The Kalamkari method of hand painting cotton or silk fabrics is a traditional method of hand painting using natural dyes and a tamarind pen. As the name implies, Kalamkari derives from a Persian word where the word ‘kalam’ indicates pen and the word ‘kari’ means craftsmanship. This craft requires 23 laborious steps, including starching, cleaning, hand painting, block printing, dyeing, bleaching, and more. Flowers, peacocks, paisleys, and divine figures from Hindu epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana are just a few of the motifs used in Kalamkari artwork. Nowadays, this art is primarily done to create Kalamkari sarees.
A large number of families in Andhra Pradesh and some villages in Tamil Nadu have practiced Kalamkari art as a source of livelihood over the generations. The wealthy middle ages saw the peak of its popularity as an art form. During the Mughal rule of the Coromandel, this craft was called “qualamkari” by the Mughals, which evolved into the term “kalamkari“. During this period, cotton fabrics patterned with geometric patterns were made.
Freehand painting and block printing of vegetable dyes are used. When block printing is used, the kalam (pen) is used to draw finer details and apply some colors. This is entirely digital in the modern era. New varieties and new methods are developed, and digital files of kalamkari (pen work) are completely distributed throughout all India.