Kantha Research: 2002


The embroidered quilt or 'Kantha' is one of the most renowned forms of folk art of Bengal. Kantha being the result of artistically decorated layers of quilting together of saris or dhotis, the old and worn out saris and dhotis of the household were preserved and recycled for this purpose. Mainly women of the household were involved in making the Kantha. This work gave an expression to their desires, hopes, dreams and miseries. Kanthas were also specially embroidered as gifts for marriages and births in the family. They served not only very practical purposes but were also a very instrumental medium for expression of the creative and fertile female mind. In most Bengali households the old and torn Kanthas are still treasured mainly for their nostalgic value – a lot of memories lie within the folds and stitches of the Kantha. The Kantha was never looked down upon as an item of recycling of old fabrics but formed an intrinsic part and parcel of the Bengali household. Due to the tropical climate of Bengal, there was hardly any requirement for anything warmer than these intricately embroidered pieces of quilted textiles. And, who would not cherish to envelope themselves to sleep under the dreams and fantasies lovingly and painfully embroidered by their mothers and grandmothers!

 

The most important aspect of the Kantha has been as a record of history, many of the designs and motifs refer to the socio – political activities of the day.  Since the motifs rested largely upon the scenes that got imprinted in the vision of the women doing the embroidery it has been very interesting to record the various modes of transportation, the religious notions of the day, the economic state of the region, the lifestyle of the people, the costumes and hair styles of that era, the quality of cotton woven during those times, and the designs and motifs used in the saris and dhotis of those times from the borders of the Kantha.

Gota embroidery: 2002

Amidst all the glitter, glamour and glitz of yesteryear the shimmer and shine of Gota stands out!

Gota has captured in its weave the fantasy of the times. Travelling from the markets of Surat, Ajmer where they were manufactured, Gota came to be the ubiquitous accessory of every royal garment. Gota involves placing a woven gold cloth onto other fabric, preferably silk or satin, to create different surface textures. It is often complemented by ‘kinari’ or edging, which is the fringed or tasselled border decoration. Whether gracing the feet of the royal ladies as Gota butis on the hemline of ghagras or adorning the head as Gota patti on the odhanis Gota played a very prominent role in the lives of the Indian royalty. The Gota was cut into fine shapes of birds, animals, and human figures, attached to the cloth encased in wires of silver and gold, while the space around was covered by coloured silk. The overall effect was one of enameling quite similar to the kundan – meena jewellery, a highly refined craft of Rajasthan.

 

Though there is not much evidence of the use of Gota since any particular time before the Mughal reign as hardly any textile piece survives before that era since time creates havoc with textiles. It can be said with certainty that the craft of attaching the Gota ribbon in various shapes and forms received an artistic lease of life during the Mughal era. Mughals, the greatest connoisseurs of arts, crafts and literature in India actively encouraged all forms of arts and crafts. Muslim craftsmen predominantly practiced this art and drew inspiration from Mughal embroidery and classical Mughal darbar wear.

 

Gota craft did not play a major role in the greater textile and garment scenario like Benarasi, Zardosi, Kinkhab, Tanchoi, Muslin, Blockprints, Jamdani did, however, it was indispensable. The Gota ribbon consisted of 'badla' in the weft and silk or cotton in the warp - 'badla' being the flattened gold or silver wire.

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