Introduction to Kantha Art:
An artwork that started as a means of recycling old or unused garments like sarees and dhotis into quilts and plate covers, Kantha embroidery is one of the oldest and most popular forms of Indian embroidery.
Origin of the Art:
Practiced by rural women of West Bengal and Odisha, Kantha embroidery is a tradition passed down from mother to daughter. As per tradition, these rural women do kantha embroidery in their pastime and create gorgeous kantha sarees that are then included in the girl’s dowry ensembles.
Motifs seen in Kantha:
Like all arts in India, motifs seen in Kantha communicate the imagination of its weavers along with their cultural influence and inspiration from surroundings. While the primitive motifs drew inspiration from primitive art depicting illustrations of the sun etc., Hindu Kantha embroiderers created religious motifs, such as of deities, peacocks, tigers and lotuses while Muslim Kantha embroiderers were seen making mostly geometric designs that are equally popular.
Technique used in Kantha:
Kantha work is usually done with running stitches but there are variations to this embroidery which uses other stitches too. Cross stitch is sometimes used to create the design. Anarasi Kantha work involves the motif of pineapple. Wave kantha and Sujani Kantha are other varieties of this beautiful embroidery.
Places where Kantha art is practiced and its Uses:
The districts of Burdwan, Hooghly, Murshidabad and Parganas remain the key locations in West Bengal where Kantha embroidery is still practiced by thousands of rural women in their homes. However, the art is particularly prominent in Bolpur-Shantiniketan in the Birbhum district. In Odisha, Kantha embroidery can be found alongside the popular applique work and Pipli work. With changing trends, Kantha embroidery is seen adorning almost all kinds of apparels including garments such as dupattas and shirts furnishing such as bedcovers, cushion covers and even curtains. But, it is most popular on all kinds of silk and cotton sarees and is popularly addressed as kantha silk sarees and kantha cotton sarees.