India has plenty of folk art styles and there is so much to learn about each one of them. Kalamkari painting style is another folk art that has history and has been coming through for generations. In an attempt to learn more about Indian culture and traditions, I am trying to practise Kalamkari art style.
Last year in 2020 during the lockdown, I learned about the other forms of Indian paintings and how they originated and where in India they can be purchased.
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What is Kalamkari painting?
The name Kalamkari originates from Persian words ‘Kalam’, meaning ‘pen’ and ‘Kari’, meaning ‘work’ or ‘craftmanship’. Kalamkari art and the paintings are known for its beautiful colour patterns. The paintings contain mostly of animals, birds, women in yellow, Gods in the shades of blue. It is made on cotton fabrics and are entirely hand made. Only natural dyes from plants and other elements are used and involves twenty three steps.
History of Kalamkari painting
The Kalamkari craft was produced in Iran and India. Chitrakars, the musicians and painters, moved from one village to the other to tell the stories of Hindu mythology like the Ramayana and Mahabharata. They illustrated the stories and episodes on large cloths.
It is believed that Mughals patronized this art form and called the Chitrakars as Qualamkars and hence the name Kalamkari originated.
Where can you find Kalamkari paintings in India?
The Kalamkari paintings originated in Andhra Pradesh and are still available in parts of the state. The main places where one can find authentic Kalamkari works are in Srikalahasti from Chittoor district and Machalipatnam.
Srikalahasti is a religious town in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. As per legend, the name Srikalahasti is derived from Sri (meaning spider), Kala (meaning snake) and Hasti (meaning elephant). It is believed that all the three animals worshiped at the Lord Shiva (linga) at the temple and attained moksha.
The town is located on the River Swarnamukhi and is famous for the Srikalahasti temple dedicated to Lord Shiva (linga). Constructed in the year 1516 by the King of Vijayanagara empire, Krishnadevaraya, the temple is of at most significance among the devotees. Srikalahasti is also known as Dakshina Kailasam and Dakshina Kashi.
Srikalahasti can be reached by four ways from the Bangalore city:
- One is to fly to Tirupathi and then take a taxi/bus from Tirupati to Srikalahasti. The distance between Tirupati and Srikalahasti is just 36 kilometres.
- Second way is to take a public transport. There are buses from Bangalore to Srikalahasti and return. The bus journey takes around 5 hours 30 minutes and the bus tickets can be purchased on Redbus.in. Srikalahasti also has a train station of its own. The train routes and timings can be seen on IRCTC website.
- Third way is to take an outstation cab from Bangalore to Srikalahasti. This is the way I traveled to Srikalahasti. I preferred taking an outstation cab with Goibibo as I was traveling with my mother. The round trip cost me INR 6500.
- The last way is to drive yourself. The distance between Bangalore and Srikalahasti is 285 kilometres and takes around 5 hours to drive.
Formerly known as Masulipatnam, Machalipatnam is a city in the Krishna district on the east coast of Andhra Pradesh. The name Machalipatnam translates from Machali meaning fish and Patnam meaning city. Machalipatnam Kalamkari paintings are available at the nearby town of Pedana.
Machalipatnam can be reached by four ways from the Bangalore city:
- The nearest airport is Vijayawada and Machalipatnam is around 54 kilometres from Vijayawada airport. There are flights between Bangalore and Vijayawada.
- Machalipatnam has two train stations, Machalipatnam and Chilakalapudi railway stations. The journey takes around 16 hours 45 minutes. Up to date train routes and timings can be seen on IRCTC website.
- The cheapest way is to take a bus and the bus tickets can be purchased on Redbus.in.
- The distance between Bangalore and Machalipatnam is around 724 kilometres and takes 12 hours 30 minutes. This is the longest way to reach Machalipatnam.
I am in love with Kalamkari paintings and patterns. They are so vibrant and beautiful and talk about the mythological stories. I wish I had picked up a saree or two when I visited Srikalahasti. The Kalamkari work is one of those that every are lover should collect and cherish as it has so much of hard work and history behind the art.
If you loved reading this article, then you will love other articles related to art. Refer the section “Art is Love” on my blog.