Kantha is a type of embroidery popular in West Bengal, India.
The use of kantha is popular in saris traditionally worn by women in Bengal, but any garment or cloth with kantha embroidery (having a border of decorative running stitch motifs) is called a kantha garment. ABOUT THE STATE
West Bengal, is land of many social reformers like Subhash Chandra Bose, Ravindra Nath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and many more. During the time of India's independence, Bengal is divided in to two, East Bengal and West Begnal. The East Bengal merged with Pakisthan and West Bengal with India. On linguistic basis West Bengal got a status of separate state in India Union on 1st May 1960. Later the East Begal demanded for a separate nation and in 1971, it got the separate status of a country as Bengladesh.The state is bounded on the east by Bangladesh, west by Bihar, north by Bhutan and Sikkim and south by Bay of Bengal. Here two third of the population depends on agriculture. West Bengal is known for its beauty and prosperity. Literacy 94.59% Capital Kolkata Area 88,752 sq.km
Language Bengali Districts 19
Population 80,221,171 Male Female 41,487,694 38,733,477
The northern part of the district of Darjeeling is hilly to mountanious.West Bengal is essentially a flat. featureless alluvial plain large portion of it being a part of delta of river Ganga. comprises about six per cent of the total area.GEOGRAPHICAL:
Click on the map to enlarge West Bengal was created as a constituent state of the Indian union on 15 August 1947 as the result of partition of the undivided British Indian province of Bengal into West Bengal. Jalpaiguri and Cooch Bihar and the alluvial plain that lies south of it. stretching from Himalayas in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south. West Bengal has two natural divisions. The Singalila range along the border with Nepal rises to nearly 3.700 metres. Downwards. The state lies between 27o13'15" and 21o25'24" north latitudes and 85o48'20" and 89o53'04" east longitudes. West Bengal covers the bottle neck of India in the east. It is bounded on the north by Sikkim and Bhutan. the hills give way to rolling humid plains known as the Dooars. three international frontiers-to the north. and is well wooded with rhododendron trees.
. east and west. Its border to the north being fenced with rising mountain ranges of the Himalayas. On the south by the Bay of Bengal and on the west by Orissa. It has therefore. only one per unit of its area in the far north is really mountainous. The Dooars forests are densely wooded with evergreen vegetation and are the resorts of wild animal including the Royal Bengal tiger. The Himalayan north comprising the districts of Darjeeling. on the east by Assam and Bangladesh. The plateau fringe and the Purulia triangle of upland along her western border. Bihar and Nepal. the mountains slope down to hills and as the borders of Jalpaiguri district are reached.
The plain land on the western bank of the Hooghly river is largely formed by the deposits carried by a system of hill rivers rising in the western hills that pour their waters into the Hooghly and form part of the Gangetic delta. one of the two forks of the Ganga that take off from top of Murshidabad district. Bankura and Midnapur. west of the Hooghly the coastal strip in Midnapur district called the Contai or Kanthi strip. The plains to the east are watered by distributaries of the Ganga branching off in West Bengal as well as Bangladesh. The main river in this system is the Damodar. Bengal's 'River of Sorrow'. It consist of sand dunes and salt marshes mingled with each other. It pours into the Ganga a little above Farakka in Bangaladesh. The vast alluvial plains of the state spread from Jalpaiguri and Siliguri in the north to the Sundarban creeks and its Kanthi littoral in the south. The southern region. The plateau forms the tail-end of the chhartisgarh state of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. The rest of the southern region is a vast alluvial plain. One feature of these plains is the existence of shallow lagoons called 'dahas'or 'boonrs'. Burdwan. "Western Plateau Fringe" consist of the Purulia district and the western Courtesy for Picture Prakash Saha Kolkata part of the districts of Birbhum. The highest point of this plateau. except for the western plateau fringe and the sub-montane area of Darjeeling district. The coastal fringe likewise is of two distinct characters. the entire length of WestBengal is one rolling up land. antelope and snakes including Python. elephant. The marshes are formed behind
. named Goraburu Hill in Purulia district is 677 metres and the lowest point is 85 metres above the sea level where the up land ends in Midnapur district on the northern bank of the Subarbarekha river the altitude falls to 50 metres above the sea level. The central region or the 'Malda Pouch' comprising the districts of Malda and West Dinajpur is geographically an older area than the Gangetic plains below. The southern region is bisected by the Bhagirathi (Hooghly)river.rhinoceros. formed by beds of distributaries that got silted up above and below and of low marsh lands called bells that become flooded during the rainy season. starting in the north from the point where the Ganga demarcates in the boundaries of the districts of Malda and Murshidabad consists of two geographically distinct areas. It has a slightly higher land level watered inter-mittently by hill rivers among which the Mahananda with its winding course is the largest.
