Kantha embroidery is an indigenous household craft that is also considered a form of art, due to the uniqueness of individual creations, its ability to convey a story and its use as a form of personal and artistic expression. This embroidery style has gained some major traction in recent times and is endorsed by designers across the world. Let’s get right into the top 15 facts about this famous art.
Fact 1: West Bengal is the home of Kantha Embroidery
Kantha embroidery, indigenous to West Bengal, continues to be the dominant textile art and craft of the state. Expert artisans of the art of Kantha embroidery are predominantly female as it originated as a household craft amongst rural families, with techniques passed down from mother to daughter. It is very popular with tourists visiting the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent.
Today, the districts of Burdwan, Hooghly, Murshidabad and North and South 24 Parganas remain the key locations in West Bengal where Kantha embroidery is still practised amongst millions of rural women in their homes. However, the art is particularly prominent in Bolpur-Shantiniketan or, simply, Bolpur, located in the Birbhum district.
Fact 2: The style of Kantha embroidery is more than 500 years old.
Kantha is perhaps the oldest form of Indian embroidery as it can be traced back to the first and second A.D. The thought behind this needlework was to reuse old clothes and materials and turn them into something new. Kantha work is approximately 500 years old, and there is a myth surrounding it which points out that Lord Buddha and his disciples used old rags with different kinds of patchwork to cover themselves with at night, and this gave the Kantha embroidery its origin.
Fact 3: The woman behind the rise: Shamlu Dudeja
Shamlu Dudeja is a multi-faceted personality. A Maths teacher and author of books, a revivalist, a revolutionary in the field of ‘good for others’. She credits her talents to her parents. The literal face behind the revival of this skill and technique, she is a revolutionary and teacher, and more importantly the one who realized the importance of this craftwork.
Fact 4: Momentous rise in popularity
Traditionally this embroidery was used for quilts, dhotis and sarees, but over a period it has evolved and made its way right into the heart of Indian fashion. The yarn is taken from old saree borders; the design is then traced and finally covered `with running stitches.
Fact 5: Varied Costs but low maintenance
This embroidery is mostly done in rular West Bengal. Kanta Embroidery can increase the cost of fabrics to anywhere from Rs. 900 to even Rs. 5000. This is because of the limited supply of authentic artisans. However, these sarees are average in durability and superb in looks.
Fact 6: Motifs and more
Kantha’s work involves complex artistic work done by the weavers with the blend of exquisite embroidery in ornamental running stitch. The traditional work on the Kantha saris in the form of floral motifs, animals and bird figures and geometric shapes looks amazingly fabulous.
Much like other age-old Indian arts and crafts, motifs found in Kantha communicate the identities of its wearers in terms of village and status. Motifs in early Kantha embroidery were drawn from primitive art, such as illustrations of the sun.
Fact 7: A green origin
Kantha embroidery began as a means of recycling old or unused cloths and garments, such as sarees and dhotis, to create items for household use, such as quilts and plate covers. ‘Kantha’ means ‘rags’ in Sanskrit, which reflects the fact that Kantha embroidery is made up of discarded garments or cloths.
Fact 8: The color pallet tells a story
As threads used in Kantha were traditionally taken from old sarees and dhotis and the colours found in Kantha embroidery are colours commonly seen in everyday life in India – red, yellow, green, blue and black. As dyes were traditionally made of natural substances, these were traditionally used in a wide range of Indian arts and crafts. In contemporary Kantha, an off-white base fabric is usually used to allow the embroidered colours of the threads to catch the eye.
Fact 9: A long process, it is.
The process begins with elaborate designs and intricate motifs sketched on tracing paper before being transferred onto the base fabric. As artisans take a complex approach to kantha stitching to create the intricate motifs of Kantha embroidery, the designs may be coloured in as a guide before being worked on with needles and threads.
Fact 10: Fakes Galore!
Kantha Embroidery rose in prominence from the depts of obscurity. This meant that the production capacities for this were limited, resulting in a large number of fakes. We suggest you buy your Kantha Embroidery from trusted sources.
All these facts might have put you into the mood to get yourself an exclusive Kantha Saree, check out the same below: