The Forgotten Litany of Indian Handicrafts

India- The land of colors, mysterious mythological characters and the well seen four seasons is passing through a phase of evolution. Needless to say, like any other country, India’s path of progress had been full of diversions, adaptation and the learning yielded from that path of progress had took back a lot from us in turn.

Living in 2012, I am looking backward to those years when there were no nuclear reactors, malls and high fashion shops, modern grocery stores and the life was difficult in short. While men went to the fields to take care of recently sown fasal , women stayed at home with their MILs and SILs. They cooked, baby sit and took care of the home. In free time, they sew the clothes for their babies, made these beautiful artifacts and handicrafts and decorated their home with those miniature decorative pieces.

In this series, we bring you the stories of origin of the  art and craft that was there in old times in India and was forgotten over the course of time or has limited awareness presently.

Today, we’ll remember the art of Kantha  a beautiful form of embroidery, originated in undivided India, hundreds of years ago.

Kantha- The beautiful art which was considered to be ‘high-fashion’ in your great grand mother’s times is back in fashion now.

The origin of Kantha is unknown but my grand mother told me that her mother and mother in law did many Kantha projects in their free time, out of bordum and grand mother as a newly wedded kid, watched them working with mirrors, threads and pieces of clothes to form beautiful clothes. Kantha was a popular embroider stitch in undivided in India. Now it is native of Bangladesh and West Bengal in India.

Kantha is a running stitch that forms shapes and sometimes depicts a story with the help of colorful patterns made of running stitch using colorful threads.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Kantha Embroidery Shawls- Image courtesy: Wikipedia

According to Wikipedia,  Kantha is still the most popular form of embroidery practised by rural women. The traditional form of Kantha embroidery was done with soft dhotis and saris, with a simple running stitch along the edges. Depending on the use of the finished product they were known as Lepkantha or Sujni Kantha. The embroidered cloth has many uses including women’s shawls and covers for mirrors, boxes, and pillows. In the best examples, the entire cloth is covered with running stitches, employing beautiful motifs of flowers, animals birds and geometrical shapes, as well as themes from everyday activities. The stitching on the cloth gives it a slight wrinkled, wavy effect. Contemporary Kantha is applied to a wider range of garments such as sarees, dupatta, shirts for men and women, bedding and other furnishing fabrics, mostly using cotton and silk.

According to an online store Kantha  that believes in fair trade policy, Traditionally, kantha embroidery was often done on quilts. Completing one quilt could be a work of many years and generations, with a grandmother, mother and daughter embroidering it.



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