It is crisscrossed by a network of naturally forming arterial streams branching off from the major waterways and almost wholly consist of swamps and morasses abounding in quick sands. deer. wild hog. monkeys. Close to the sea-belts the jungles are thick and hardly penetrable on account of the boggy character of the soil and the treacherous-sharp pointed spikes of the Sundri (mangrove) trees. Climate West Bengal has a tropical climate. The jungle prevent major erosion of the coastline. Their fragrant flowers are collected to produce the famous Kewra scent. This area is called the Moribund Delta. Here is a constant war between nature and man for saving the rice producing agricultural land from being inundated by brackish water or being rapidly eroded by the sea. The Sunderbans The Hooghly river estuary that covers the entire southern portion. which have a tendency to blow landwards and encroach upon the cultivated land behind them.
. The plains are hot except during the short winterseason. The Sunderbans are abound in royal Bengal tiger. The Japanese quick growing creeper Kudzu is also being planted. shark and many kinds of fish. Vistas of Casuarinas plantation are being developed all along the coast to fix the dunes and stop sea erosion. The hinter land between the Damodar and the Hooghly and right up to the border of Bangladesh is served by dead or drying channels of the Hooghly. nearly a fourth of the total area of twenty four Parganas district consist of the remarkable tropical forest called the Sunderbans. different species of Cobra and other snakes and many varieties of birds. The rivers are abound in Crocodile. Huge earthen dykes are constructed around agricultural settlements called Chauks. The region is entirely alluvial. The major portion of this Sforest is located in the adjoining Bangladesh district of Khulna and Barisal. The natural vegetation consists of clumps of Keya bushes. leopard. rhinoceros. the tidal incursions of saline water from the sea and the torrential flow of water in the river during the monsoons cause frequent and considerable changes in the land area above the jungle fringe. python. At places there are large shifting sand dunes.well-developed sand bars.
with the day temperature ranging from 38o C to 45oC in different parts of the state. The monsoon rains in west Bengal are caused solely by the current of wind from the Bay of Bengal. The monsoon arrives by a middle of June. Autumn. This is called the Chhota monsoon which breaks the hot spell of summer. the higher reaches are sometimes enveloped in heavy fog. which lasts about three months. On account of its altitude but th
ere humidity is high. Breaks in the continuity of rain are not unusual. At nights. Only four clearly marked seasons with a brief interregnum of spring are observed. the resultant thoughts of low pressure develop into cyclone storms especially towards the end of the season and in early autumn. The hills of Darjeeling district are pleasantly cool in summer. Variability is a characteristic feature of the monsoon in west Bengal as well as Bangladesh and Orissa which all receive the impact of the south-west Bay current. The classical tradition speaks of six seasons-Spring. The high temperature often causes troughs of low pressure to form on the plains which are compensated by sudden briefs storms known as kal-baisakhi or 'nor-westers'. Its scouts start arriving about two weeks before its normal onset. the rainy. A welcome change in the weather begins to be distinctly felt towards the end of September. The conclusion of the round of the festivities marks the onset of the winter in mid-November. Winter. These summer storms can be quite destructive. one is rewarded by the sight of the majestic snow-girt Kanchanjunga and the eastern Sikkim ranges and the greenness of the wooded hills and gorges that abound on all sides. the post monsoon season corresponding to autumn and the cold season. namely the hot season. Summer. On some days. The hot season lasts from midMarch to mid-June.The mountanious region in the north is cold. the average
. accompanied by thunder showers. the rainy season. Autumn in West Bengal is the season for festivity in the fields the golden grain of paddy starts ripening and is harvested towards the end of the season. is mild over the plains. mild Winter and severe Winter. a cool southerly breeze carrying moisture from the Bay of Bengal is usually present.
