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August 29, 2021

An Introduction to Kantha Embroidery

If Indian traditional crafts are new to you, the first thought that may come to your mind may be “What is Kantha Embroidery?” In essence,Kantha embroidery is a form of embroidery craft that is specific to the eastern states of India, most notably in the state of West Bengal.

kantha embroidery

When thinking aboutKantha embroidery history, it is important to appreciate just how established Kantha embroidery is as a practice. In fact, Kantha is one of the oldest forms of embroidery that originated in India. Kantha’s geographical roots trace back to rural Bengal. 

Types of Kantha 

Unfleshing moreabout Kantha embroidery and its origins, ‘Kantha’ in Sanskrit actually means ‘rags’. However, Kantha artwork is produced from anything but rags. A great amount of detail goes into Kantha embroidery. Therefore, the quality of materials used inKantha embroidery designs tends to be of a high standard. The word “Kantha” also means ‘throat’ and was named so because of its association with the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva

Most artisans and organisations that deal with Kantha producers - like Sasha Association for Craft Producers - would agree that there are seven types of Kantha. These are:

  1. Lep Kantha: These are rectangular wraps that are heavily padded. They are used to make homely coverlets. Coverlets are a bedding accessory mostly used to cover the bed, while giving the bed a decorative look.

  2. Sugani Kantha: These are rectangular cloth pieces used as blankets. With the different sizes, colours and types of elements merged together, the final product of this piece is a treat for the eyes.

  3. Baiton Kantha: These are square-shaped wraps. They are used for decoratively covering everyday items like books, providing a magnificent visual appeal.

  4. Oaar Kantha: Used for pillow covers, what is unique about these pieces is that the finishing involves beautifully-coloured borders sewn across the edges of the pillow covers. This gives the pillows a visually-appealing “halo effect.”

  5. Archilata Kantha: You are likely to find this kantha used as visually-appealing covers for mirrors or toilet accessories.

  6. Durjani Kantha: Also known as Thalia Kantha, these are small, decorated rectangles with embroidered borders. Three corners of this rectangle cloth are folded inward to ultimately create a wallet.

  7. Rumal Kantha: There are a variety of uses for this Kantha. Generally, they are used as wipes to absorb liquid or they are used as plate coverings.

Where Would You Come Across Kantha?

Modern-day kantha can be found in a wide array of garments such as sarees, dupatta, shirts for men and women. Kantha can also be used in beautifying bedding and other furnishing fabrics. The Kantha-stitch craft industry involves a highly complex multi-staged production model. However, the real beauty of Kantha is when work is handmade by skilled artisans. The craftsmanship and attention to detail is evident in the final product and the unique ideas of each artisan 

Moreover, Kantha is typically made with cotton or silk. Nowadays however, it is not uncommon for other materials such as crepe and chiffon to be used in the creation of Kantha pieces. 

In summary, there is no limit to where Kantha can be used. It can add charm and appeal to everyday objects, attire or household furnishings.