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Kantha: A Bengal Heritage

By :Leenika Jacob 0 comments
Kantha: A Bengal Heritage

By: Arunima Nandy, IICD-Jaipur

Chronicles of the craft dates back to the period when Bengali housewives decided to upcycle old fabrics by embroidering traditional motifs over it, and padding together patchwork, layering and quilting to create warm quilts. Classical Kantha, is a personalized expression of daily scenes, telling stories using folk motifs, that are as elaborate and complex, or as straight forward and soothing, as the storyteller chooses.


Image courtesy: Arunima Nandy


Image courtesy: Arunima Nandy

In Sanskrit kontha means ‘rags’. Lord Buddha and his disciples covered themselves with discarded rags that were patched and sewn. The oldest existing examples of kantha, was from the early 1800s. Kantha also means ‘throat’ and was named due to its association with Lord Shiva. It’s origin can be traced back to 2 A.D. Kantha embroidery as we know today was found in Krishnadas Kaviraj’s 500 year old book, Chaitanya Charitamrita .


Contemporary works by the karigars of kantha are immensely backed by the craft NGOs and designer houses . One such accessory which is adorned by the authentic motifs as well as the intricacy of the craft is the culture mask. With the advent of the recent Covid-19  pandemic situation, the artisans are on the verge of loosing their daily bread. These masks are not only helping them sustain during these tough times but also keeping the craft alive among us. These masks are sustainable ,washable and can be used a multiple times.


Image courtesy: Soumi Jana


Image courtesy: Soumi Jana

Here are the two-layered cotton masks embroidered by the artists Khokon Giri and Soumi Jana of Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, West Bengal for Jaipur Kala Chaupal.


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