potato and vegetables and citrus fruits that grow on the Darjeeling hills. the Torsha. substantially lowering the humidity level. rising in the Himalayas are Jaldhaka. But this mellow season is too short-lived and the heat is turned on until with the coming of April. There occurs a short interregnum of clouds and rain usually the last week of December and the first week of January.
. It is attended by a cold and dry northern wind. below Darjeeling town falls in the spectacular cascade named Pagla-Jhora in to the sloping plains of southern Darjeeling district and fed by three other similar rivers the Mahanadi. The cold is severe on the hills and there are sometimes sleet and snow on the higher reaches during the days of rain. flows in a mighty stream on straight line towards the south east until it pours its waters into the Brahamaputra in Bangladesh. These rivers. the Sankosh and the Raidak. During the dry reason they are navigable in the plains below. Winter is the season for the rabi crops-pulses. The Teesta on debouching into the plains south of Darjeeling at Sevoke. carrying the back of the monsoon waters of the huge catchment area of the Himalayas. The southern region is served by two river systems. the Balason. The Mahananda rises from springs in the Dow Hills forest. smaller than the Teesta. One for plateau and the plains west of the Gangetic delta and the other for the Gangetic delta itself. The weather gets warmer by the middle February. Of Courtesy for Picture Prakash Saha Kolkata
these the Torsha is the most turbulent. Other rivers. clammy summer comes in full blast and the annual cycle of seasons rolls on once again Rivers and Water Ways The hilly region in the north comprising the district of Darjeeling is cut through by deep gorges ofthe Teesta which flows from north to south between mountainous banks rising two to three kilometres above the stream. the Punarbhava and the Atrai the former two combine their streams and flow into the Mahananda and the Atrai flows into the Padma in Bangladesh. caused by the incursion of the western monsoon coming all the way from the Arabian Sea. which heralds a brief spring season lasting about a month during which the deciduous trees break out in young green leaves and flowers. and the Machi runs a zig-zag course through Maldah district into the Padma in Bangladesh.minimum temperature not falling 15o C. The central region is watered by the Mahananda as well as such rivers arising in the plains as the Tangan.
An effort have to resuscitate its flow has been made in the shape of the Farakka Barrage project which has completed in 1974. Dwarakeswar and Silai or Silabati. Of these the north most is the Mayurakshi. but are now meandering streams. The other main channels the Bhairah and the Jalangai were mighty waterways on account of changes in the land level due to seismic factors and the deposition of heavy quantities of salt the Bhagirathi has been reduced to a spill channel. also rising in the Bihar hills runs down in an easterly course until it takes a turn to the south and flows into the Hooghly river. the Thakuran. Near the Sea-mouth it is joined by the Rupmarayan at Haldia. marking the boundary between Bankura nd Birbhum districts and joins the Bhagirathi at Katwa. Tidal bores coming up from the sea on full-moon days during late monsoon and in autumn sometimes rise to a height of over six metres at the estuary. the Gaushaba and the Raimangal which skirts the boundary between West Bengal and Bangladesh in the extreme south. Hooghly river is called as 'River of Sorrow'. the main channel of Ganga called Padma runs into Bangladesh where it joins to Brahmaputra and the two rivers runs into one of the broadest estuaries of the world and later meets Bay of Bengal below Noakhali in Bangladesh. the Bhagirathi flows southwards into a sea past the port city of Calcutta. flows down the plateau fringe. which is fed by tributaries Brahmani. Three other small streams Khari. Dwaraka. All
. the Malta.In the former area. the latter rising in the Orissa hills and striking the boundary between the states of Orissa and West Bengal. The other main channels in tidal basin are the Manganga or Baratola. In the remainder of the southern region. a number of rivers originating in the western plateau flow down in a south easterly direction and join the Bhagirathi. Still farther south are the Kansabati or Kasai and the Subarnarekha. the Saptamukhi. Bakreswar and Kopai. The biggest river of the plateau fringe. the main westerly channel of the Ganga moving down to the estuary of the Bay of Bengal. A little to the south the river Ajay rising in the hills of Bihar. The channels near the bay mouth are broad and comparatively free from silt deposits. The silting of the main channel river itself has assumed such alarming proportions that steamship navigation up to the Port of Calcutta has been seriously hampered by rise and spread of Sand banks. Further south is the Rupanarayan made up of two streams. The main channel with in a West Bengal is the Bhagirathi named in its lower reaches the Hooghly river by the British taking off at the head of Murshidabad district. Banka and Behula were one distributaries of Damodar. to about three metres in-land at Calcutta. the Damodar. The main body of the Ganga waters being carried by the Padma. It joins the Hooghly near the estuary at Haldia and its impressive width up to Kolaghat is due to the tidal action on estuary.
