes. Most of the themes followed in kalamkari are religion centric. They mainly exhibit the magnificent painting of famous deities, famous mythological symbols, and signage with picturesque scenes from classics like Ramayana, Mahabharat and other classics. Kalamkari stands the representation of natural color which is extracted from different parts of plants, like the color from the flowers, roots, and bark. There has been a strict prohibition for the use of synthetic dyes in kalamkari.
The painting of the kalamkari enhances the panorama of the viewer. The color used in printing makes the fabric outshine and enhances the detailed artwork thousand times. The use of bright colors is a major distinctive feature. The major colors used are red, yellow, green, blue and black. While the artists are updating in the digital age, the use of pigmented dyes is the new famous thing. Now minerals are used as mordant, mainly mineral salt of iron, tin, copper, alum is consumed. With a turn over from traditional to digital the art fitted in like a glove.
Kalamkari shawls came in the picture, in the late 18th century. The origin of these beautiful pieces came from northern states. Before that the work wasn’t printed on Kashmiri shawls. The blend of artwork and fabric was a success within both the Indian and International markets. Today the traditional patterns of printing are still alive in the exclusive original collection at Ahujasons. There is a perfect blend of beautiful printing and rich fabric that outshines every other piece.
India has the diversity of so many different arts in every nook-and-corner. Heart lies in the artisans who are still keeping the old art forms alive and matching well digitalization. Kalamkari is also one such close-knitted work which needs to be kept alive to maintain the heritage of the country. Ahujasons always stays connected to the community and acknowledge the hard work of the craftsmen.
Ahujasons is one of the few producers of exclusive and beautiful pieces of Kalamkari shawls. that has a spectacular color range and delicate weaves. Check out our collection on our website to make a heritage purchase!