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Secrets of Kalamkari Revealed

The most unique characteristic of Kalamkari are the vibrant colours used. The number of colours are limited, though they come in various shades and sporadic styles. Bright hues like reds, blues, green, orange, violet and yellows are very common and are used in varying tones, along with black outlines.

A horse chariot in Kalamkari  Painting of floral motifs
L: A horse chariot in Kalamkari
R: Painting of floral motifs

These colours are natural, obtained from vegetable dyes, making the technique of Kalamkari a very eco-friendly one. These colours reflect the soft and warm ambience of temple interiors.

Kalamkari vegetative motifs
Kalamkari vegetative motifs

The motifs on individual Kalamkari works depend on the style predominant in the region in which they are manufactured. Masulipatnam Kalamkari, Shri Kalahasti style and Karrupur style are the main sub-heads under which Kalamkari works fall.

Tonal variations in a single colour
Tonal variations in a single colour

Masulipatnam Kalamkari is largely comprised of Persian motifs combined with traditional Hindu sensibilities. Hand carved blocks are put to use while making the outlines and main features of the figurines. The intricate details in the pattern are later filled in using the Kalamkari pen.

Blocks for bigger Kalamkari prints
Blocks for bigger Kalamkari prints

The Kalabasti style evolved around temples, making this style religiously significant. The stories of the great Hindu epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata and the idols of several deities are the main motifs found on these Kalamkari works.

The third style, the Karrupur style, developed in the Thanjavur region of Maharashtra, under the rule of the Marathas. This opulent style integrated the use of gold brocade into the weaves of the fabric. It found its patrons in the Maratha royal family during the reign of Raja Sarfoji and Raja Shivaji. Sarees and dhotis with such intricate Kalamkari work are appreciated to the present day.

Shrikalahasti is the term used to indicate the forms of Kalamkari that are affiliated to the Hindu temples. Kalamkari has long served as a temple tapestry in the temple town of Shrikalahasti. Because these artworks have to be prepared manually with the use of kalams, repeated patterns are unlikely and originality takes the centre-stage here.

Various Gods and Goddesses
Various Gods and Goddesses

Mughal Indian designs, floral and animal designs, the tree of life, animal and bird figures and flowers and trees, especially the cypress are common depictions in any kalamkari work.

 

Images: Tadpolestore, Okvia, Exotic India art, Andhra Kalamkari, Gopixpic, Indian Heritage