Kantha Embroidery

A 500year old unique traditional art that originated in Murshidabad, India. It is most famously practiced on Bengal, especially in Bhojpur and Bihar. It is made using the most common running stitch embroidery on sarees in the form of motifs like animals, birds, flowers, simple geometrical shapes and scenes from everyday life . In short, Kantha work embroidery is now practiced on used or discarded apparels, transforming them into extraordinarily renewed creations with extended life, is today the rave of the fashion world.

Different sarees made into one quilt using running stitch

Travel Back in Time

To explore Kantha work

To learn about Kantha work, we have to travel back to sixteenth and seventeenth century in Portugal, were Kantha work was recognised in the so called Satgaon, Portuguese quilts. The Hardwick Hall Kantha Quilt is an example of the early form of Kantha Work.There is a 500year old myth, which talks about Kantha work during the Lord Buddha period. Were it is spoken that, Lord Buddha and his disciples used old rags with different kind of patch work to cover them at night and these rags were traditionally done by the women of those era. It is said that the women take 5 to 6 sarees, later stitch them together and create different running stitches and make a blanket out of it to keep their children warm at nights.However, what started as a way to make life more comfortable for people went on to become a big trend in clothes and furniture industry.

Types of Kantha Work

There are few types of Kantha work which is known according to the type of stitches used;

1. Cross stitch Kantha: This is a cross stitch method embroidery which is used during the British Era.

A cross stitch Kantha embroidered Pakistani Suit

2. Running stitch kantha: A running stitch embroidery which is mostly designed using geometric patterns, figurative patterns eg; animals or birds motifs and daily life scenes which is also called as Nakshi Kantha

The infamous Nakshi kantha pillow cover

3. Lik or Anarasi Kantha: Originatimg from the Bangladeshi region, the Lik or Anarasi kantha has numerous variation forms.

Kantha Embroidered Hand bag

4. Lohori Kantha: A Rajasthan famous kantha embroidery they are divided into straight or simple designs else or geometric patterns

Geometric shape Bed Cover with Lik Embroidery

5. Sujani Kantha: The famous floral or vine motif are done using this particular Kantha work.

Paisley, Floral, Hindu mythology and Animal Embroidered Sujani Kantha

Apart from dresses and saree, kantha work is used to make cover for tables and chairs, departs to mix and match, shawls, wall hangings, soft furnishing and bedding for pillows and cushions as well as for Quilt, prayer mats, flower coverings, wallets, purses and so on.

Kantha Work Dupatta

Present Day Scenario

Kantha embroidery marks a flair for style in any individual who wears it, while maintaining the appeal of comfort and leisure. Sharbari Dutta, an Indian fashion designer, has given Kantha work a new identity by innovatively trying new styles and forms with the work. She creates apparels with unique touch by including the kantha embroidery on dhotis, kurtas, sherwanis and even hot pants. So far kantha work had been famous for sarees and upholsteries, Sharbari Dutta came and changed the persona of the Kantha industry. Hillary Clinton, former wife of Bill Clinton , on one of her visits to India, was very much impressed by the rich cultural display of the Kantha works in Bengal.

Queen of Bengal Fashion – Sharbari Dutta

Bengal fashion week – Men Groom wear by Sharbari Dutta

Kantha work dhoti suit

Worldwide Name

As Kantha work is been practiced for ages and has been a favourite among the people who love traditional handicrafts combining it with fashion and style which takes this embroidery to levels beyond ordinary. Earlier times, conventional designs like animals and birds were only used, the current generations are fearless when it comes to experimenting new designs and styles. Now many new designs are illustrated through this fine stitch work.With its current develomemt in technique and different flavours of style, making Indian fashion industry proud is this Kantha Work. Designers from accross the world, especially countries like UK and Japan have a global reach for this particular embroidery. As Kantha work has not moved from its originality for decades is the reason it is still in trend even after decades .

Kantha work saree
Japa Kantha work dress by Japanese Designer – Meiko Mintz



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