Kalamkari as an art form truly personifies that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Historically speaking kalamkari is a kind of textile art that centres around storytelling. Depicting the tales of Mahabharata and Ramayana, Kalamkari uses motifs of Gods and Goddesses along with earthy tones to portray a silent saga. Thus, clearly justifying that a picture is worth more than a thousand words.

What is Kalamkari Art?

Kalamkari is a sort of hand-painted or hand-block printed cotton textile. The term "kalamkari" refers to the historic method of hand painting with a pen and organic colours.  

Although art historians can’t pinpoint when and where Kalamkari art began, it can be guessed that Kalamkari started a hundred years ago in the modern-day region of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana 

Kalam means pen in the literal sense of the term, while Kari, which is derived from a Persian word, means craftsmanship. 

Flowers, peacocks, paisleys, and divine characters from the sacred texts of Ramayana and Mahabharata are just a few of the motifs depicted in the ancient Kalamkari art. Kalamkari art is also used to depict scenes from these sacred texts.

The early origins of Kalamkari art were portrayed in the form of religious tapestry as temple scrolls. Kalamkari art decorated the ceilings and corridors of the temples as mural paintings. 

Later on, the imagery transformed into storytelling by hand painting cloth. Back in the day, people also used to travel across villages and tell tales; some of them even illustrated those tales on canvases.

This is how the Kalamkari art form began. The main product of Kalamkari art is Kalamkari sarees. Kalamkari art gained popularity during the Mughal era. The intricate and elaborate paintings known as kalamkari produce stunning and refined patterns. The patterns and colours of kalamkari are extremely vivid and dazzling. 

After becoming well-known throughout the world, the artists updated Kalamkari patterns and developed fresh concepts and themes. 

These artisans developed creative concepts that were heavily influenced by Hindu mythology, Persian themes, and religious symbols, which gave Kalamkari designs their distinctive look. 

The majority of Kalamkari designs are created freehand with a pen, and the filling is likewise entirely done by hand. The typical hues used in Kalamkari art are earth tones like mustard, indigo, rust, and black.

Kalamkari Art: Styles and Techniques

Kalamkari art is divided into two styles- The Srikalahasti style and the Machilipatnam style. The Srikalahasti form of kalamkari is totally done by hand and employs the "kalam" or pen to draw the outline and then fill in the colors. 

The Srikalahasti style of Kalamkari art developed around temples, giving this style an almost sacred identity. Scrolls, temple hangings, chariot banners, and other items featured gods and scenes from well-known Hindu myths such as Ramayana and Mahabharata.

In Machilipatnam style, Kalamkari designs are generally printed with hand-carved blocks that are intricately detailed and printed by hand.

The process of Kalamkari art consists of 23 steps.
As a first step, the cloth must be stiffened by seeping it in astringent and buffalo milk. Soaking the fabric in buffalo milk also prevents the dye from smudging later on. This also gives the fabric a distinctive shine.

The cloth is then dried in the sun. Following this, the material is submerged in natural dyes. 

In Kalamkari art, natural dyes—extracted by combining jaggery, iron fillings, and water—are used to paint colors and draw outlines of desired figures. Alum is also used to cure the fabric and create natural colors for kalamkari textiles. 

The color stability of Kalamkari cloth is guaranteed by alum. Cow dung, seeds, crushed flowers, and many plant species are used to produce various effects on the Kalamkari fabric. For best results, the Kalamkari cloth must be colored after each and every dyeing procedure.

The material must next be covered with wax, with the exception of the areas that will be dyed blue, and submerged in indigo dye. The entire procedure is very technical and requires strong attention to detail.

In conclusion, It is incredible to see that the thousand-year-old Kalamkari Art still exists- in its unchanged beauty and simplicity. The craft has retained its historic identity and distinctive flavor while absorbing numerous modern-day influences. 

The historic designs and motifs of Kalamkari art speak in their own language, whether hand-painted or block-printed, and it is only through understanding this inner voice that the art's future can be ensured.

To learn more about such ancient art forms, or better yet to learn how to them yourself, REGISTER for a FREE class NOW!​