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Type : Craft Of Painted & Printed Fabrics
Main Centres : Machilipatnam And Kalahasti In Andhra Pradesh
Typical Items : Clothing & Wall Decorations
Colours : Only Four Colours Are Used, Red, Yellow, Green & Blue

Kalamkari is the art of painting and printing fabrics. Kalam is a Persian word meaning pen and kari means work. The kalam is dipped in the ink and the wool fabric is pressed while applying the paint on the fabric.The craft has now been in existence for a thousand years, but gained the height of it's popularity during the fifteenth century.

The discover of a resist-dyed piece of cloth on a silver vase at the ancient site of Harappa confirms that the tradition of Kalamkari is very old. Even the ancient Buddhist Chaitya Viharas were decorated with Kalamkari cloth. The great Alexander is also supposed to have acquired this Kalamkari cloth. The Kalamkari tradition chiefly consists of scenes from Hindu mythology. Figures of deities with rich border embellishments were created for the temples.

Today the two main centres of Kalamkari production are Machilipatnam and Srikalahasti in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The work from these two places is different from each other.

The Machilipatnam work is a combination of painting and printing. Outlines are printed with beautifully carved blocks, while the interiors are filled in with the vegetable dyes using the 'kalam'. The Machilipatnam school chiefly produces large pieces of textiles used for sarees and linen.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 Srikalahasti style, on the other hand involves free hand drawing. The application of colors is done with a brush from start to finish. The style is noted for its wall panels depicting mythological tales. The Kalahasti tradition which developed in the temple region mostly concentrated on themes form Hindu mythology, epics (Ramayana, Mahabharatha), images of Gods and heroes.

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. Today the All India handicrafts board has set-up a training course and school for kalamkari workers, drawing on the skills and creative urges of the few remaining workers.

The Method of Kalamkari :
Originally, only vegetable dyes were used for colouring the fabric. The designs are outlined with a cotton tipped bamboo stick and dyed in vegetable and mineral colors - black from jaggery, rose from madder, yellow from the dried myrobalan fruit and blue from indigo. Each design can take several days to complete, as the process of dyeing is very elaborate. While smaller pieces are hand-drawn, large canvasses and sheets are block printed. The products include a whole range of bed linen, curtains, sarees, wall hangings etc.

Shops for Kalamkari :
Central Cottage Industries Emporium :
94, Minerva Complex, S.D. Road, Sec'bad 500 003

Crafts Museum Calcutta Emporium :
Behind Lepakshi, Gunfoundry, Hyderabad 500 001

Kalanjali Arts & Crafts :
5-10-194, Hill Fort Road, Saifabad, HYD 500 004

Sheela's :
Indian Handicrafts Specialists 17, Lal Bahadur Stadium, HYD 500 001

Antiquity : 37, Santoshima Colony, West Marredpally, Sec'bad 500 026

Lepakshi Handicrafts Emporium : 94, Minerva Complex, S.D.Road, Sec'bad 500 003

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