Kalamkari Art – The Cultural Pride Of Andhra That Continues To Allure The World

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Andhra is well known for its vivid presence in the global art and culture. Mention Andhra and you cannot miss out talking about Kalamkari Art. We can simply put it this way – Kalamkari ranks among the top forms of Art from the state with an impeccable legacy attached to it.

Kalamkari Art, owing its origins to the pre-Christian era in countries such as Cairo, Greece, Central Asia and wide prominence to the Mughal-rule in India, gets its translation from the Persian dialect where Kalam (Ghalam) relates itself to a pen while Kari signifies craftsmanship, thereby conveying the meaning, ‘pen-work’. The works being hand-made duly supplemented by the use of diverse vegetable dyes, with able mixtures of iron, tin, copper, alum (mordants) applied on the cloth.

Fascinating Facts about Kalamkari

1. Legacy dating back to centuries

Dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries to the bulk of the Coromandel Coast, extending from Machilipatnam to Tanjavur in the heart of the southern India, the resident-craftsmen practised the art-form to weave garments and clothes, largely celebrating Hindu epics.

2. Presence from Coast to Coast

The earliest of Kalamkari presence can be traced to its use on a canvas, as a means to narrate and popularise the tales of mythological heroes by a group of artisans called Chitrakattis across several areas in course of their travels. However, in terms of exclusivity and style, the best of Kalamkari Art was produced at Srikalahasti (130 Kms. from Chennai), Masulipatnam (present-day-Machilipatnam-300 kms from Hyderabad) and Karuppur (Tanjavur).

3. Vivid Forms of Art

The popularity of the art-form, particularly at Srikalahasti can and still equally be attributed to its ideal weather conditions, widespread availability of dyes in addition to abundant natural resources, also in the form of the river Swarnamukhi, that flows through the Chittor district to merge into the
Bay of Bengal.

• Its proximity to the temple region had artists using primary colours (R,G,B,Y) generally in their works, borrowing inspirations consistently from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

• They came up with a bamboo as a base at one end entwined by a woollen rag, whereas a series of fine hair was attached to this pointed end, for the brush-strokes. The use of milk for the treatment of cloth and the sketching using tamarind twigs as part of their complex 17-step procedure has remained popular too.

• While Machilipatnam, thanks to the rule of the Golconda-Sultanate and the Mughals, the influences of the Persian themes were apparent as much as the Hinduism roots in Kalamkari Art.

• The borders and internal designs on hand-carved blocks of Kalamkari art here were later embellished using the pen.

• The British-rule added its own touch to the prominence with the regular use of floral-designs, while also getting the artisans to craft portraits of select English-men.

• Karrupur is another form of Kalamkari Art, whose roots were sowed in the Thanjavur region during the Maratha rule, led by the likes of Raja Sarfoji and Chatrapati Shivaji. This art-work was an extension to the gold brocade (a rich fabric woven with raised designs forming patterns) work in woven fabric, all specifically designed as an attire for the kings and their families.

4. Interesting Snippets About Kalamkari

• Interestingly, Kalamkari paintings grew as a currency form worldwide, when spices such as pepper, cloves, nuts in addition to special woods,oils and jackets were exchanged in several parts of Southeast Asia and Indonesia for specific wall-hangings and prominent art-works.

• The cotton fabric in Kalamkari work gets all the glossiness through the mixture of myrabalam (resin) and cow milk, on which bamboos are used to draw designs. As many as 20 colours can be used on the fabric. The cloth is washed everytime, a new colour is added.

• The use of cow dung, seeds, plants and crushed flowers in certain occasions can also add special features to the cloth.

• With India being freed off the British rule in 1947, a surge in interest in the traditional crafts such as the Kalamkari was visible, where The All India Handicrafts Board was specifically set up to revive many of these crafts.

• The natural dyestuffs used for Kalamkari are known to be inexpensive in major parts of the country. However, the fact remains that the art-form’s popularity now is stinting and is only confined to a few areas. At present,the chemical dyes have taken over natural dyes in Machilipatnam and Madurai while Srikalahasti, to date continues to rely on natural dyes.

• Dwaraka, as an initiative of the Bangalore-based Dwaraknath Reddy (Chairman of the Nutrine Group of Companies), fulfilled these dreams of rural artisans of the Ramanarpanam Trust based in Sri Kalahasti, helping an entire village develop a market to fuel the lives of hundreds of artists and weavers.

Hope for the future

As a matter of hope and an equal measure of preserving culture and art, Kalamkari deserves a push in a modern-context and Andhra is yet to find the Dwaraknath Reddy to scale it to the next level. Let’s do that before the ‘Kala’ in ‘Kalamkari’ is wiped out !

Where to Find Kalamkari?

Availability of Kalamkari Art, ranging from paintings to use as table clothes, curtain designs and sarees at various sites in Andhra Pradesh :


Lepakshi Handicrafts Emporium, Gandhi Nagar, Vijayawada – 520 003. Ph:0866-2573129
Cell No.9849900937/9849900938

Main Road, Visakhapatnam – 530 002 Ph: 0891-2508037 Cell No.9849900935/9849900936

Gun foundry, Hyderabad & Minerva Complex, S.D. Road, Secunderabad- 500 003.
Ph: 040-27814729 Cell No.9849900939


Lucky Shopping Mall, Opp to Chandana Brothers Mall, Jagadamba Junction, Vizag
Ph No: 0891-2737755, 0891-2547766

3. Kalamkari Village (Online)


4. Women’s Clothes Shop
Guntur-522006 [email protected]

5. Gifts2Guntur.com (USA based-Can send gifts to Guntur)


6. Exotic India (Online Purchase)

http://www.exoticindiaart.com/paintings/FolkArt/kalamkari/ Phone: +919953839642
[email protected]

7. Redbag.in (Online Purchase)
Phone: 011-43001675

8. Dwaraka Store, No. 52, 2nd Main Road, Vyalikaval, Bangalore – 560 003

Tel: +91-080-2356139 Mobile: 09845081466 Email: [email protected]



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