Kalamkari painting is a traditional Indian art form that originated in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

It is a famous folk painting of India.

The term “Kalamkari” is derived from two words: “kalam,” which means pen, and “Kari,” which means work.

It refers to the art of painting using a pen-like tool.

Kalamkari paintings are known for their intricate designs and vibrant colors.

They are primarily executed on cotton or silk fabric.

The art form involves both painting and printing techniques.

The artists use a bamboo or date palm stick that is shaped like a pen, known as a “kalam,” to draw freehand designs.

These designs are then filled with various natural dyes obtained from plants and minerals.

The themes of Kalamkari paintings often depict mythological stories, religious motifs, nature, and historical events.

The artists display their storytelling skills through these intricate paintings.

The paintings may also feature intricate patterns, floral motifs, and geometric designs.

There are two main styles of Kalamkari painting

Srikalahasti style and Machilipatnam style.

Srikalahasti style

This style is named after the town of Srikalahasti in Andhra Pradesh.

The Srikalahasti style is known for its detailed and intricate linework.

The artists use kalam to draw fine lines and create intricate patterns.

The paintings are usually done in earthy colors like brown, black, and rust.

The artists use a pen-like tool called a kalam (made from bamboo or date palm sticks) to draw freehand designs with precision.

The outlines are filled with various natural dyes obtained from plants and minerals.

The Srikalahasti style typically features earthy colors such as brown, black, and rust.

The themes of the paintings often revolve around religious and mythological stories, showcasing scenes from Hindu epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The Srikalahasti style is known for its meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail.

Machilipatnam style

This style is named after the town of Machilipatnam, also in Andhra Pradesh.

The Machilipatnam style of Kalamkari painting is characterized by the use of bright colors and the inclusion of large motifs.

The artists use blocks to print the larger areas and then add fine details using the kalam.


This style emerged during the 18th century.

The distinguishing feature of the Machilipatnam style is its use of larger motifs and vibrant colors.

In this style, the artists employ both block printing and freehand painting techniques.

They use hand-carved wooden blocks to print larger areas of the design and then add finer details using the kalam.

The Machilipatnam style often incorporates themes of nature, such as flowers, birds, animals, and trees.

It also depicts historical events, courtly life, and everyday scenes.

The colors used in the Machilipatnam style are bright and lively, creating a visually striking effect.

Both the Srikalahasti and Machilipatnam styles of Kalamkari painting have their unique characteristics and visual appeal. They showcase the versatility and artistic prowess of the Kalamkari artisans, making this traditional Indian art form highly treasured and appreciated by art enthusiasts and collectors worldwide.

  Kalamkari painting


Historical Significance of Kalamkari Painting

Kalamkari painting has a rich history that dates back over 3,000 years. It is believed to have originated during the ancient civilization of the Indus Valley. The art form flourished under the patronage of the Mughal emperors and the Golconda Sultanate in South India.

Natural Dyes in Kalamkari Painting

One of the distinguishing features of Kalamkari painting is the use of natural dyes derived from plants and minerals. The artists prepare these dyes using various ingredients such as indigo, pomegranate, myrobalan, madder root, and iron rust. These natural dyes create a distinct color palette, with earthy tones dominating the Srikalahasti style and vibrant hues in the Machilipatnam style.

Block Printing and Freehand Painting

Kalamkari paintings often combine block printing and freehand painting techniques. While larger areas are filled using hand-carved wooden blocks, the fine details, intricate lines, and shading are done using the kalam. The artists display remarkable skill and precision in creating intricate patterns and designs.

Themes and Motifs in Kalamkari Painting

Kalamkari paintings typically depict mythological stories, religious narratives, and scenes from epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The artists also portray elements of nature such as flowers, birds, animals, and trees. Historical events, courtly life, and everyday scenes are also depicted in Kalamkari art.

Stages of Kalamkari Painting

The process of creating a Kalamkari painting involves several stages. First, the fabric is treated with a mixture of cow dung and bleach to enhance its ability to absorb color. Then, the artists sketch the design using a charcoal pencil or dye. The outlines are then filled with dyes using kalam or block printing. After the colors dry, the painting is washed to remove any excess dye and set the colors.

Evolution of Kalamkari

While the traditional techniques of Kalamkari painting are still practiced, contemporary artists have also adapted the art form to create innovative designs. They experiment with new color palettes, incorporate modern themes, and explore different mediums like paper and canvas.

History of Kalamkari painting

The history of Kalamkari painting can be traced back to ancient times, with its roots deeply embedded in Indian culture. The art form has evolved over centuries, and here is an overview of its historical journey:

Ancient Origins

Kalamkari painting has its roots in the ancient civilization of the Indus Valley, which flourished around 2500 BCE. Archaeological evidence suggests that the people of the Indus Valley had a sophisticated textile industry, and some of their fabrics featured intricate designs similar to those found in Kalamkari.

Influence of Persian and Mughal Art

The art of Kalamkari flourished under the patronage of the Mughal emperors during the 16th and 17th centuries. Persian artists, who were known for their miniature paintings, played a significant role in influencing the development of Kalamkari painting. They brought new techniques and motifs, which merged with the traditional Indian art forms.

Golconda Sultanate

The Golconda Sultanate, which ruled parts of South India from the 16th to the 17th century, was a significant patron of Kalamkari art. The Sultanate’s capital, Golconda (present-day Hyderabad), became a center for Kalamkari artists. The art form reached new heights of sophistication during this period.

Srikalahasti Style

The town of Srikalahasti in Andhra Pradesh became a prominent center for Kalamkari painting. The Srikalahasti style emerged during the 17th century and is characterized by intricate line work and delicate details. The artists used vegetable dyes and focused on religious and mythological themes.

Machilipatnam Style

Another important center for Kalamkari painting was Machilipatnam, also in Andhra Pradesh. The Machilipatnam style developed during the 18th century and is known for its larger motifs and vibrant colors. This style incorporated block printing alongside freehand painting.

Revival and Modernization

Kalamkari painting faced a decline in the 19th and early 20th centuries due to various factors, including the introduction of European textiles. However, efforts were made to revive the art form during the 20th century. Artists and craftsmen worked towards preserving traditional techniques and designs while also adapting to modern tastes and market demands.



Today, Kalamkari painting has gained recognition as a unique and significant art form. It is celebrated for its intricate craftsmanship, rich storytelling, and vibrant colors. The art form has garnered international attention and continues to be treasured as a vital part of India’s artistic and cultural heritage.

 Kalamkari painting continues to be treasured as a significant art form that showcases the skill, creativity, and cultural heritage of India. It serves as a testament to the artistic prowess of the artisans who meticulously create these intricate and captivating works of art.

Kalamkari paintings are highly valued for their artistic and cultural significance. They have been recognized as a Geographical Indication (GI) under Indian law, highlighting their uniqueness and traditional craftsmanship.

Today, Kalamkari art has evolved, and artists also create Kalamkari-inspired designs on various products such as sarees, bedspreads, wall hangings, and accessories, which are popular among art lovers and collectors both in India and internationally.


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