Sometimes in the form of abstract temple tales starring wide eyed, luxuriously adorned mythical characters and sometimes through kaleidoscopic flowers and vines, Kalamkari prints have stayed vivid in Indian Fashion through the ages, like the memories of a lucid dream. But very few understand the journey of this 3000 year old art that emboldened it to survive the changing trends in period defining fashion statements.
Be it the block printed Kalmakari sarees that you flaunt at social conventions, or the intricately carved motifs that are stitched to perfection in Kalamkari blouses, or even the oh-so casually thrown in office kurtis in Kalamkari that never fails to net in a compliment, they carry a story, often unseen, seldom understood.
This story starts with a tamarind and a visionary artist – the one who crafted a pen or ‘kalam’ out of a Tamarind stem. The unknown artist brought to life the stories of his era through the fabrics worn by his contemporaries. Born in Persia, it took just a few decades for this art to reach the Indus, our India.
Here in India, the vibrant colours- all naturally prepared- and the finesse in craft that Kalamkari flaunted, was welcomed by artisans and merchants of all faith and societal strata. Although formerly revered as the signature clothing style of elites and royals, a few centuries were all that it took for the art to seep into the hearts of the common population.
Today, this rich craft survives because of the dedication of the Kalmakari artists in Telangana, more specifically at Kalahasti and Machlipatanam. They were almost on the verge of giving up their traditional art due to the influx of westernized concepts of fashion in India, when some groups of creative and brave visionaries of Indian fashion decide to revive this art and reinstate it to its former glory. They have succeeded, is to say the very least. Today Kalamkari prints have become synonym to ethnic Indian Wear.
Every Kalmakari Saree, or Kalmakari Kurti begins at the hands of the deft artist holding a Tamarind Pen, sketching the stories from mythology or nature. With a vision that transcends contemporary designs, they bring to life age old traditions and values, to create beautiful motifs. These motifs are then carved out in wooden blocks – the basic element of the print.
Once these patterns get printed onto the fabrics that are dyed with base colours, they are then washed umpteen number of times to ensure that colours are very well fastened. The washing takes place at the banks of river Swarnamukhi at Kalahasti. It is believed that only the minerals and the particular chemical composition of the water that flows in Swarnamukhi can give the print and fabric the finishing it requires.
These fabrics are then dried on the ground where it interacts with the soil of the land giving it the tinge and hue that all authentic Kalamkari prints flaunt.
These location specific factors that add to the quality and finesse of the fabrics make it one of the geographical prints as identified by the UNESCO.
Buy Authentic, ByHand
We at Byhand believe in a sustainable, eco-friendly and a fair-trade business model that supports local artisans and India’s age old traditional handicrafts. Hence we house only the most authentic of fabrics sourced directly from the weavers and artists of India’s villages who have mastered the art of weaving traditions to life for over many centuries now, passing them on diligently through generations.
Buy authentic and best quality Kalamkari prints, fabrics and dresses only at Byhand. Because fashion is not just about what you wear, it’s about what you are truly- by heart.