Kalamkari Paintings: Examples and History of the Indian Art Form

by interior designer

in Decorative Art

Kalamkari painting is the Indian art of dying cotton and silk with a kalam or bamboo pen. There are numerous forms and styles of this type of painting throughout the Indian subcontinent. The words ‘Kalam’ (pen) and ‘Kari’ (work) were the Hindu and Urdu origins of the word Kalamkari which were merged together. European trading merchants however gave the process their own names which included the more familiar ‘chintz’ which came from the British. The Dutch called it ‘sitz’ whilst the Portuguese referred to it as ‘pintado’.

kalamkari-painting-indiaThe Kalamkari paitings known today are made using organic dye stuffs which are either hand block printed or hand painted onto the fabric base. This art form was used originally for decorative hangings in both formal and domestic interiors. Some were purely aesthetic while others were used as robes, wrappings and as part of ceremonial costumes.

The artists who worked on the Kalamkari painting scrolls were known as Jadupatuas or Duari Patuas. This can be translated to ‘magical painters’. Most of the scrolls portrayed the rewards and punishments bestowed upon the recently departed souls by the God of Death, Yama. As with many artisans during the 10th Century in the north eastern region of Santal Parganas in India, a lot of the artists used to travel from village to village and from town to town selling their wares and giving performances of their craft.

kalamkari-painting-on-fabricThere is a long history of this form of fabric painting which is extremely fascinating that can be found here: The History of Kalamkari Painting.

These types of cloth paintings can make wonderful wall hangings in almost any type of interior space. If you have an ethic bedroom then these will adorn the walls and add an additional accent to the foreign ambiance. A studio or study, especially for a scholar in the eastern practices, will appreciate the painting’s significance and history. They’d also be very good for schools and can be hung on the walls of the classroom in the history or religious departments.

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