Kalamkari Temple Paintings from South India
In the 1980's we collected many examples of kalamkari temple paintings from Andhra Pradesh in South India. These paintings decorate Hindu temples and are also used as backdrops by the travelling theatre groups that would recite tales from the Ramayana and other Hindu epics. With the advent of television, travelling theatres that were the mainstay of village entertainment in rural India are sadly going out of favour.
This 5.5 metre long kalamkari painting is shown on the outside of our gallery in Sheffield.
They are painted by hand using a kalam or bamboo pen and coloured with a variety of natural dyes made from minerals and vegetable extracts. The work is time consuming and involves 23 separate processes. This photo is taken from the website of Lepakshi, the Andhra Pradesh Craft Emporium and shows the kalam being used to create the outline drawings. In the background you can see the range of colours that can be achieved with skillful use of vegetable dyes.
Buffalo milk is used to prepare the cotton fabric and a special sugary solution called jaggery - an important ingredient of many traditional textile processes in India - is used in the application of the black dyes. These blocks of jaggery are on sale in a market at the small town of Wadhwan in Gujarat.
Our large painting is covered with dozens of figures of men, women, warriors, gods and mythical creatures engaged in dramatic stories and legends. The dyes are extracted from plants and alum & mineral salts of tin, copper and iron are used as mordants to fix the colours. The blues are usually derived from indigo.
Alizarin has tended to replace the vegetable extract of madder for the red colour and wax resist methods are used to create white and paler areas in a method that resembles batik dyeing.
There are two types of kalamkari - which is actually sometimes spelt kalamakari -this type is known as the Srikalahasti style. The other style, Machilipatnam, involves a similar dying process but uses carved wooden printing blocks for the outline designs. View our bedspreads in the Machilipatnam style.
The Machilipatnam style of Kalamkari was also a recognised decorative textile process in Persia - in fact the word kalam derives from the Persian language - but is less well known because the French and English traders who brought these fabrics back to Europe traded more easily in India. They also documented the manufacturing process in great detail so that the painted and printed cloth could be copied, albeit with different designs.
You may like the style of this large Kalamkari wallhanging but need something a little smaller! We have some Kalamkari paintings that can be easily put into a frame measuring approx 50x60cm for a great piece of individual wall decoration. They paintings have the same fluid organic feel as the large temple hanging and employ the same subtle natural dyes.
The paintings above, of the monkey god Hanuman, and the one below of Kali and snake, have been sold and are no longer available.