Various laurels and Bamboos are found in this belt. They contain some varieties of oaks and conifers. Other common tree associated
. These are the forests of the north which include the mountain temperate forests and the tropical forests of the Duars. the trees are covered with mosses and orchids. Dwarf rhododendrons also occur here. Subtropical forests are found in between 1000 and 1500 metres. Natural Vegetation. Birches are found all round Darjeeling. Tropical Mixed Evergreen Forests of the Foot Hills Some of the most dense forests of West Bengal occur in the foothills of the Himalayas. Magnolia campbellii and large rhododendrons tree are also found in this belt. Cedrela. Conifers are found in slightly higher situations. Forests of the Darjeeling Hills These forests are related to altitude and aspect. Above 1000 metres the effect of altitude is definitely felt. silver fir is very common. Due to the occurrence of mists on the southern slopes. Temperate forests are found from 1500 to 3000 metres.Forest of the Darjeeling Hills | Tropical Mixed Evergreen Forests of the Foot Hills | Deciduous Forests Of The Plateau Fringe | Mangraove Vegetation Of The Sudarbans Natural Vegitation Forests of three distinct areas exist in the state. Above 3000 metres. and clothe the entire Tiger Hill. They are generally well managed and properly exploited. the deciduous forests of the plateau fringe and the mangrove forests of Sunderbans. smell bushes and flowering plants. It is common in the Singalila Range. Higher up are Alpine meadows. affording as they do a unique view of the majestic Sunderbans. where oaks are more common. Many of them are protected. Many kinds of sweet temperate berries are also found in the undergrowth. Beech and birch are found in many areas. Michelia. There are dense forests of deodars nearly all along the Dow Hill ridge which continue up to Senchal. Of these the northern forests are the most important. Terminalia. Much of this forest area has been cleared for tea gardens around Darjeeling and Kurseong. Below 1000 metres there are tropical evergreen forests.the channels are safe and pleasant during fair weather months for navigation by country boat and streamers. Much of this forest is moist deciduous and here sal (shorea robusta) is the most common and valuable tree. Magnolias and oaks occur around Kalimpong while conifers cover higher slopes and peaks. There are few deodars on the Ghoom ridge.
The next wave of immigration was by a long-headed race with a taller structure. Neora Valley (National Park). Variously labeled as Negritos and Negroids. Vistas of tall grasses grow along the rivers. A broad belt of these forests stretches along the entire length of the northern districts. Soils of these forests are naturally rich in humus. known as Dravidians.with sal forests are Champa (Michelia Champaea) and Chilauni (Schima Wallichii). mainly the peasants. Wild animals abound in the jungles which include the rare one-horned Indian rhinoceros. Sanctuaries have been provided for them at Mahananda. Along the river beds the soils are found in broad belts of sterile sands and pebbles. Balason. Corridors of these forests penetrate the hills along the river gorges of Mechi. Orchids cling to the trees and giant creepers form a tangled mass of impenetrable vegetation. Tista. Jaldhaka and many other smaller streams. Here low-level tea gardens have taken a heavy toll of the forests. It is broader towards the east in the Duars. also called Armenoids. The oldest stratum of the population is Proto-Australian in origin. Khair. There is much undergrowth of shrubs and bushes. Gorumara (National Park). Mahanadi. dark skinned. This forest is very dense. The element called Nishadic is found preponderantly among the tribals in the plateau fringe and beyond into Chhotanagpur and central India.
