Kalamkari mania grips Chennai

By P T Usha Published on Oct 10, 2017 04:25 PM IST

Chennai: Tamilnadu is being conquered by Andhra Pradesh. Or rather, by its craftspersons.

This Deepaval season, Chennai is being flooded with Kalamkari saris and dress materials. This has been happening for the past year and is peaking during the festive season.

There is a steady increase in love for Kalamkari, a hand art on fabrics that is native to Kalahasti and Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh.

All textile shops - including the popular and not-so-popular ones in the city - have opened separate sections for this material and people who exhibit stalls also agree that this is the best moving material of the season.


Bharathi, who runs a textile shop, Aarika Fashions, says Kalamkari dominates the current trend. While there are many varieties, cotton Kalamkaris are loved by office-goers and they sell well. Also, printed silk Kalamkaris are being flaunted during family and official functions.

"I would say this material tops the sale list. It sold the most during Navrathri season and is trending for Deepavali too. People have a fascination for Kalamkari printed blouses also."

Starting from Rs 1,150 for a sari, Bharathi says Kalamkari sarees are mostly favoured by the upper middle-class people. More than that, nowadays modern moms are opting for mother-daughter/son Kalamkari combos. While the mother wears a Kalamkari sari or kurti, the daughter is provided with a gown of same fabric and print and a son is made to wear a kurta with similar print.

Buddha, Devi and peacock are the prominent motifs in this fabric and the pattern they follow is unique and not repeated.


There have always been two kinds of people in buying trendy clothes. While one group’s affinity is more for this kind of fabric, another is very particular in not buying Kalamkaris. Kavitha, an office-goer, says,"My closet is now filled with cotton Kalamkaris. This is very comfortable, light and is a perfect wear for a professional."

Meera, a college-goer says, "I usually stick to the current trend in clothing. In that case, the Kalamkari kurtis are really doing well. The peacock printed kurtis are my personal favorite."

Chitra, a homemaker who is likely to fall in the second group, says, "I have already bought two saris but now I have some hesitation in wearing it since everywhere I go, I can see the dominance of this fabric. People’s idea of pairing up a Kalamkari blouse with silk sari is really good but I can see many of them wearing it which stops me from going for it."


This fabric originates from Kalahasti and Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh. The hand prints are said to be the original Kalamkari which are very expensive. Block printing is also done with designs printed on Kalamkari fabric which is priced moderately.

"Sometimes, customers are cheated with by screen printing with duplicate fabrics. Hence, proper examination should be done before buying," says a wholesale seller.


Entrepreneur Bharathi says, "Customers are advised to investigate about the washing nature of the fabric before they buy. Most of them use washing machine with hot water which is wrong. This fabric needs special care and should be washed only with cold water. For the colours to last longer, I would suggest the first-wash be done with a mild shampoo rather than a detergent."


This is an ancient style of hand painting done on cotton or silk fabric with a tamarind pen or a bamboo pen using natural dyes.

The word Kalamkari is derived from a Persian word where ‘kalam’ means pen and ‘kari’ refers to craftsmanship. It is among the most beautiful traditional Indian art forms and involves block printing or hand printing, typically done on pieces of cotton fabrics. The unique feature of the Kalamkari art is that it makes use of only natural colours or vegetable dyes.