of Kalamkari Paintings
literally means, Kalam - pen & kari - work, i.e.,
art work done using a pen.
Vegetable dyes are used to colour the designs
applied on cloth.
The art of painting using organic dyes on cloth
was popular in several parts of India, but this style
of Kalamkari flourished at Kalahasti (80 miles north
of Chennai) and at Masulipatnam (200 miles east of
The Kalamkari tradition chiefly consists of scenes
from Hindu mythology. Figures of deities with rich
border embellishments were created for the temples.
In Masulipatnam, the weavers were involved in
the block printing art, while at Kalahasti, the
Balojas (a caste involved in making bangles) took to
to Muslim rule in Golconda, the Masulipatnam Kalamkari
was influenced by Persian motifs & designs, widely
adapted to suit their taste.
The outlines and main features are done using
hand carved blocks.
The finer details are later done using the pen.
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.
Kalahasti tradition which developed in the temple
region mostly concentrated on themes form Hindu
mythology, epics (Ramayana, Mahabharatha), images of
Gods and heroes.
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.
dyes are obtained by extracting colours form parts of
plants - roots, leaves along with mineral salts of
iron, tin, copper, alum, etc., which are used as
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
independence of India, the Handicrafts Development
Board took up the task of reviving this art, which had
dwindled due to lack
specialty is that the finished products are mellow.
Bright colours are used but the finish is not
gaudy. The fabric looks better and better with further
washing, with the designs standing out even better
against the background.