The Royal Art form – Kalamkari

Art form from Andhra Pradesh


Off late I have been thinking about a few things quite deeply. Maybe, it is an impact of the break that I took. Sikkim had definitely been a rejuvenating experience. The people, the culture, the attitude. Everything was just too good. Once I returned to Bombay, the fast life seemed a little out of place. Everyone is just running. Rushing to catch the train, reach office on time, yet, getting late! Then why rush? Why not pace out our lives? Focus. Keep calm.

I believe, that cannot change. The “hurry syndrome” has caught on very badly. We are all slaves of last minute! Planning is not what comes to all, naturally.

Today’s blog, which is once again in collaboration with the super talented team of Vivarang, speaks about the age old art form – Kalamkari. It is an ancient art form that originated 3000 years ago. It derives its name from Kalam meaning Pen, and Kari meaning work, literally Pen-work The blog will have a contrasting mix on an art, which is very slow and vigorous, along with styling which can help all the last minuter.

All the four saris, featured on the blog, is not paired with a blouse. Blouse has been replaced with tops/shirts from my personal closet.  Every time, we get a wedding or an office party invite,we feel like wearing a sari. But getting that blouse done, never happens. That is why, I though of some quick fix for this age old problem 🙂


Black crop top and green magic:

This beautiful hand painted Kalamkari sari from Vivarang, is paired with a simple black crop top. A crop top is the closest that you can replace a blouse with. Some of us want to play safe and not experiment too much with our wardrobe. For that set, a crop top can be used instead of a blouse.

The beautiful green and black combination is made out of organic painting. The fabric used is, silk. The beauty of Kalamkari is the kind of motifs used. It chiefly consists of scenes from Hindu mythology. This sari, is like a story book. It shows beautiful images of ancient times.

If you think, you want to go beyond black, then a bronze or gold blouse will look amazing in contrast to this subtle colour scheme. Since the sari has a story to tell, keep the overall look very minimal. Simple makeup, one piece jewellery. I have used a choker neck-piece in bronze to stand out against the colours.

But like I mentioned, since most of us are last minute people, you can cheat a little and put on that top as a blouse.

Kalamkari info:  The artists who do Kalamkari painting, use a bamboo or date palm stick pointed at one end with a bundle of fine hair attached to this pointed end to serve as the brush or pen!



Playing contrast – blue lace top and mustard classic:

Honestly, I love mustard as a colour. There is something really classy about it. It has the right balance of bright and subtle. Not to forget, this is a cotton Kalamkari sari and the specialty of the art form is, that the finished products are mellow. Bright colours are used, but the finish is not gaudy.

If you watch the sari, the pallu is a story of Lord Krishna and Radha. It is so beautiful that it will grab all the attention. Therefore, a brilliant choice for an event. The sari is light, made of cotton and has some great handwork done on it.

My first and only colour choice, for the top to go with this sari, was blue. Somehow, the blue and mustard combination looks very nice. Since this sari does not have a shine (because of the cotton fabric), I used a blue lace top for some effect.

Wear the top as a top. Do not tuck it in. Let the flow stay as it is. That is beauty of this experiment.

Kalamkari info:  There were different names given to the artists, who worked on the Kalamkari painting. They were known as  Jadupatuas or Duari Patuas. This meant ‘magical painters’.




Red shirt and black silk beauty:

Look at this sari!! How beautiful can Kalamkari get? Vivarang, thank you for letting me shoot in this gorgeous sari. Every inch of this spells class.

Nothing could have done justice to this piece, except the powerful colour, red. Red, always looks dashing against black. For this masterpiece, I took out the red shirt from my wardrobe. There was no bargaining after that. The combination looked like a dream.

The art form used in this Kalamkari sari is that of Buddhist origin. Modern applications have taken the Kalamkari technique to a new level. Therefore, increasing the spread of the art form.

With the red shirt and black silk Kalamkari sari, I have used silver accessories. Somehow, I feel, silver looks perfect against black. You can also used dull gold. But refrain from costume jewellery. They will kill the sari.

This look is perfect for that office event or an evening cocktail. Smart, elegant and definitely a head turner. A small tip – if you want a more dynamic look, make a front knot with the shirt. It will look sensuous and smart.

Kalamkari info:   The dyes which are used in Kalamkari painting, are obtained by extracting colours form parts of plants – roots, leaves along with mineral salts of iron, tin, copper, alum, etc., which are used as mordants.



Orange crop top with the charm of Tussar silk:

This sari was the lightest amongst all. Tussar as a fabric is very classy. It is perfect for day and evening wear. The work on this sari is so nice that you can wear it for any occasion. The beautiful cream background has been subtly highlighted with bright colours like red, green and yellow. Not too much has been done. The border and pallu is the highlight of this beauty.

I did not want to use any colour from the sari for my top. Therefore, chose orange. It is a dull orange which sits beautifully against cream. When I see the sari, it reflects every step in the process which is painstakingly done and with perfection.

The charm of the art is what makes it different from the rest. The effort that goes into making those motifs are beyond words.

This sari can easily paired with a lot of colours. There is green, yellow and red which will sit well.

Kalamkari info:   The art has been practiced by many families in Andhra Pradesh. Over the generations, this has constituted their livelihood. It had a decline pre-Independence. But was revived in India and abroad for its craftsmanship.


Wardrobe – Vivarang

Photographs by – Sameer Lodhi

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