Short CommunicationSpecial Issue

Evolution of Kantha Craft

Dr. Debalina Debnath

1Assistant Professor, Dept. of Folklore, Kalyani University.


According to folklorist Henry Glassie, “Folk art is the expression of traditional societies…Folk art is the flower of religious societies”. Echoing his philosophy Kantha may be considered as a crafted expression of human experiences from our traditional societies. Through it, has found expression of everyday nuances of the native folk. Nakshi Kantha, in particular, is a reflection of the life and mind of the womenfolk of Bengal. Their urge, creativity, and relaxation are all part of these masterpieces. The women of rural Bengal has painted their aspirations, their happiness, and sorrow and taken the needlecraft of Kantha to new global heights of admiration. The needle and thread on a Kantha stitch the story of their life. We find its true essence in Jassimuddin’s pictorial poetry Nakahi Kanthar Math: “Nakshi Kanthati Bichaiya Saju Sararaat Ankey ChobiO Jano Tahar Gopon Bythar Birohiya Ek KobiOnek Sukh Dukher Smriti or Buke Achey LekhaTar Jiboner Ethihaas Khani Kohichey Rekhae Rekha “(Here the poet imagines how a Kantha maker named Saju is painting the story of her life on a Kantha, which epitomizes her pain through every single stitch made on it.)The Nakshi Katha, which is considered as a visual timeline, has undergone transition over years of existence. It reflects the socio-cultural changes of our society. As we are aware that dynamics in economics bring about cultural diffusion and acculturation, we find similar traits in the needlecraft of Kantha. The changes in the financial needs of the rural folk have brought about an active change in Kantha. According to Kalyan Kumar Gangopadhyay, the journey of Kantha from a necessity to an ornamented piece of possession and finally a traditional handcrafted prized piece of garment has not been documented. Despite the same, Kantha has picketed its way to a global demand as an exquisitely handcrafted product. The impact of globalization is therefore evident in contemporary Kanthas. Apart from the change in a color story, the needlecraft has also adopted a variety of embroidered stitches like satin stitch, cross-stitch, chain stitch etc. besides the traditional running stitch. Product diversification as per market demand has added longevity to Kantha. It is therefore no longer a blanket but has been adopted into making sarees, stoles, folders, jewellery box, home furnishing, and clothes for men and women, bags, etc. The tradition of Kantha making has undergone a change in both here and in Bangladesh. From being a local craft, it has migrated to a global demand owing to these adaptations, further supported by agencies like the Craft Council of West Bengal. These bodies are making an effort that revives the glory of the craft. Many designers to create niche products are using the craft, which in turn is providing economic support to the artisans who can earn while working from home. It is evident that the demand for Kantha has increased in many folds both in the domestic and international market. This paper is thus an attempt to portray this change in Kantha, which promises a prosperous future.

Keywords: Kantha, Embroidery, Craft

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