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All about the famous kalamkari print of India

A traditional Indian textile printing technique, Kalamkari involves hand-painting or block printing designs on cloths using natural dyes. 

The word “Kalamkari” is derived from two Persian words, “kalam” meaning pen, and “Kari” meaning craftsmanship. It is believed to have emanated in the ancient regions of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in India.

Here are some key facets of Kalamkari prints:


Kalamkari has a rich narrative that dates back over 3000 years. It succeeded under the trade of the Mughal emperors and the Golconda Sultanate. The art form is closely associated with the temple traditions and was used to create intricate record depictions on cloth.


The technique involves both hand-painting and block-printing methods. The artists use a bamboo or date palm stick as a pen to draw intricate designs freehand on the fabric. They also use hand-carved wooden blocks to create repetitive patterns. The dyes used in Kalamkari are derived from natural sources such as indigo, madder root, pomegranate, turmeric, and iron rust.

Also, read | The glorious history of Paisley prints 


Kalamkari designs often depict mythological stories, epic narratives, and nature-inspired motifs. Common themes include scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, Krishna-Radha, celestial beings, flowers, animals, and birds. The designs are intricate, highly detailed, and characterized by fine lines.


These prints are used to create a wide spectrum of textile products, including sarees, dupattas, salwar suits, bedspreads, wall hangings, curtains, and more. In recent times, Kalamkari has also built up popularity in the fashion industry, with designers interweaving the prints in modern clothing and accessories.

Kalamkari can be classified into two styles based on the regions where they originated:

  1. Srikalahasti Style: This style is named after the town of Srikalahasti in Andhra Pradesh. It is known for its intricate penwork and the use of vibrant colors. The motifs often include gods, goddesses, and mythological characters.
  2. Machilipatnam Style: Also known as the “Masulipatnam” style, it originated in the town of Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh. This style focuses more on block printing. The designs are bold, with larger motifs and fewer details. It often incorporates floral patterns, vines, and geometrical designs.

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