Short CommunicationSpecial Issue

Industry Speak: Story of Kantha

Adarsh Makharia

Founder and Creative Director, OSAA


Kantha, as we all know is a type of embroidery using the running stitch to sew together layers of fabric. The origin of Kantha however is necessity. It evolved out of a necessity to drape or protect against the cold. Kantha in Sanskrit means “rags”. Kantha is in a way one of the first recycling arts. The precious silks and Muslims when worn out were piled in layers and stitched by the women. They were also used as baby s diapers or wrappers for laying down newborn babies in the sun whilst they were being massaged with oil. This art has its roots in need anything created out of need is the purest form and expression. It can also be said that each Kantha piece is like a personal diary of the creator. The motifs used are like words which tell us about the woman who’s made it her life (as they use vignettes of daily folk life, her dreams (it is almost an escape into a fantasy world from the humdrum of daily life where they can explore their creativity her beliefs (they include figures of gods and goddesses they worship her identity (her caste and village and status can usually be ascertained from the piece she has made. In other words, each piece of Kantha is a telling tale of the hand that created it. The most cherished and appreciated works of art, in any form are those, which are a reflection of the artist, where the artist shares a piece of himself with others. That creates the most powerful art. Kantha is just that intimate narratives of the artist within each woman. Kantha began to be used commercially much later but even in this, the factor, which ensures its success, is its uniqueness. How no two pieces can ever be the same, how each piece is a reflection of the times we live in and how each piece journeys with a woman through months before it is ready? This personalized attribute of Kantha and its storytelling can always ensure its survival, especially in today’s sea of mass produced soulless textiles.

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