Phulkari – A Rich Heritage of Punjab

Ih phulkari meri maan ne kadhi, iss noo ghut ghut japhiyan paawan
(“My dear mother has embroidered this phulkari with her hands, I embrace it again and again with affection) These are lines from a traditional Punjabi song in which a woman is admiring her Phulkari dupatta. The woman had to to leave her parent’s house after getting married, and now she remembers her mother who has embroidered this dupatta for her wedding day.

We were in Punjab recently and have collected some Phulkari treasure made by rural women of Punjab.

The fabric that we’ve featured here are hand embroidered by ladies in Punjab. The embroidery on these fabrics is known as ‘Phulkari’ or ‘Phoolkari’ (dev nagri फुलकारी ) which means the art of making flowers.

Although, Phulkari is done over a thick cotton fabric, we have used pure silk fabrics for these sample pieces.  Keep visiting to know more about this art and while we write another blog post on Phulkari, please enjoy a wikipedia article about this art here:


Heaven for Crafters and Art Lovers – Dakshinachitra

Dakshinachitra is one of those must see places that you can’t afford to miss if you are on a trip to South India. Situated in the town of Muttukadu, Dakshinchitra is about one hour drive from south of Chennai and about two hours drive from north of Pondicherry. Although there is nothing much to see and visit in Muttukadu but Dakshinchitra makes it special. If you plan your trip well, you can actually get a chance to participate in an interesting craft workshop or meet some great artists during your visit to Dakshinchitra.

In the month of August 2013, Vastra Utsav (textile festival) was organised by the friends of Dakshinchitra. Many artisans participated and sold their creations during this festival. The Vastra Utsav witnessed good gathering from Indian and international art lovers.


Performing arts – folk dances and musicals, puppetry Image

Virudhu 2013 – permormance by Lakshmanan Peruvannan


A closeup shot of the artist


Dance performance by the local tribes on the occasion of Onam (South Indian New Year) The festival Onam is celebrated to thank god for another year of good crops, happy life and good luck for everyone.


Puppetry workshop by Master Puppeteer – Bhaskar Kogga KamathImage

Puppetry workshop by Master Puppeteer – Bhaskar Kogga Kamath


Painting exhibitions are organised very often


An instructor at Sanjhi Paper art workshop at DakshinchitraImage

A peacock made using Sanjhi paper art

Visit Dakshinchitra website:

Image credits: Dakshinchitra facebook page

Maniharon ka Raasta : Jaipur, India

This article is a re-blog of post that appeared on

Maniharon ka Raasta

Who will buy these delicate, bright
Rainbow-tinted circles of light?
Lustrous tokens of radiant lives,
For happy daughters and happy wives.

These lyrics penned by the nightingale of India, Sarojini Naidu echo the sentiments that secretly unite womankind all over. What appears to the uninformed as an accessory that changes with changing trends, is actually a witness to a girl’s journey till she embraces womanhood. As a toddler her little wrists were adorned with gold and silver bangles, which over her growing years turned into charms and junk….and suddenly became auspicious companions when she stepped across the threshold into blissful matrimony as a young bride. The word bangle is derived from Hindi word ‘bungri’ meaning glass. Seashell, copper, bronze, gold, agate, chalcedony have been used to make bangles through centuries. But the art of making lac bangles at the ‘Maniharon ka Raasta’ in Jaipur is a peculiar flair, where through the length of the lane one can let his or her senses indulge in a visual canvas of colors and the music of jingling bangles, which punctuates the endless chatter of women who flood the many shops.

Lac bangle making is an art, as old as the establishment of Jaipur city. The king of Amer summoned the most initial craftsmen from the Manoharpur district of Uttar Pradesh. Once the capital city was instituted, these Manihar craftsmen also shifted their vocational base from Amer to Jaipur. The lane is dotted with countless bangle selling shops mostly managed by the muslim Manihari women while their men are away at the kilns and furnaces melting and preparing the raw-material.

