Indian Art: Kalamkari (South Indian Art)

Here is an update. Some of my dear blog readers requested me to elaborate more on different arts I publish under “Indian Art” series on my blog. So from now on posts on different art forms will cover every possible detail. Thanks to all my blog readers for their feedback and lovely comments. Today’s spotlight is on Kalamkari.

As the name suggests kalamkari is an art done on fabric mainly cotton & silk using a pen (kalam) and kari means craftsmanship. Kalamkari is an exquisite art of hand painted and hand printed fabric.

It evolved in two villages in Andhra Pradesh, Srikalahsti and Masulipatnam/MachilipatnamIn Masulipatnam, the weavers took to this art so they used block to print the fabric, while at Srikalalahasti, the Balojas (a caste involved in making bangles) took to this art and it is characterized by freehand drawing using the kalam
Kalamkari is a popular art form in the Mithila region of Bihar in India, where women in mostly rural areas paint mythological characters and depict stories in their paintings. These range from flowers, birds and animals to Indian god and goddesses, including Rama, Krishna as well as Buddha.

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Under the influence of Muslim ruler, the Masulipatnam Kalamkari was influenced by Persian motifs & designs,catering to the Islamic aesthetics widely adapted to suit their taste.It involves both printing and painting.This style is characterized by an intricate plethora of motifs and forms including the tree of life, creepers and animal figures. Use of flora and fauna were common in this style.

Masulipatnam Style
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Srikalahasti, on the other hand, owing to Hindu rulers, flourished under Hindu temple patronage, and exclusively drew inspiration from mythological figures. Characteristics of this style are excess use of colors like Green, Red, Black, Yellow and Blue, figures of God’s like Krishna, Brahma, Ganesha, Durga, Kiratavinyaarjuna, Lakshmi, Rama, Shiva and Parvathi, round faces, long and big eyes, stout figures, motifs with no shading.

Srikalahasti Style
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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 colors from parts of plants – roots, leaves along with mineral salts of iron, tin, copper, alum, etc., which are used as mordants.

The production process for both the styles of Kalamkari painting is similar to a large extent and is very time-consuming. The technique consists of a painstaking process of resist–dyeing and hand printing.  It involves 17 meticulous steps for the Srikalahasti style and 12 laborious steps for the Masulipatnam one.
The fabric is first treated in goat or cow dung to be whitened. Milk is mixed with the solution called Myrobalan to inhibit the color to spread to the next step. The iron acetate solution is filled in for solid spaces or as outlines using brush/kalam in Srikalahasti style and using a block in Masulipatnam style, and all the areas intended to be red are tinted or printed over with the alum solution as a mordant.
The cloth is kept in the same manner for a day and excessive alum is then washed off the cloth under flowing water.
After this, the areas on the cloth that are not meant to be blue are covered with wax and then the waxed cloth is immersed in the indigo solution. In Srikalahasti, the blue is painted with the kalam. The wax is then removed by boiling the cloth in water.
The yellow is dyed on to create the yellow and green motifs.Yellow and green colors are the last ones to be painted on the cloth. After each treatment, the fabric is washed. The piece of Kalamkari undergoes at least 15-20 washes before the final colors become apparent. A complex piece can take up to 9 months to be completed. 
The dyes are obtained by natural resources like extracting colors from parts of plants – roots, leaves along with mineral salts of iron, tin, copper, alum, etc., which are used as mordants.

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These days lots of variations can be seen in kalamkari. Artists are mixing this art to various other arts to form a masterpiece. 

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Though Kalamkari in its simplest version (i.e only outlined figure/motif on fabric) is a masterpiece.

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Stay connected with me on Instagram for more details on these beautiful art forms, some DIYs, home decor, gardening and lot more.
Leave your comment and let me know what do you think about this art and hope my blog readers will be satisfied with the more elaborated and detailed post on Indian Art.


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