KALAMKARI FROM DWARAKA
These panels are hand painted on cotton fabric by the DWARAKA artists of Sri Kalahasti, Andhra Pradesh. Hand painted Kalamkari is one among the multitude of art forms in India. Dating back to the Vijayanagar Empire, that once ruled the SriKalahasthi region, hand painted Kalamkari done on textiles is a laborious process. The cloth is first dipped in a mix of milk and myrobolan powder, followed by a hand sketch done on it using burnt twigs as charcoal, which are written upon by the “kalam”, or a twig with thread around it.
The kalam is dipped in a liquid mix made using palm jaggery and iron filings fermented together for a month or so. Traditional motifs such as peacocks and flowers, or at times mythological stories are then written on the cloth that is then coloured using vegetable dyes in earthy hues of pomegranate reds, mango yellows, earthen rusts, leafy greens, raven wing blacks and Lord Krishna blues— the artisans fill the once lifeless cloth canvases with vibrant colours. The cloth is boiled, and dried under the sun on sand (originally it was upon the banks of the Swarnamukhi river that was the lifeline of this region).
Impoverished and ostracized women from rural communities in and around Srikalahasti were mobilised for collective change. In the year 1998, moved by the artists’ despondency and mesmerized by the art, Sri Dwaraknath Reddy, founder of DWARAKA, and his daughter Anita, a social activist of 40 year experience launched the DWARAKA movement to breathe a new life into the dying tradition of hand painted Kalamkari.
Dwaraka’s efforts have now borne fruit. Dwaraka has impacted hundreds of women artists, directly or indirectly, and their families who now have means for a sustainable livelihood, and artists who were on the verge of closing down and moving to mainstream jobs have now found a new lease of life through the revival of hand painted kalamkari art.