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Kalamkari- Ancient Style of Hand Painting

I love to do artwork and explore the story or theme behind the artwork.


Kalamkari is a Persian word. It consists of two words Kalam which means pen and Kari which signifies craftsmanship. Kalamkari is a type of hand painting or block-printing and refers to the ancient style of hand painting. It is done with a tamarind stick or pen, using natural dyes.

Kalamkari started at Pedana nearby Machilipatnam in Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh. It was evolved with the patronage of the Mughals and the Golconda Sultanate. Kalamkari has been practiced by villagers, craftsmen, and artists in Andhra Pradesh.


Different Styles of Kalamkari

There are two styles of Kalamkari-

1. Sri Kalahasti Style

Sri Kalahasti style comes from a small temple named Srikalahasti in Chitoor district, Andhra Pradesh. This style was developed in the temple region and mainly focused on Hindu mythology themes such as Ramayan and Mahabharat. This Kalamkari style is made using the traditional dyeing techniques.

Freehand drawing is one of the most important features of the Sri Kalahasti style. The process starts with the treatment of cotton fabric with mordants and outlining with black color. The design or figures are filled with natural dyes or colors obtained from plants.


2. Masulipatnam Kalamkari Style

Masulipatnam Kalamkari style started at Golconda and was influenced by Persian motifs and designs. This style is done using hand-carved blocks and the finishing is done using the pen. In this style, craftsmen create their designs and are carved on a block. These blocks continued in a repeated pattern to obtain unique art.

In the Masulipatnam Kalamkari technique, the fabric is bleached using cow or goat dung. Then further treated with milk.


Themes of Kalamkari

Kalamkari art mainly depicts epics like Ramayan or Mahabharat. It is also used to depict Buddha and Buddhist art patterns.

In the recent era, good figures are also introduced to Kalamkari such as gods, holy symbols, flowers, trees, animals, birds, and many more.

Kalamkari in Middle Age

In the middle ages, cotton fabric is patterned through the dyes obtained from vegetables. It was done by freehand and block printing. In place, where printing is done by block printing, the Kalam or pen is used to do details.


Development of Kalamkari Art

With time, Kalamkari art techniques have been replaced by digital techniques. In this era, modern techniques are introduced, and Kalamkari is available in digital files.

Nowadays, materials and colors are also changed. Earlier, only cotton fabric is used for Kalamkari but with the introduction of various fabrics, cotton has been replaced with silk, mulmul, chiffon, etc.

Kalamkari's Products

In today's era, printing is much easier and more time-efficient than traditional techniques. Various products with Kalamkari designs are available in the market.

With increasing demand, various Kalamkari sarees, suits, shawls, shirts, bedsheets, curtains, earrings, rings, bangles, necklaces, cups, glass, plates, etc. Are available that you can buy.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Arpit Gupta

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