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In ancient India, the art of painting using organic colors and dyes was very popular, but this style of painting originated at Kalahasti (80 miles north of Chennai) and at Masulipatnam (200 miles east of Hyderabad). Owing to Muslim rule in Golconda, the Masulipatnam Kalamkari was influenced by Persian motifs & designs, widely adapted to suit their taste. The Kalahasti tradition which developed in the temple region mostly concentrated on themes form Hindu mythology, epics (Ramayana, Mahabharatha), images of Gods and heroes. Karrupur is a style of Kalamkari that developed in the Thanjavur region during the Maratha rule. The traders and merchants across the world used Kalamkari paintings as currency in the spice trade. The artists who worked on the Kalamkari painting scrolls were known as Jadupatuas or Duari Patuas. The Kalamkari work was a further embellishment to the gold brocade work in the woven fabric, which was used as sarees & dhotis by the royal family during the period of Raja Sarfoji and later Raja Shivaji.


There was a very high demand of spices like nutmeg, clove, and pepper as well as aromatic woods and oils, which were available almost exclusively in parts of Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Prayer rugs, canopies and door covers painted with meharab designs, animal forms and floral motifs were made for the Middle-Eastern market, while tree-of-life bed-covers and dress material that resembled crewel work was painted for the European market. The Kalamkari artist uses a bamboo or date palm stick pointed at one end with a bundle of fine hair attached to this pointed end to serve as the brush or pen. Masulipatnam being a muslim region, the weavers were involved in the block printing art whereas the artists from Kalahasti practiced painting Hindu mythological scenes.
The Southeast Asian and Indonesian traders demanded Indian textile in form of Kalamkari Paintings for ritual and ceremonial use. On the other hand, patterned hip and shoulder wrappers and narrative wall hangings were traded to the Southeast Asian market and material for robes and jackets were sent to East Asia.
European trading merchants however gave the process their own names which included the more familiar ‘chintz’ which came from the British.


These paintings were earlier drawn on cotton fabric only, but now we can see these paintings on silk and other materials as well.
The kalamkari art for sale is available in leading exhibitions that showcase and promote Indian handicrafts.
There are numerous forms and styles of this type of painting throughout the Indian subcontinent.



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