The Info List - Nakshi Kantha

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Nakshi kantha, a type of embroidered quilt, is a centuries-old Bengali art tradition of Bangladesh.[1][2][3] The basic material used is thread and old cloth.[4] Nakshi kanthas are made throughout Bangladesh, but the greater Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Faridpur and Jessore areas are most famous for this craft.[5]

The colourful patterns and designs that are embroidered resulted in the name "Nakshi Kantha",[6] which was derived from the Bengali word "naksha", which refers to artistic patterns.[7] The early kanthas had a white background accented with red, blue and black embroidery; later yellow, green, pink and other colours were also included. The running stitch called "kantha stitch" is the main stitch used for the purpose.[8] Traditionally, kantha was produced for the use of the family. Today, after the revival of the nakshi kantha, they are produced commercially.

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v t e


1 Etymology 2 Tradition 3 In literature 4 Making 5 Types

5.1 Running stitch 5.2 Lohori kantha 5.3 Lik or anarasi 5.4 Cross-stitch
or carpet 5.5 Sujni kantha

6 Influence of religion and folk belief 7 Stitches 8 Types 9 Motifs

9.1 Lotus motif 9.2 Solar motif 9.3 Moon motif 9.4 Wheel motif 9.5 Swastika motif 9.6 Tree of life motif 9.7 Kalka motif

10 Other motifs 11 Borders 12 Collections

12.1 Bangladesh 12.2 India

13 Organizations which make Nakshi Kanthas 14 Controversy regarding Geographical Indication 15 See also 16 Notes and references

16.1 Notes 16.2 References

17 Further reading 18 External links

Etymology[edit] The word kantha has no discernible etymological root.[9] The exact time of origin of the word kantha is not accurately known but it probably had a precursor in kheta (khet Bengali means "field").[10] According to Niaz Zaman, the word kantha originated from the Sanskrit word kontha, which means rags, as kantha is made of rags.[11] Tradition[edit] Like any other folk art, kantha making is influenced by factors such as materials available, daily needs, climate, geography, and economic factors.[12] Probably the earliest form of kantha was the patchwork kantha, and the kanthas of the decorative appliqué type evolved from this.[13] In literature[edit] The earliest mention of Bengal
is found in the book Sri Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita by Krishnadas Kaviraj, which was written some five hundred years ago. The famous Bengali poet Jasimuddin
also had a very famous poem 'Nakshi Kanthar Math' on Nakshi Kantha
[3] Making[edit] Traditionally old sarees, lungis and dhotis were used to make kanthas. Kantha
making was not a full-time job. Women in almost every household were expert in the art. Rural women worked at leisure time or during the lazy days of the rainy season, so taking months or even years to finish a kantha was normal. At least five to seven sarees were needed to make a standard-size kantha. Today the old materials are replaced by new cotton cloths. Traditionally the thread was collected from the old sarees. That is rarely done today. When a kantha is being made, first the sarees are joined together to attain the required size, and then layers are spread out on the ground. The cloths are then smoothed, and no folds or creases are left in between. During the process, the cloth is kept flat on the ground with weights on the edges. Then the four edges are stitched and two or three rows of large running stitches are done to keep the kantha together. At this stage, the kantha can be folded and stitched at leisure time. Originally, designs and motifs were not drawn on the cloth. The design was first outlined with needle and thread, followed by focal points, and then the filling motifs were done. In a kantha with a predominant central motif the centre was done first, followed by corner designs and the other details. In some types of kanthas (carpet, lik and sujni, etc.) wooden blocks were used to print the outline. The blocks are replaced today by patterns drawn in tracing papers. Types[edit] The following is how kanthas are categorized, according to the stitch type:[12] Running stitch[edit] The running stitch kantha is truly the indigenous kantha. They are subdivided into Nakshi (figured) and par tola (patterned). Nakshi (figured) kanthas are further divided into motif or scenic kanthas. Lohori kantha[edit] The name was derived from Persian word lehr, which means wave. This type of kantha is particularly popular in Rajshahi. These kanthas are further divided into soja (straight or simple), Kautar khupi (pigeon coop or triangle), borfi or diamond (charchala, atchala or barachala). Lik or anarasi[edit] The Lik or Anarasi (pine apple) type of kantha is found in the Chapainawabganj and Jessore
areas. The variations are lik tan, lik tile, lik jhumka, and lik lohori. Cross-stitch
or carpet[edit] This type of kantha was introduced by the English during the British Rule in India.[14] The stitch employed in these kanthas is the cross-stitch. Sujni kantha[edit] This type of kantha is found only in Rajshahi
area. The popular motif used is the undulating floral and vine motif. Influence of religion and folk belief[edit]

