Information on Nakshi Kantha (Folk Art of Bengal)

Nakshi Kantha

Nakshi Kantha, also known as Nakshi Katha, is the popular hand embroidery art form of West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Meaning

The word ‘nakshi’ derives its origin in the Bengali word ‘naksha’. “Naksha” means design or pattern.

The name “Kantha” is the needle embroidery practices in the districts of West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Nakshi Kantha – Unique Creation by Bengalis

The Nakshi Kanta is a unique creation in the folk art of the Bengalis. The beautiful needle-work are done by rural women on a piece of cloth. The Nakshi Kantha clothes are also meant to keep the cold away during winter in rural areas. During recent years, it has gained acceptance among young generation as a fashionable item. During festive season, there is surge in demand for Kantha sarees. Kumarkandi village at Faridpur in Bangladesh is known to be the home of the Nakshi Kantha.

Dorokha Kantha – The Two sided Nakshi Kantha

In the contest of Nakshi Kantha of Bengal, it is important to mention the “Dorokha Kantha”. The Dorokha Kantha means “two sided” designed Nakshi Kantha. Such Nakshi Kanthas have the same design on both sides making it difficult to distinguish the right side up. A closer look, however, makes clear that on the side of the design was originally done and the side that is repeated. The Dorokha kantha is mostly seen in the districts of Rajshahi, Jessore, Khulna of Bangladesh and Bankura, Birbhum and of West Bengal.

The world of Nakshi Kantha was mainly feminine. Men rarely participate in it. To choose cloth, decide on the types of thread to use, set designs charcoal and pencil, and then stitching, everything was carried out by the women themselves.

Nakshi Kantha Fabric

To make Nakshi Kantha, the women in Bengal used a whole and one half old sari or dhoti. The whole fabric is folded four times and the other two times. The ends are then tied together with pins. Then the fabric is smoothed so that there are no wrinkles. Then the ends of the cloth are stitched together and the pins removed.

Nakshi Kantha Threads

The theads used for the preparation of the designs were secured from old saris. After the ends are secured, charcoal or pencils are used to draw the design outline. Then the Nakshi-Kantha hand embroidery is started. A lotus or some alpana design is embroidered at the center of the Nakshi-Kantha fabric. Once the center design is ready, remaining vacant areas are hand-embroidered. Although the designs have apparently no connection with others, they ensured that the symmetry is not altered.

Motifs of Nakshi Kantha

The Nakshi Kantha is the reflection life, aspirations and culture of the village women of Bengal. The motifsused in Nakshi-Kantha Work are symbols that have a special place in the folk art tradition of India. The rural women of India have expressed their feelings through folk art. The motif patterns include the sun, the moon, the lotus, the rose, the animals and water. Water plays a central role in all religious beliefs, whether Christian, Muslim or Hindu.

Wide Open Petal lotus is an ancient symbol of India. The Swastika denoting welfare is a symbol of auspiciousness. The four trees are the symbols of the four directions.

Motifs ranging from human figures and animals to plant life and home products were used in hand-embroidery works. The folk art in this country was a product of religious, socio and economic life and different illustrations and symbols are used.

Conclusion

The  Nakshi Kantha was deeply associated with Bengali lives, and it can be understood through a perusal of Sanskrit and Bengali literature. The Kantha has also given expression to Sanskrit slokas.

Kanta is an example of a strange contradiction, because this is an object which is created in an effort for saving by transforming old clothes into art of rare beauty.

Also read, Complete article on Kantha.

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