Bolpur, West Bengal


Kantha’s origin can be traced back to the households of rural women in undivided Bengal. It began as a medium to make quilts, spreads and covers for new born babies. Old sarees were layered and binded together using running stitches from threads taken out from the saree itself. Once the base was binded, stories related to personal events, folklores, and religious tales were embroidered on top. It is a women’s art, a domestic skill that developed over time. The skill was handed down from mothers to daughetrs.

Kantha originated more than thousand years ago, but its earliest mention can be found in the book “Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita”, written almost 500 years ago. Wearing kantha is associated with the saints of Mughal Empire and Lord Buddha alike. It is believed that when a rag is offered to Cindiyadeo, the lord of tatters, a whole new cloth is given by him. There are rag shrines all over the country. There are seven types of kantha, namely lep kantha, oaar kantha, rumal kantha, nakshi kantha, baiton kantha, archilata and durjani.

The repetitive ‘kantha stitch’ gave the appearance of ripples on the entire surface of the fabric. There was a difference between the motifs created by women belonging to different communities. On one hand, Muslim women created floral and geometric patterns whereas Hindu women created flower centric designs surrounded by everyday life. It was a medium for women’s expression. Earlier, the embroidery was practiced only for personal use. In early 20th century, the craft began to decline, when mill made textiles came into existence. But now the craft is made for the commercial space.   



Old sarees, dhotis are collected and layered together to prepare a base. The threads are pulled out from old sarees. These threads are used to bind the base.


The required design is transferred to the fabric using khakha.


Embroidery is done using a variety of stitches.