Kantha – A West Bengal Embroidery Art With a Global Appeal

Kimberly R. Cammack

Kantha – A West Bengal Art Form

The East Indian state of West Bengal is known for its rich culture and a varied plethora of folk art. Kantha, a running embroidery style is one of the most popular Indian folk art forms. The rural women of West Bengal hugely practice it to make Kantha saris among several other items of daily use and decor. This domestic art form has now achieved a special place in the field of art and craft.

The Origin of Kantha

Kantha proudly boasts of centuries old origin. Kantha earned mention in a book called Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita by Krishnadas Kaviraj. The book ages back to over five hundred years. Over time, this art form has evolved to strengthen its place in the lives of Bengalis and spread its appeal globally.

The Hub of Kantha

This innate craft is widely practiced in Bolpur and Shantiniketan situated 180 kilometers north of the capital of West Bengal, Kolkata. Kantha has slowly become a robust medium of earning for the natives of this region.

The Theme of Kantha

Kantha is a signature art form of West Bengal. Kantha embroidery is a work of a woman’s imagination and may sometimes even portray some of the rare moments of her life. Floral designs, birds, animals, scenes from daily life & occasional events, and geometrical patterns are the commonest themes.

Kantha Basics

Kantha requires just two raw materials a cotton or silk cloth and colorful threads. Traditionally, red, blue, and black embroidery was done on white background. Gradually, other colors like yellow and green also found place. Simple in design & theme, this traditional art form is mostly done on regular or old clothes, especially old saris & dhotis. Closely knitted, simple colorful stitches create several beautiful Kantha patterns and themes. The stitches impart a wrinkled finish to the cloth. The stitch would run along the border of the cloth.

Types of Kantha

Archilata, Nakshi, Durjani, Sujani, Oaar, and Rumal are some forms of Kantha widely popular in Bengal and different other parts of the world. Of these, Nakshi Kantha has gained significant fame.

Kantha Handicrafts

Kantha embroidery is used on the different items of daily use. Since the 19th century, Kantha has been widely used to prepare light blankets, bed covers, cushion covers, quilts, and bedspreads for the newborns. Today, Kantha has evolved into a major fashion statement. The demand of Kantha stitched saris & dupattas men’s kurtas is skyrocketing, globally.

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