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Srikalahasti is one of the main pilgrimage center located in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, 39kms from Tirupati another well-known pilgrimage city. Srikalahasti got its name from the disciples of Lord Shiva, is also one of the ancient Shiva temples in southern India. Located near the banks of river Swarnamukhi which acts as a main source for a popular textile painting called Kalamkari which are hand painted stories and themes of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Painting being one of the most basic expression of visual art and design, which is a medium that has achieved heights in terms of explorations in different techniques. Indian artists established different insight of tradition and culture by creating accord visually on a wide array of surfaces like metal surfaces, terracotta, glass, trees almost all possible mediums. Textiles are considered as the most widely used canvas for Indian artists which is also the home for textiles.
“Kalam” refers to a pen used in painting whereas “Kari” in urdu means craftsmanship involved, hence called “Kalamkari”, it has come a long way since it was started around 3000 years, there were many trial and errors in the beginning of kalamkari. The exquisite art of Kalamkari is ancient form of textile panting, which has a rich heritage, it can be dated back to the early period of alliance during the trade of Indian and Persian trade merchants who identified any textile paintings. Artists have evolved from their ancient art of painting stories through time and fashion.
Kalamkari in Srikalahasti has been around for 200 years approximately. Unlike other places where this particular craft is practiced, artists in Srikalahasti retains the ancient techniques of dyeing which have been passed down from generations. Kalamkari probably started in south India to illustrate temple rituals.
Kalamkari painting involves a whole of 23 to 25 steps of dyeing, bleaching, hand painting, outlining drawing, washing and ironing. In short, chanderi or cotton cloth is bought from the market and washed in plain water to remove starch and dried, then washed and soaked in a solution of cow dung, milk and Chebulic myrobalan locally called karakha pindhi for approximately 1 to 2 hours and dried, which is ready for the basic outline drawing with a help of burnt tamarind stick which acts as charcoal/ chalk piece, once the basic outline is done, with the help of a thin bamboo stick (Kalam) outlines are drawn in black colour, the inside are then hand painted with a single colour using kalam, and again washed in plain water. For maroon/ red colour the cloth is soaked in boiling water for the colour to stick to the fabric. The washing process repeats until all the colours are applied. At the final stage, the cloth is washed, ironed and packed accordingly to be sent to the customer.