History and Origin
The Sanskrit term of Kantha is referred to as “rags”. It is a woman’s art, where the Bengali women/housewives used to mend old and ragged clothes by extracting the thread strands from the colorful sarees and making simple yet elegant designs.
The design or the Kantha embroidery was done in the form of a running stitch at the edges of soft fabric like dhotis and sarees.
It is said that Kantha Stitch is the oldest embroidery art form, which can be traced back to the 1st and 2nd AD. The Kantha Stitch art form was also mentioned in the 500-year-old book of Krishnadas Kaviraj. The book’s name is “Chaitanya Charitamrita“. Kantha stitch has got Hinduism influence, where the motifs talk about the cultural and religious significance. In various ceremonies like Puja, wedding, celebrations, birth, Kantha stitch was largely used.
After completion of the Kantha stitch, often the finished work is known as :
- Sujni Kantha
All classes of women from rural to rich landladies, everyone in their leisure time used to make quits with beautiful motifs and patterns. The entire rag or the quilt is covered with running stitches which are slightly wavy.
These Kantha embroidered clothes were used for various purposes, like to lay down a baby and massage with oil, they used to place on Kantha stitched cloths, light covers for adults, quilts for the winter season, and sarees to wear. It’s astonishing, how women came up with such a cost-effective solution.
Commercialization of Kantha Stitch
When the Kantha stitch was invented, it was never made for sale. But with for passing time, when people were poor and needed more money to survive, gradual commercialization took place. People started selling it for money. Mostly the urban woman took more interest in selling and making money, which gradually forced the rural people to do the same as the competition was in their mind. This craft gained popularity and people took interest during the 1980s. Slowly, they started to train batches of women to spread the artform and to keep it away from being extinct. They in turn used to train other women and the chain went on.
Now, Kantha Stitch has been renewed, remixed, and fused into various things. Kantha stitched clothes and apparel are in high demand in the market and the price is very costly. Because the time consumed in making the Kantha stitch is huge. Some work takes days and a few takes months to get finished. The designs are now very beautiful elegant, trendy, fashionable, and very intricate. All detailings need expert supervision.
Various things are made like :
- Table runners
- Table covers
- Handmade diaries
- Pencil box
Kantha Stitch and its eco-friendly footprint
Kantha stitch was invented out of necessity. It was a need of the hour when India was left with nothing. When the East India Company was making India hollow from the inside, women from West Bengal were busy inventing these eco-friendly pieces of stuff to lower down their expenditure and caring for their families more effectively.
They used to teach their child the importance of “Reduce, Reuse & Recycle“. They always tried to keep their footprint green by wasting less and making beautiful decorative things out of discarded clothes. Isn’t it amazing?