Beauty in simplicity is aptly personified by Kantha.
Kantha refers to both, the running stitch and the fabric. The word ‘Kantha’ is believed to be derived from the Sanskrit word ‘kontha’ meaning rags. Kantha’s roots originate from West Bengal, Orrisa and some part of Bangladesh. It flourished supremely in the 19th century, while it lost its existence later on, until this art was derived again by the daughter in law of the Bengali poet and artist, Sir Rabindranath Tagore.
Kantha is believed to have originated 500 years ago. It is believed that Lord Buddha and his disciples used to cover themselves with rags at night to salvage themselves from the cold environment. Earlier, textile was a very labor intensive and tiresome work, hence it held great importance. As this art was done mainly in the houses, women had the command over this particular art. Kantha was earlier a way to recycle the old clothes turned into rags. Thus, five to six pieces of clothes(rags) were stitched together using the only technique of Kantha- the running stitch. Running stitch holds the essence of Kantha, which is used in multiple ways by these ladies to get the desired design.
Just like the simple stitch, Kantha work was inspired by the simple surroundings. The motifs composed are inspired by objects like flowers, creepers, water, birds, lotus, fish, mermaids, foliage, and anything and everything which surrounds them.
The motifs of Kantha depicted folk stories, ritualistic motifs, epics, mythlogical backgrounds, vegetation, roaming animals, animals running, peacock, temples, costumes, deities, and what not.
Present day scenario
Today, Kantha has been shaped more like a fashion substantial rather than the means to upcycle old clothes. It shifted its vision from a means for rural ladies to socialize to means of earning bucks. It no longer is confined to sarees, Kantha has a huge horizon now. It is used in developing shawls, scarfs, home furnishing, western wear. The motifs are no longer confined to animals and flowers; mythology, abstract and some over the world inspiration are used to create Kantha fabric.
Kantha fabric is not as delicate as it sounds. No extra care is required to keep it safe and sound. A normal hand wash or machine wash is enough to maintain this piece of art.
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