. At some places high banks of these gravels are found. This race is believed to have come from the northern Mediterranean littoral. via. They are long headed. Persia. the inhabitants of West Bengal present a prolific inter mixture of five separate racial strains. shortly in their wake came the round headed Sumerians. Gamar and toon. from western area. Bamboo is also found here. Jaldapara and Buxa (Tiger Reserve). the elephant and the Bengal tiger. Chapramari. sharp nose and prominent chin. broad-nosed and short in stature. their physical features are evident among the lowest castes of Bengal. People -Racial composition | Education | Dress | Food Habits Racial composition In their racial composition. Evergreen laurels and other moisture loving plants are found mixed up with the deciduous forests.
The women invariably wear the waist to ankle length sari in a graceful style. oval face. Education In the whole of the rural West Bengal and in the most of the municipal areas the primary education is free and compulsory. Girls education up to standard VIII has been made free in rural and urban areas. The fifth racial strain. He has a sweet tooth and everyone who can
. which is of the Tibetan type. As regards the so-called lower castes of the state. The western style of dress is being adopted by the more affluent as a status symbol replacing the achakan-pyjama and the Shamla Pugree. a Punjabi Kurta or a half-sleeved vest. The urban population has started favouring pyjama and trousers for convenience and economy. On the whole it may be said that the main elements of the Bengali race are the long headed matrilineal Mediterranean type which brings our Dravidian affinity and the round headed Mediterranean type who associates with the people of upper India. The predominant element here being the proto-Australoid in varying proportions. these elements are of much lesser importance. Muslims cover there head during prayer and religious ceremonies. Undoubtedly Mongoloid features show unimistakable traces among Hindu as well as Muslim rural people of north Bengal districts the Koches and Rajbanis of the Dooars plains shows additional traces of mixture with the eastern Mongoloids of the Burmese type.The next considerable racial element to come into the western part of Bengal is the round headed Alpine or Indo-Aryan race with its fair skin. Dress The common Bengali dress is the dhoti and a stitched upper garment . and it is practically impossible to find a pure racial type in the population. The five main racial strains are inextricably intermixed. Food Habits The Bengali is predominantly a rice eater. including Calcutta. The upper part is covered by different styles of blouses. All but the very devout Hindus eat fish as a principal item of their food.a shirt. prominent nose and long body. there is a general absence of any kind of headdresses. Free supply of text books have been under taken. the Mongoloid is represented in the population of the Darjeeling district of northern West Bengal.
A large assortment of vegetablesand seasonal fruits completes the dietary. Depending on the use of the finished product they were known as Lepkantha. or "Throat chakra". Kantha is also used as an adjective to describe a style of necklace that lies close to the throat.afford them enjoys sweet meats made with milk casein (chhan) of which a large variety have been evolved. Another essential item is dal (pulses) which supplements their protein requirements. In the best examples. The traditional form of Kantha embroidery was done with soft dhotis and saris. Women in Bengal typically use old saris and cloth and layer them with kantha stitch to make a light blanket. Sujni Kantha etc. Kattha and arecanut is universal. open at the back. and is similar to the decorative running stitch of Japanese sashiko quilting. boxes. Cigarette smoking has been spreading to rural areas but is still something of a symbol . especially for children. either plain in the form of bidi or mixed with treacle and spices for the hookah.