The antiquity of this natural resin goes as back as the vedas, where the Laksha taru (or Palas) in Sanskrit, or the Lac tree has been mentioned. In the Atharva Veda, there is a small chapter devoted to the description of Lac insect, its habits and usefulness. The story of the notorious Lac palace built by the Kauravas in a plot to eliminate the Pandavas, in an episode from the 3000-year-old Mahabharata epic sheds more light on the history of this material.

Crimson red, plant sucking, tiny insects such as Laccifer lacca, Carteria lacca and Tachardia lacca colonize the branches of selected species of host trees and secrete a natural scarlet resin known as Lac. Later the different layers of resin residue on the coated branches of the host trees are scraped off as long sticks known as sticklac, crushed, sieved and washed several times to remove impurities till it shows up in natural red color. This Lac, acquired from Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh is further heated to settle down the impurities and get the best of it floating on the surface. To this molten Lac, which is originally brick red in color, the bangle makers further add wax (beroza) to increase the cohesiveness, titanium (Ghea pathar) to increase the volume and coloring agents. Generally the quantity of talc varies from 5% to 95% and is highly instrumental in determining the quality of the Lac bangles.

The process of obtaining Lac is carried out in large mud kilns. Semisolid Lac is placed on the hot metal plate coated with a layer of oil, which prevents it from sticking to the plate. This semisolid dough is then rolled into poles, and once dry these poles are sent away to the women who run the shops within the city. The ladies generally manage with a singular stove with a metal plate on top and simple hand made wooden batons and tweezers from within the shop. Roller pins are used to flatten the length of the solid poles and draw sheets out of the chunk. Slender strips are then creased and cropped out of the flat sheet of lacquer and rolled into a bangle like shape.

The dimensions of these bangles are adjusted by mild heating on the stove and gentle molding over wooden batons of varying diameters. The beauty of these bangles emerges from the fact that the manihari women create custom made accessories for their clientele by adjusting the bangle to the desired size and ornamenting them with the preferred beads, stones, crystals and other embellishments fancied by the she patrons visiting the store. It is interesting to observe the Lac bangles once broken, can easily be rejoined by mild heating and tender fabrication over the wooden mould. Since repeated heating eliminates moisture and makes lacquer brittle, the process of breaking and rejoining has a limit of 8 to 10 times only.

The Rajasthani rituals are known to require specific traditional ornamentations and different festivals seek different ensembles. Hence the sale of these bangles surges during local celebrations such as teej, the marwari festival of gangaur, karva chauth, holi, weddings and special ceremonies for the mothers-to-be. In fact, each celebration can be identified with a distinct style of bangle design. For instance, a wedding in the family calls for the “gulali choodha” or the red colored bangle or the “hare bandon ka choodha”, the green colored bangle. Pink colored bangles are worn exclusively during holi. Besides bangles, rings, toe rings (bichchua), anklets (payal), nose rings, neck pieces, Bala, Bajuband, Rakhi, Gajra, Gokhru, Timaniyan and ‘maathe ka tika’ make prized selections for the visiting female clientele.

Deforestation has immensely affected the Lac reserves of our country resulting in escalation of the raw material cost. But little do people realize this fact and continue to expect their lacquer ware at ancient prices. A mute witness to this change are the statistics which reveal that the number of furnaces for Lac processing have reduced to 200-250, from a staggering 1500 that existed twenty-five years ago. The odd circumstances have been an important reason for the craftsmen to shift to alternate vocations.

Otherwise a government schoolteacher, Takhyyoul Sultana, lets her warm and entertaining self out, as she welcomes the chattering overtones of myriad of women in her bangle mart. Here ladies from all walks of life spend endless hours choosing their preferred accessory from the plethora of options, discussing daily narratives over numerous cups of tea and eventually bonding over bangles. It is evident that from avenues like these, emerges a scent of social culture that quietly maneuvers along these busy lanes to get mixed with other local flavors only to get absorbed by our collective memory.

