Kindred with the past, the past beckons. Kalahasti near Chennai and Masulipatnam near Hyderabad were the main centres of this delightful art. The artists used a bamboo or date palm cut into thin strips and they were sharpened at one end. Cloth or fine hair was stuck at one end to work either as a brush or pen. Even then people shied away from chemicals and they used what was available in nature. Nature provides abundantly to the one who wants! Copper, roots, leaves, fruits, pomegranate or myrobalan were used to give beautiful tints to their work. The colours used were mellow and very pleasant to the eye. The kalamkari work is the testament, that art was a very important part of their lives. Perfection was even then, a sought after virtue.
Kalam (Pen) and Workmanship
The influence of the Golconda rulers, is evident in the designs at Masulipatnam, as they have a lot of Persian motifs and the outlines are chiselled by the printing of the blocks and the colours were drawn with the pen. Blocks were hand carved and this is also an art which is still in use. In fact, it is considered very ethnic and above all Indian. Our Bagru sarees are a rage and very much in demand. When we were dominated by the English, these artists even made paintings of florals and of British officers at tea! The artists represent the times they live in. Their paintings are like stamps. With which we could go through the passage of time. Sometimes with a deep sigh but always with pride for the kalamkari artists.
The Kalamkari tradition of painting had a repertoire of scenes from Hindu mythology. Figures of deities rich and reverently made of gold and silver. Gods, Heroes were painted to immortalise them to create history through their craft. In Masulipatnam, the weavers were involved in the block printing art, while balojas a creative caste took to this art form at Kalahasti. Hindu mythology was a favourite subject. Karrupur was a style taken by the Marathas. Developed from the ethos of Kalamkari but the embellishments were of gold, silver or brocade. The Thanjavur region during the reign of Shivaji boasted of this kind of reverence to the Gods and Goddesses in their paintings.
The art has withstood time and we at Shatika, showcase our kalamkari silk sarees in their re-invented style. The artists have travelled a long journey from painting portraits of English officers to the creating scenes of nature, Ramayana, Mahabharata or even mundane things because now they paint what they desire and the sky is the limit.