Kalamkari is the most traditional hand painting style done on cotton or silk fabric using a tamarind pen and colored with natural or vegetable dyes. Kalamkari derives from the Persian word "Kalam," meaning "pen," and "Kari," meaning "craftsmanship." Motifs in Kalamkari sarees depict divine characters from Hindu epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. Nowadays, this art features mostly in Kalamkari sarees.
Families of Andhra Pradesh have practiced kalamkari art over the years, especially in Pedana, Srikalahasti, and Machilipatnam districts. The art found its peak in the wealthy Middle Ages around 2000 years ago. The Mughals patronized this craft in the Coromandel and called the practitioners of this craft "qualamkars." Kalamkari art was the household occupation of various rural women and men.
Making and process:
The process of making kalamkari sarees involves a tedious process. Cotton or silk fabric used for Kalamkari is treated with a cow-dung and bleach solution. The fabric gets a uniform white color after keeping the material in the solution. The cotton fabric is immersed in the buffalo milk and Myrobalans, avoiding smudging dyes in the fabric when painted with natural dyes. Later, the material is washed twenty times to get free from the odor of buffalo milk and dried under the sun. Once the fabric is ready, the artists create motifs and designs. Kalamkari art primarily uses natural colors like indigo, mustard, rust, black and green without chemicals and artificial matters.
From the representation of Kalamkari art as religious paintings till today, when Andhra Pradesh is the largest producer of Kalamkari, this art has come a long way. With the increasing demand in the international market, artisans had later modernized kalamkari themes.