Originally appeared on: 

Block Print Fabrics – Kalamkari Cotton


Kalamkari is the earliest and one of the most complex techniques of fabric printing using vegetable dyes and minerals.

According to Wikipedia, Kalamkari or Qalamkari is a type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile, produced in parts of India. The word is derived from the Persian words kalam (pen) and kari (craftmanship), meaning drawing with a pen. The craft made at Pedana near by Machilipatnam in Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh, evolved with patronage of the Mughals and the Golconda sultanate. The art has certainly received centuries of appreciation and patronage from people around the world. According to some sources the name Kalamkari was most likely derived from the trade relationships between Persian and Indian merchants as early as 10th century CE.  Portuguese merchants called this kind of fabric printing “Pintado”. The Dutch called it “Sitz” and the British found it easy to call this textile printing technique “Chintz”. The name Kalamkari is however universally accepted and enjoyed by the fabric lovers since many decades.

Motifs and Inspiration-

Kalamkari in India is native of Sri Kalahasthi village in Andhra Pradesh, India.  Adopted by other Indian states such as Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan, motifs and techniques were evolved based on use and need.

Andhra Kalamkari Patterns-

Andhra Kalamkari takes its inspiration from the historical architecture such as temples, forts and palaces. The motifs include animals and birds like Lion, Peacock, Elephant and Indian gods and goddesses.

Hand painted Kalamkari - work in process

Hand painted Kalamkari – work in process
Image source:

Kalamkari - Motif outlining

Kalamkari – Motif outliningImage source:

Gujarat and Other Indian Kalamkari Patterns-

Gujarat Kalamkari motifs are inspired by the gods and goddesses such as – sri Jagannath, lord Krishna, and lord Ganesha , goddesses Saraswati, goddesses Laxmi and also the peacock and elephants. Modern motifs include floral patterns, tree of life, lord Buddha etc. Other detailed patterns include story telling via mythological characters such as Krishna- Arjun from Mahabharata; lord Vishnu and the Crocodile from Vishnusahastranam among other characters from Hindu mythology.


Krishna-Arjuna Samvaad – story telling from Mahabharata
Image source-

Tree of Life – Hand painted Kalamkari Motif from Gujarat, India Image source:

Tree of Life – Hand painted Kalamkari Motif from Gujarat, India
Image source:

Complex Techniques of Textile manufacturing-

Kalamkari printing includes multiple steps of dying the fabric with natural vegetable dyes. The fabric that is used to make Kalamkari patterns is 100% cotton and its preparation is fully organic. Usually cotton or pure silk fabric is a preferred choice for making Kalamkari patterns.

The organic cotton fabric commonly known as “Gadda” is treated in myrobalan.


  • The traditional method includes treating the fabric in cow dung and bleach. A solution is made using buffalo milk and cow dung and the fabric is dipped into this solution for long hours. The fabric is then stirred multiple times at regular intervals to give it a uniform color.
  • After treating the fabric for first time, the fabric is washed in the cement tanks or ponds in normal water.
  • The fabric is then treated in Myrobalan and water solution to remove the buffalo milk odor. This step can be skipped but it is preferred to treat the fabric in Myrobalan because the buffalo milk odor is hard to get rid of otherwise.
  • The fabric is again washed under running water – preferably in a pond or a river.
  • The fabric is again treated in boiling dye solution (preferably obtained from bark of trees)
  • Dip the fabric in alum water to fix the color.
  • Drying and ironing

Note- Please read our previous post on the preparation of vegetable dyes and colors:

