Kantha

The land of the red soil

Tucked away 145 kms from Kolkata, Bolpur is best known for its rich culture and vast expanse of paddy lands. Birbhum district which Bolpur belongs to, is also called  ‘Lalmati’, meaning red soil.

 

Of innocence and simplicity

With a small population of a little over 3000 people, this village shines in its simplicity, tradition and a remarkable history interwoven with that of Tagore’s Shantiniketan nestled here.

 

Striking the right chords

Bolpur experiences warm summers and cold winters. But no matter the weather, the local  folk singers keep the spirits alive, with their unique one-string drum and melodious tunes.

 

 

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Strumming away to glory

The popular Baul group of singers keep the spirit of Bolpur alive. When one enjoys the art as much as they do, it sure does show!

 

Welcoming the paddy home

Cultural celebrations abound in Bolpur, and even the joyous occasion of bringing ripened paddy back is celebrated at the ‘Nabanna’ festival.

 

Blissfully oblivious

Surrounded by such rich culture and heritage, the kids run around paddy fields unaware of the history and legacy around them

 

Different strokes

Apart from cleaning and threshing paddy, the locals also involved in another craft, one far more delicate and vibrant in contrast: Kantha embroidery.

 

 

Colour Culture 

Kantha, a unique type of embroidery, is the pride and enterprise of the people of Bolpur. Typically embroidered on cushioned quilts made of stacked old cloth, this art form is now seen across different surfaces.

 

 

 

Different strokes

Kantha across the region of Bangladesh and West Bengal sees different variants in emboridery styles, thread work, motifs and even in the thread used to make this artwork.

 

 

 

Weaving stories day in and day out

Each Kantha has an amazing story to tell, with a personal touch to it. Kantha is also an important form of self expression.

 

Tracing a trail

Every kantha work and kantha artist has a story to tell, one that is usually inspired by nature around them. The artists begin by drawing forms on crisp tracing paper, and incidentally most of the men in the family are involved in the sketching practise. 

 

Shifting patterns

Then begins the process of transferring the design onto the cloth canvas. This begins with small holes are made on the white tracing paper.

 

Method to the motifs

Black/dark grey paste colour is then passed through the holes on the tracing paper to make the design on the surface below it.

 

Uninhibited boundaries

The black outlines help the artist stitch outlines around the patterns thereby creating a motif to work within

Colouring within the lines

Once the tedious task of bordering is completed, the artists go on to fill the motifs with varied vibrant colours.

Bringing it alive

The embroidery that fills up these motifs creates an embossed effect, and the vibrancy that the colours bring along, seems to fill the canvas with life.

Mirroring nature

The motifs in Kantha are usually birds flowers and animals, seemingly inspired by the world around the artisan.

Abundance of intricacy

For a Kantha to be complete, there are three important details – hard work, concentration and creativity and the people of Bolpur seem to be gifted with these in abundance.

 

Blessing of the sun

Dreamily oblivious to the weather, young girls are seen meticulously threading a story on a home terrace.

Bright and joyous

A finished piece of Kantha, seems to happily radiate the hardwork and effort of the Bolpur artisans.

 

A colourful journey

In some of the kantha work, there seems to be an entire tale embedded in a singular canvas. These stories are passed on through generations, making it easier to remember and communicate.

Strands of magic

Threads are the most important tools for embroidery. The colours are some time seasonal. Artists select teal blue for birds, orange for dry fields, purple and red to portray flowers and brown to showcase paddies cut from the field.

The legacy lives

Sahibar Banu started making Kanthas at the age of 13. Today, she is 82 and weaves a new story into each of her embroideries. She won a national award in 2004, and dedicates it to her first trainer, her mother.

Honing the stitches

With an impeccable experience of over 70 glorious years, she now holds workshops for more than 500 women in her village.

Passion in patterns

Even after the workshop is over with the master craftsman, the village women bring back the cloth to their homes and continue weaving in the open fields.

Passing it on

The intricate art of Kantha is handed down through generations. Here, a 4 year old is already starting to mimic her mother’s gentle hand movements at the art work.

Experts in the making

Umma Salma Khatoon, a national award winner, inherited Kantha skills from her mother. She imparts the knowledge of the art to over 1500 students in and around Bolpur every year.

Mastering the art

Even in the adjoining areas to Bolpur, the art of Kantha is fairly popular.  62 years old, Saleha Bibi from Patita village in Nanoor, trains over 200 women at her place in the art of Kantha embroidery

Changing canvases

Initially popular on quilts and cushion work, Kantha work is now seen even on saris, shawls, coats and other applications.

Spreading joy

The stories embedded within each Kantha work as impressive as the very story and history behind the craft itself, which closely rivals the splendid history behind the town of Bolpur itself

Inspired Décor

Other Colour Practice Stories

Knots of Identity

Location - Rajkot

A Tale of Threads

Location - Varanasi

The Maker and his Master

Location - Chorida
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