Kalamkari- Painting with pen

Meaning of ‘Kalamkari’


The word ‘Kalamkari’, which comes from the Persian language, consists of two distinct words, ‘kalam’, and ‘kari’. ‘Kalam’ is ‘pen’ and ‘kari’ denotes ‘work’; in essence, the word meaning comes as ‘a drawing that is done using a pen’. The pen that is used for doing this art work is a shaped bamboo stick.





This is a South Indian art form; it was in Machilipatnam (which is in the district of Krishna, Andhra Pradesh). It is generally considered that the Mughals greatly supported this particular art, which got originated in the 17th century. This was particularly true in Coromandel and Golconda areas. However, it must be also pointed out that, even the British rulers who came later into India supported this magnificent art form, simply because of its highly decorative nature.




Kalamkari – The Technique

The creation of this art form involves several processes. Initially, the material used is dipped in a mixture of milk taken from either buffalo or cow, and myrobalan (a typical resin). This will hold the deepness of the used colors as such and will give the cloth an exclusive smoothness. After this process, the material is washed thoroughly in running water so that the smell of milk is removed. Subsequently, the designing work is done using blocks, or the motifs are drawn with the help of a specially prepared bamboo stick, which is dipped in the fermented jaggery solution. Afterwards, vegetable dyes are applied. After the completion of coloring works, the material is washed carefully. The use of ‘alum’ makes sure of the quality and strength of the colors used. Until now, only naturally available elements are used to create this decorating art method; this is in fact, a traditional approach. Generally, the colors used are green, yellow, black, blue, and red. The dyeing process of the cloth is done by using the myrobalan nut powder. For creating a typical blue color, indigo plant extract is used, and for phasing in an alluring yellowish color, the root of Madder plant is used; dried Myrobalan flowers are also used for creating yellow. For creating red shades, alum (potassium) is used.




Kalamkari – Distinguishing Traits


In general, cotton materials are used to perform Kalamkari. Because of the application of deep colors, the overall appearance will be very much smooth and alluring. Usually, the designs used will be the characters or scenes taken from the popular Hindu epics. You can also see Kalamkari work having the motifs of numerous types of flora and fauna.


Kalamkari Types


Machilipatnam style: Here, the designing work is carried out by using conventional types of printing blocks that are carved by hand.




Karrupur Style: It was while the Marathas ruled the Thanjavur area, this particular method originated. The peculiarity of this work is that, there will be golden brocade work in the border. In the bygone days, Karrupur style was largely used by the royal people to bring in more beauty to sarees as well as dhotis.


Srikalahasti style: This style is specially noted for the created designs; usually, the motifs include Hindu deities, and the other mythological characters or incidences.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published