Kalamkari is an art form of hand printing or block printing normally done on cotton fabrics using only vegetable dyes or natural colours. Apart from printing, weaving and painting are also main component of Kalamkari Art. Andhra Pradesh in South India is the originator of this exquisite artwork that got flourished under the patronage of the Mughals and the Golconda Nizams. Also known as Qalamkari- means artwork with pen, the word gets its meaning from the Persian word kalam -pen and kari -workmanship.
Kalamkari art or hand printing can be bequeathed into two major forms – Machalipatnam Style and Srikalahasti Style. The process used for both schools of Kalamkari painting is more or less the same Masulipatnam style uses block-printing procedures, whereas the process of latter is more complex. For Srikalahasti style of Kalamkari the pen is used for creating patterns and free hand drawings, the filling of colour is entirely handwork. The major attraction here is the usage of only natural dyes and colours, the entire process requires 17 complex steps to complete. The cotton fabric gets its shiny when soaked in a mixture of resin and cow milk for an hour. To obtain different effects cow dung, seeds, crushed flowers and different plants are used. After the application of every color, the cloth has to be washed, and the quality of the cloth used is generally so good that they can take up to 20 washings without any mitigation. Iron fillings and molasses are used to draw the lines for the designs.
Another specialty of Kalamkari art is the colour pattern followed in different themes. Women figures are shown in yellow, Gods in blue, and demons in red and green. The backgrounds are generally red with motifs of lotus. Religion is the most widely depicted theme in Kalamkari art, showcasing the magnificent paintings of sun chariots, famous deities and scenes from great epics – Ramayana. Mahabarata and great Indian mythological classics, whereas Machalipatnam style of Kalamkari is used in bed covers, curtains and other home furnishing cloths. Since the designs and paintings are made by hand, you will never find two panels that will look similar.
People all over the world have understood the harmful effects of dangerous chemical dyes and developing the taste for naturally dyed fabrics. Kalamkari painting is the best specimen of natural colour artwork. The artists use natural colours extracted from bark, flower and roots of plants. No chemical dyes are used for Kalamkari colours. It is quite amazing to know that the red colour is obtained by using the Indian madder root, yellow from the pomegranate seed or even mango bark, and black from myrobalam fruit. There is a certain kind of hypnotism effect of this art on every onlooker.