Vegetable Dyes and Colors – Manufacturing Process and Use

Buy Indian Kalamkari prints – Organic cotton fabric on

Vegetable Dyes and Colors – Manufacturing Process and Use

In today’s world where we are struggling with issues like environmental pollution, fear of chemical hazards, threatening effects of global warming vegetable dyes and colors are gaining their popularity for they are pure and organic and they have absolutely no side effects on us or the environment.
Many people wonder why vegetable dyed fabrics and other items are more beautiful, popular and costlier than the regular products available in the market today.  The reason is that it takes long time and great effort to prepare vegetable dyes. All vegetable colors are made using minerals, leaves, flowers and bark of various trees. Most common among them are:
a solution of alum and tamarind seed powder is used to make red or rust color. Tamarind seed powder is boiled till it mixes well with the water and then it is left in the fiber or plastic vessles to cool down and come back to the normal temperature. The solution is then filtered using fine weave mulmul cloth (muslin) to avoide any particles and dust that may leave the color unusable. Less viscous solution is made to obtain deep red color while using the solution with high viscosity will give Rust color on the motif. If the printer has to make a very fine printing, he would prefer a rather thick solution as thin solution tend to drip and it may spoil the whole motif. Alum works as the color fixer for the solution.

Iron ore is used to make the black dye. The ore is powdered and boiled to make a solution. Process of cooling and filtering is involved while making all vegetable dyes. When the dye is ready, it is directly  applied onto the pattern using a pen or a wooden block.


Natural Indigo crystals are powdered and boiled to make a solution. The outcome of the color totally depends on the amount of the Indigo use while making the solution. It also depends on the viscocity of the solution. If one is making mauve color, one should use Indigo in lesser amount. ProfessionalDye makers weigh their contents before making the dye. It helps them obtaining exactly same color as they used for printing last time.

Turmeric and Harad is used to make Yellow, Mustard, Lemon Yellow and other tints and shades of Yellow. In olden days, safron was used to make yellow and Orange colors, now a days due to limited availability and high price, dyers prefer turmeric over the safron.
Orange / Red  

Flower from the tree of Palash (scientific name Butea monosperma) is used to make vegetable dye color. In India, Palash flower is also used for making colors for playing Holi (a festival in north India).

The Process
Obtaining colors from flowers is a long and tiring process. It takes from days to weeks to prepare good color in significant amount. To make dyes from flowers, the flowers are picked and petals are separated from rest of the flower, now the petals are left in hot (read warm) water(not boiling).
Flower petals are soaked in a bucket full of water before making color

Flower petals are soaked in a bucket full of water before making color

The petals then start releasing the color and you can say so when you see the color of the water in the bucket changing.This is the right time to take the petals out for grinding.

Selective collection of flower petals for making vegetable color

Selective collection of flower petals for making vegetable color

Wet petals are finely ground and left in the shade for drying. This ground paste is not kept directly under the sun as harsh sun can take away the color of the paste leaving the useless, colorless chips of the dried paste behind.When the paste is dried, another round grinding is required.

The wet petals are then crushed finely and dried under shade before following another round of grinding

The wet petals are then crushed finely and dried under shade before following another round of grinding

The powder is then filtered using a fine muslin cloth. It gives the finest powder color. Rest of the powder which still has big and small pieces in it, is grounded until it turns into fine powder. Now the powder color is ready, it is used as a solution with alum for printing fabrics, as and when required.

Vegetable Colors Holi

Kids in an Indian NGO “KarmMarg” are preparing vegetable colors for playing Holi

Which flower is used to obtain what color – 

– Red Rose for Red, Pink Fuchsia and magenta
– Palaash for Red, Orange, Yellow
– Hibiscus for Red, Rust
– Bark of Hibiscus tree for Brown, Beige and Rust
– Lavender and Indigo for Blue, Mauve, Purple and Indigo
…and many other colors are made using different combinations!
Image credits – Delhi based NGO KarmMarg

New in DesiCrafts Shop – Silk Pillow Covers

Silk Pillow Cover

Handmade pillow covers available for order in any size and design. Please e-mail us at

Silk Pillow Cover

Handmade pillow covers available for order in any size and design. Please e-mail us at

Handmade pillow covers available for order in any size and design. Please e-mail us at

Handmade pillow covers available for order in any size and design. Please e-mail us at

Handmade pillow covers available for order in any size and design. Please e-mail us at

Handmade pillow covers available for order in any size and design. Please e-mail us at

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