Kantha – the name which has become overly popular in the fashion and handloom industry.
Kantha refers to a very distinct style of embroidery that hails from Bengal and is applied to the creation of various coverlets and duvets. Traditionally called as Lep Kantha, this pattern of embroidery involved the local and rural women sewing together different layers of cloth, mostly sarees that involve intricate stitches.
The thread that is used for the purpose of this embroidery is pulled out of the saree itself and hence Kantha is considered to be a nominal and practical approach of embroidery. The unique and meticulous artistry of the rural women transformed all the old and worn out rags into some of the most beautiful and extraordinary creations which could withstand all kinds of further usages.
This beautiful pattern of embroidery finds its roots in the villages and rural areas of West Bengal where it was practiced by the rural women who would use this pattern to stitch different types of blankets for their babies in order to keep the cold away from their bodies. This form of embroidery also holds a very special place in the village life of Katna where making Kantha is considered to be a ritual activity. Here, baby kanthas are often prepared and woven for the newborns. Every girl in the village receives an intricate Kantha on her marriage as a present from her mother. Not only this, Kantha is also used during the cremation ceremony to cover the dead body.
This beautiful pattern of embroidery has evolved itself in a number of forms today. Kantha work done on the sarees give it a wrinkled and a wavy look, thereby transforming the old cloths into a new and a colorful piece of art. This kind of stitch is also used in the preparation of quilts called as Nakshi Kantha. Kantha quilts are so much in fashion today. These quilts are colorful, fashionable and vibrant. Above all, they are very comfortable and warming. This kind of stitch is therefore also used in the preparation of small blankets as well as bedspreads for the children.
Today, Kantha has left its colorful mark throughout the fashion industry, thereby embellishing a wide range of garments which include shirts, dupattas, sarees, and bedding as well as a range of various other fabrics in silk and cotton. Old dhotis and sarees are transformed by this work in order to make them more colorful and vibrant so that they could be taken into use all over again.
Kantha is not just a pattern of embroidery, but a way of live. This tradition is followed meticulously and the same is taken into use in one form or the other. Kantha has become a source of income for all the rural women who look forward to earning money by this art. This art has gained a great recognition overseas as well and a number of artists and designers are using it in one form or the other. Kantha surely has a long way to go.