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Stitches[edit] Main article: Kantha The earliest and most basic stitch found in kanthas is the running stitch. The predominant form of this stitch is called the phor or kantha stitch.[15] The other forms of stitches used are the Chatai or pattern darning, Kaitya or bending stitch, weave running stitch, darning stitch, Jessore
stitch (a variation of darning stitch), threaded running stitch, Lik phor or anarasi or ghar hasia (Holbein) stitches. The stitches used in modern-day kantha are the Kasmiri stitch and the arrowhead stitch. Stitches like the herringbone stitch, satin stitch, backstitch and cross-stitch are occasionally used.[12] Types[edit] Kanthas generally denote quilts used as wrappers; however, all articles made by quilting old cloth may also be referred to by the same generic name. However, depending on the size and purpose, kanthas may be divided into various articles, each with its specific names. The various types of kantha are as follows:[16]

(lep in Bengali): A light quilted covering made from the old sarees/dhotis/lungis and sometimes from sheet cloths. Large spread (Naksi Kantha
in Bengali): An embellished quilt embroidered in traditional motifs and innovative style Puja floor spread (Ason in Bengali): Cloth spread for sitting at a place of worship or for an honoured guest. Cosmetic wrapper (Arshilota in Bengali): A narrow embroidered wrapper to roll and store away a woman's comb, mirror, eye kohl, vermilion, sandal paste, oil bottle, etc. Often, a tying string is used to bind the wrap, as in later day satches. Wallet (Batwa thoiley in Bengali): Small envelope-shaped bag for keeping money, betel leaves, etc. Cover for Quran (ghilaf in Arabic and Bengali): Envelope-shaped bag to cover the Quran. Prayer mats (Jainamaz in Bengali): Mats used by Muslims to say prayers. Floor spread (Galicha in Bengali): Floor coverings. Cloths wrapper (Bostani, guthri in Bengali): A square wrapper for books and other valuables. Cover (Dhakni in Bengali): Covering cloths of various shapes and sizes. Ceremonial meal spread (Daster khan in Bengali): A spread for eating place, used at meal time. Pillow cover (Balisher chapa or oshar in Bengali): A flat single piece pillow cover. Handkerchief (Rumal): Small and square in shape. Modern-day articles: Today newer uses are found for nakshi kanthas, such as bedspreads, wall hangins, cushion covers, ladies' purses, place mats, jewellery boxes, dress fronts, skirts border, shawls and sharees.

Motifs[edit] Motifs of the nakshi kantha are deeply influenced by religious belief and culture. Even though no specific strict symmetry is followed, a finely embroidered naksi kantha will always have a focal point. Most kanthas will have a lotus as focal point, and around the lotus there are often undulating vines or floral motifs, or a shari border motif. The motifs may include images of flower and leaves, birds and fish, animals, kithen forms even toilet articles. While most kantas have some initial pattern, no two naksi kantas are same. While traditional motifs are repeated, the individual touch is used in the variety of stitches, colours and shapes. The notable motifs found in naksi kantha are as follows: Lotus motif[edit]

Lotus motif

The lotus motif is the most common motif found in kanthas. This motif is associated with Hindu iconography and thus is also very popular in the kantha. The lotus is the divine seat. It is also symbolic of cosmic harmony and essential womanhood. The lotus is also the symbol of eternal order and of the union of earth, water and, sky. It represents the life-giving power of water, and is also associated with the sun for the opening and closing of the petals. It is also the symbol of the recreating power of life. With the drying up of water, the lotus dies and with the rain it springs to life again. The lotus is associated with purity and the goddess Laksmi, the goddess of good fortune and abundance. There are various forms of lotus motifs, from the eight-petaled astadal padma to the hundred petaled satadal. In the older kanthas, the central motif is almost always a fully bloomed lotus seen from above. Solar motif[edit] The solar motif is closely associated with the lotus motif. Often, the lotus and the solar motifs are found together at the centre of a nakshi kantha. The solar motif symbolizes the life giving power of the sun. The sun is associated with the fire which plays a significant part in Hindu rites, both religious and matrimonial. Moon motif[edit] The moon motif has a religious influence, and is popular amongst the Muslims. Mostly it is in the form of a crescent moon accompanied by a star. This motif is particularly found in jainamaz kanthas. Wheel motif[edit] The wheel is a common symbol in Indian art, both Hindu and Buddhist. It is the symbol of order. The wheel also represents the world. The wheel is a popular motif in kanthas even when the maker has forgotten the significance of the symbol. The motif is relatively easy to make with chatai phor. Swastika motif[edit] Su asti in Sanskrit
means it is well. As a motif in Indian art, it dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization. It is symbol of good fortune. It is also known as muchri or golok dhanda. With the passage of time, the design is more curvilinear than the four armed swastika of the Mohenjodaro
seal. The symbolic design has significant influence in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Tree of life motif[edit]