Kantha used as bed for a baby
embroidery of West Bengal
Kantha is still the most popular form of embroidery practised by rural women. Chewing of pan laced with lime. the habit of taking sweetened tea has a spread to there remotest villages. literally meaning "blue throat" after he swallowed the poison that resulted from the churning of the ocean.. Drinking of palm juice today and home made alcoholic brews is largely confined to industrial labour and the tribal population
Kantha stitching is also used to make simple quilts. so is the smoking of tobacco. Kantha is very popular with tourists visiting Bengal and is a specialty of Bolpur/Shantiniketan. Kantha originated from the way in which Bengali housewives mended old clothes by taking out a strand of thread from the colorful border of their saris and making simple designs with them. The embroidered cloth has many uses including women's shawls and covers for mirrors. employing beautiful
. Bengalis prefer to other beverages. the entire cloth is covered with running stitches. pillows etc. throw or bedspread. The name Nilakanth is given to Lord Shiva. Kantha also means throat. with a simple running stitch along the edges.
Kantha is an indigenous household craft. Jamdanis. Nilambari.Rajbanshis. The cultivation of mulberry silk and its weaving is carried out in the plains of West Bengal. Origins:
. animals birds and geometrical shapes. Contemporary Kantha is applied to a wider range of garments such as sarees. are few names which are renowned across globe. The sarongs of the Polia. With Bangladesh. dupatta. narrow jute carpets on similar looms are made by the tribals of West Dinajpur. mostly using cotton and silk. it is a specialty of Bolpur-Santiniketan and remains also the most creative of all embroidery styles in this part of India. Nepal. and Maldah the weavers make plain silk fabrics in rich and varied textures using Tussar and mulberry silk. as well as themes from everyday activities. and to the northwest. Bankura.Tapestry material was made from Baluchar silks which were originally used by nawabs and Muslim aristocrats of the Murshidabad district as. and to its southwest. The district of Maldah on the north bank of the Ganga is today the most important centre for silk rearing in West Bengal.cowdial woven saris and kanthas. however Hindu noblemen used the raw silk. Calcutta and Srirampur in the Hooghly district are the main textile hand-printing centres in West Bengal. Maldha and Purulia districts.
About West Bengal
West Bengal West Bengal is a state in eastern India. made the rural women in West Bengal. Birbhum. Murshidabad silks are popular for hand-printed designs and other materials which are also printed with wooden blocks. Bengal is famous for the rich tradition of weaving handloom cotton & silk textiles among the tribal and semi-tribal people in the districts . Birbhum. the state forms the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. which lies on its eastern border. bedding and other furnishing fabrics. The stitching on the cloth gives it a slight wrinkled wavy effect. Purulia.Tangail . the state of Orissa. multicoloured. The other districts where silk yarn is made are Murshidabad. To its northeast lie the states of Assam and Sikkim and the country Bhutan. In the districts of Bankura.Traditional silk sari weaving is also done at Vishnupur in Bankura district which bear a lot of similarity with the kataki designs of Orissa.beautifully patterned. Murshidabad. shirts for men and women.motifs of flowers. To the west it borders the states of Jharkhand and Bihar.
In Bengal.Kantha also means throat. The later influence of Hinduism. Bengal cotton and silk have been known in the world market for its finesse and quality. Bengal women did not see any reason to throw them away. Sreelata Sirkar derived inspiration from Pratima Devi of Santiniketan and started designing Kanthas for teamwork. weddings and births. Some symbols such as the tree of life. gave the art its place as a vehicle of significant cultural meaning. in the making of Kanthas for religious ceremonies. The same Kantha still can be viewed in Gambhira. At present day. “Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita”.It was the Bengali housewife who helped the art of embroidery to evolve. at Puri. The real value of Kantha embroidery lies in its fine craftsmanship and vignette of daily folk life motifs being a favourite of the embroiderers. took up the responsibility of providing everybody with the warmth against the cold. Bengal “muslin” was an item of export even at Perecles’s time. The idea of using this embroidery commercially. “blue throat” after he swallowed the poison that arose as a result of the churning of the ocean. sent a homemade Kantha to her son at Puri through some pilgrims. there had been a revival in Kantha art in both the Bengals. Who seemed to have encountered a woman in a village in a district of Srihatta of Bangladesh. who recorded her life story in her Kantha spanning a period starting from her marriage to old age. Sachi. The origin of Kantha traces its history to a period not less than a thousand years. Kantha making is a “women’s art” . Beautiful sari borders were preserved. From embroidering her husband’s initials on his handkerchief to sewing pieces of discarded cloth with colorful threads to make Kantha. but it can be very intricate depending on the inclination of the Kantha maker. due to the high cost of handcrafted materials. From a very long time. However. History of the meaning:
. Tagore. The name Nilakanth is given to Lord Shiva. The stitching patterns of Bengal Kanthas are simple. The earliest mention of Bengal Kantha is found in the book.Vedic. or wrappers for laying newborn babies in the courtyard while they were massaged with mustard oil. Bengal Kantha making is a little different from other quilting artistry. Kanthas were originally used as baby’s diapers. but also made room for a great economic activity for West Bengal women. If ever there was a true sorority in the world of ideas. preand post. Thus. The number of 2 layers used to vary according to the use of which the Kantha was meant. The second earliest reference is in Zaman’s book about the famous artist A. displayed in a glass case. It is also known as the “Throat charka”. The material is different as well as the stitching method. the lady of the house busied herself with needle and thread as soon as her domestics’ chores were over. thus started the first recycling art of the world. Women. the soft dhotis were placed layer upon layer and stitched in sari borders. she not only received a dying art. Bengal Kantha makers reflect their traditions in choosing their designs. When such beautiful creations were worn and old. it must have been in the field of quilt making. Kantha is characterized by the pattered running stitches. the swirling cosmos. There the poet says. Batik printing done mainly by women have undergone years of experimentation. and the sun are taken from the primitive art. originated more in urban groups. literally meaning. Kantha making for the baby’s diaper is not cost effective at all. pujas. all over the world. so that the embroidery done with faded threads drawn from the sari borders were not lost. Wooden block printing on cotton and silk have achieved a distinction in the Serampur Hooghly district. by Krishnadas Kaviraj which was written some five hundred years back. The textile printing tradition of Bengal dates back to a few centuries. the mother of Chaitanya. in the early seventies. Its images reach back to even earlier sources. Normally the top and bottom layers of a Kantha were white or of a very light color.
the “alpanas” representing lotus flower. coverlet. Traditional embroidery is so interlinked with every dimension of living. The pastoral tribes. the embroidery traditions in each region point community reveal caste identities. A real Kantha is able to narrate a story. Within that restriction. The Hindu Kantha makers would tend to choose from religion motifs. Very often.
. tiger. nor ordered by the landed gentry. status and the village of its origin. No two pieces are the same. The Kantha is an invocation to the gods and spirits for the prosperity and protection of the family.Kantha is like a personal diary. they are able to create wonderful artifacts in “ jainamaz Kantha”. the rich landlord’s wife making her own elaborate embroidered quilt in her leisure time. and is much more compact in design and it is made out of used materials. various birds and beast like peacock. an art-craft that was made spontaneously. In East Bengal the Kantha was a personal expression. “ dastarkhan”. did not have the impetus to market their goods to generate a comfortable income. Even as it has evolved from being a subsistence activity done for personal satisfaction and metamorphosed itself to a viable economic activity. parrots. whose mainstay for the women has been embroidery. conch shells. It has become a mean of livelihood today and yet maintains itself as a household craft in many senses. or “gilaf embroidery”. and often an esoteric idiom. lion. and the tenant farmer’s wife making her own thrifty. It was never commissioned by rulers. Many of the women engaged in this craft continue to practice it from within their homes. It has been passed on for generations. The craft is being practiced today by millions women mainly in the districts of Birbhum Burdwan. like gods and goddesses. from mothers to daughters and is largely a “dowry” tradition. Kantha still maintains a strong cultural and social significance in the Bengali society. and is not meant to be ready by all. Hooghly. elephants. that it is nearly impossible to slot them into categories. where career women have no time for such “pedestrian” skills. even whimsically. equal in beauty and skill. whereas the Muslim women are usually restricted to geometrical designs and plants and flowers. It was craft that was practiced by women of all rural classes. It shows signs of decline today. beginning with the urban area. 24 Parganas North and South and Murshidabad. a letter one writes to a particular person.