Kalamkari is a type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile, produced in Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Only natural dyes are used in Kalamkari, and it involves twenty three steps.
Kalamkari Art : An Introduction :
The term Kalamkari literally means ‘work done with a pen.’ The term is now distinctly attached to the painted and block-printed cotton and silk textiles, produced in the Coromandel Coast (parts of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu) of India.
Today, two of the most prominent centres of Kalamkari production are Srikalahasti (Chittoor District) and Machilipatnam (Krishna District) in Andhra Pradesh. While in Srikalahasti, the textiles are literally painted with pens made out of bamboo and cotton, in Machilipatnam, the line drawing done with a pen is transferred onto wooden blocks which are carved and then used to print fabric.
In Machilipatnam, the production is carried out in commercial workshops, where the block makers, washers and printers work under the same roof. In Srikalahasti, the textiles are produced by small family units where the members work together.
History and Development
Srikalahasti is one of the most important pilgrim centres for Hindus because of presence of the Srikalahastisvara temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Historically, textiles from Srikalahasti were essentially used as canopies and hangings that acted as backdrops to the images of the deities at the temple. The themes of these paintings are derived from Hindu religion, and also from nature like bird, tree etc
The textiles produced in Machilipatnam were meant for personal clothings, prayer mats, bedspreads, tapestries and hangings. The fast printing techniques used to produce these textiles helped in mass production. The motifs from Machilipatnam are often cross-cultural and combine local motifs with those derived from Persia and Europe.
Importance of the region
The geography and social structure of an area play an important role in the nature of its art-forms. The availability of materials, local availability of skilled artisans, and a consistent clientele are all important factors. The fact that there was ample production of cotton fabric in southern India, ensured the supply of the raw materials to both Srikalahasti and Machilipatnam.
Andhra Pradesh, along with neighbouring states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is well known for the production of quality cotton even today. The other materials needed like natural colours and different kinds of wood (for the blocks and pens) were all locally available easily.
One very important requirement for the craft is running water, as the process involves plenty of water. River Swarnamukhi, in Srikalahasti generously takes care of this requirement, whereas in Machilipatnam, the canal emptying into the Bay of Bengal acts as the source of water.
Often the inspiration for various art-forms is deeply rooted in their immediate surroundings. The textiles traditions of Srikalahasti and the temple murals from the Vijayanagara period are very similar. The murals at Srikalahasti are very detailed and have been made with bold black lines, and this clearly reflects in the Kalamkari art of Srikalahasti.