Kalamkari of Andhra Pradesh

by Shatika, January 22, 2016

Andhra Pradesh is famous for its art and craft and the handloom sector. The art of batik printing, using wax on fabric is much sought after but the Kalamkari craft is very special, we have a reverence for tradition. The wealthy Golconda sultanate, Hyderabad,  promoted this craft, which they had learned during their sojourns to Persia. In ancient times, groups of singers, musicians and painters, called Chitrakattis, moved from village to village, to tell the great stories of Hindu mythology. During the course of history, they illustrated their stories, using cloth, painted on the spot with rudimentary means, and dyes extracted from plants. And the first Kalamkari was born! Kalamkari depict  the episodes of Indian mythology – just like the stained glass of the cathedrals. For a while Kalamkari had a certain decline, then it was revived by the British,as they liked the craft and promoted its trade. It is still the mainstay of many a family.


Kalamkari or Qalamkari is a type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile, produced in Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh. It evolved under the patronage of the Mughals and the Golconda sultanate. The word is derived from the Persian words kalam (pen) and  kari (craftmanship), meaning drawing with a pen. There are two distinctive styles of kalamkari art in India. The ‘Srikalahasti’  style and the other, the Machalipatnam style of art. The drawing is done using a quill or a pen and printing is done on the fabric using vegetable dyes and  colours are filled in, entirely by hand.


This style or craft, has an religious identity – scrolls, temple hangings, chariot banners and the like depicted deities and scenes taken from great epics – Ramayana. Mahabharata and mythological classics.  The state is a patron of the arts and the weavers. The state has been a pioneer in metalware carpets, wood and stone carving, kalamkari, bidri and fascinating weaves from Pochampally, Gadwal, Venkatagiri, are famous not only in India but also abroad. Kalamkari is another gem from Andhra, which keeps us spellbound.




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