The word Kalamkari is derived from a Persian word where ‘kalam‘ means pen and ‘kari‘ refers to craftsmanship, and there could not have been a more apt name for the art form. Kalamkari consists of hand-painted or hand-blocked motifs that include peacocks, flowers, village life motifs, geometry etc. The birth of Kalamkari is tracked back to the ancient times when people in all their galore and creativity gathered around and unfolded dramatic stories of mythology and folklore, often enriching the experience with dances, songs, and drawings to illustrate the genius of unboxed priceless thoughts. These drawings were known as Kalamkari Art. It was not long before the art form was seen on clothing, painting, bedsheets, flaunted by both men and women.
This intricate craft involves 23 steps to create the final blissful product. These steps include dyeing, bleaching, hand painting, block-printing, starching, cleaning and more. Broadly speaking, the processes include the fabric being treated with cow dung and bleach to give it an off white color. It is then immersed in buffalo milk to avoid the smudging of the different colored natural dyes. Then the odor is removed from the clothing by being washed and dried under the sun.
The painting is done on cotton or silk fabric with a tamarind twig pen, and natural dyes are used in the process. The final cloth is vibrant and colorful, with shades of mustard, black, indigo, rust, and green. These dyes are not made using any chemicals, being derived naturally. For example, indigo is extracted from the flower indigo and black is made using iron filings, jaggery, and water.
This colorful art with stories to tell dates back to more than 3000 B.C. According to historians, Kalamkari art was found at the archeological sites of Mohenjo-Daro.
The craft got recognition in the Mughal era and was promoted by strongly by the Mughals, who are known to have a tasteful eye. The skilled artisans were called Qalamkars. It was extremely famous in Andhra Pradesh where it served as a major source of livelihood. It was awarded the decorative design on clothing by Britishers in India in the 18th century. Even today, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat are the leading producers of Kalamkari.
Sadly, it is true that machine-made clothes have tried to reduce our exceptionally skilled artisans to redundancy. However, beauty and art are two things that are always appreciated. The fashion industry has seen many Kalamkari prints on the runway, that leave behind their mark and a series of astounded faces, much after the walk has come to an end. This, combined with companies like Tjori.com, working towards keeping the art alive and the skilled artisans employed, is enough effort towards an already powerful and mesmerizing fabric.
Tjori’s Kalamkari collection is definitely one that we boast off. It houses palazzos, sarees, belts, tops, kurtas, footwear, skirts, bags, blouses, overlays, slips, earrings, capes, dresses, and lamps that are sure to ignite our hearts with love, awe, and appreciation.