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Diving Deeper into the Rich History of Kantha Stitch Sarees
It might come off as a surprise to some but Kantha Stitch Saree or kantha embroidery has a history dating back centuries. So old, in fact, that the first mentions of the craft can be traced back to pre-Vedic times. Kantha stitch as an art form developed from the thrift of Bengali women. Today kantha stitch sarees online have become an integral part of Bengal and India’s leap into the eCommerce space for traditional wear. The term kantha can be used to refer to the running stitch or the finished product as well. The craft of kantha stitch brought together women of different castes. The rich zamindar’s wife made elaborate quilts as did the peasant farmer’s wife with her own version of the modest coverlet.
The kantha art was never written down but passed orally from one generation to the next.
History of Kantha Stitch Saree
Kantha’s humble beginnings in Bengal would have all but amounted to nothing, had the art not been revived from the dead in the 1940s. In an interesting turn of events, post-resuscitation, Kantha stitch was popularized by Protima Devi, Rabindranath Thakur’s daughter. Following the partition in 1947 and the Independence War of Bangladesh in 1971, the art of kantha rebirthed itself into the well-loved, well-cherished craft that it is today.
Researchers have not been able to pin down any certain etymological roots for the word Kantha, but the general consensus states that it comes from the Sanskrit term ‘kontha’ or rags. The first written record of the term is found in a 500-year-old manuscript by Krishnadas Kaviraj. That same kantha is now displayed in Gambhira, Puri.
The Stitch of Kantha
The earliest type of stitch used in kantha was the straight running stitch. Gradually the running stitch branched into two varieties – nakshi kantha and par tola kantha. While nakshi kantha told the stories of the women who made them through its weaving, par tola kantha was more about geometric designs.
When the British took over West Bengal, they introduced a cross-stitch (or carpet) kantha. Other popular forms of kantha include the anarasi, lohori, and sujni varieties.
Cloth Used in Kantha
Kanthas were stitched to be used as quilts during draughty winter nights in Bengal. However, the first popular usage of the cloth was for swaddling babies. It was believed that expectant mothers stitching kanthas for the baby would bring good fortune to the family and the little one.
Kantha Stitch Today
Even today, it is a rather common occurrence to find modern versions of the traditional patchwork kantha left out to dry in the verandahs of suburban and rural Bengal.
However, kantha stitch has grown into this massive sub-genre of sarees. In modern times, it has become synonymous with a massive chunk of Bengali hastashilpa or handicraft.
There is a rapid incline in the number of designers, manufacturers, and resellers who are ethically producing and sourcing kantha stitch products. Own your own little piece of Bengali heritage with the purchase of kantha stitch sarees online from DDS Saree Collection.