Contemporary Nakshi Kantha
(used as a wall hanging) with animal, fish, butterfly, tree and human figure motif

The influence of this motif in Indian art and culture (as with kantha) may be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization. It is likely that the Indus people conceived the pipal as the Tree of Life...with the devata inside embodying the power of fecundity.[17] During the Buddhist times, the cult of the tree continued. Pipal is sacred to the Buddha because he received enlightenment under its shade. It reflects the fecundity of nature and is very popular in Bengal. Vines and creepers play an important role in kanthas and they contain the same symbolisation as that of tree of life. A popular motif in Rajshahi lohori is the betel leaf. Kalka motif[edit]

Close view of Kalka motif

This is a latter-day motif, dating from Mughal times.[18] The kalka or paisley motif originated in Persia and Kashmir and has become an integral image of the subcontinental decorative motif.[19] It can be compared with a stylized leaf, mango or flame. The kalka is an attractive motif and number of varieties are experimented. Similar motifs can be found in traditional kashmiri shawls.

Other motifs[edit]

Water Motif: Mountain Motif: Fish Motif: Boat Motif: Footprint Motif: Ratha Motif: Mosque Motif: Panja or Open Palm Motif: Agricultural Implements: Animal Motifs: Toilet Articles: Kithen Implements: Kantha
Motif: Palanquin Motif:


Borders from the top:rice stalk, scorpion, pea, eye, wavy or bent, amulet

From the top: shamuk taga, eye border, wrench border, miscellenious borders, wave border, diamond border

Most nakshi kanthas have some kind of border. Either a sari border is stitched on or a border pattern is embroidered around the kantha. The common border found in kanthas are as follows:[20]

From the top: necklace border, ladder border, gut taga, chik taga, nose ring border, fish border, panch taga, bisa taga, anaj taga

The Paddy stalk or date branch (dhaner shish or khejur chari) The Scorpion
border(Biche par in Bengali) The Wavy or bent Border (Beki in Bengali) The Diamond border (Barfi) The Eye border (chok par in Bengali) The Amulet
border (Taabiz par in Bengali) The Necklace border (mala par in Bengali) The Ladder Border (Moi taga) The Gut taga The Chick taga The nolok taga The Fish border (Maach par in Bengali) The panch taga The Bisa taga The Anaj taga The shamuk taga The wrench border The anchor (grafi par in Bengali) The pen border (kalam par in Bengali)

Collections[edit] Bangladesh[edit]

Bangla Design Centre, BSCIC Folk Art and Crafts Foundation Bangladesh
National Museum


Ashutosh Museum, Kolkata Calico Museum of Textiles, Ahmedabad Gurusaday Museum, Thakurpur

Organizations which make Nakshi Kanthas[edit]

Rural Development Board (BRDB),Karu Palli Sales Centre Kumudini Handicrafts (cares), Bangladesh BRAC-Aarong, Bangladesh

Controversy regarding Geographical Indication[edit] Despite being a Bangladeshi traditional art, the Indian state of West Bengal
applied for the Geographical Indication for Nakshi kantha
Nakshi kantha
in 2008.[21] Due to absence of proper law on Geographical Indication in Bangladesh
that time (which was later adopted), Bangladesh
couldn't counter apply for the GI. The registry office had no option but to hand-over the Geographical Indication to West Bengal
in 2008. Bangladesh
authority however later passed the " Bangladesh
Geographical Indication (Registration and Protection) Act, 2013"[22] in parliament and with other necessary preparations now waiting for the next re-applying time cycle to claim the Geographical Indication for Nakshi kantha to Bangladesh.[23][24] See also[edit]

Nakshi pati, decorative sleeping mats made from cane, reeds, etc.

Notes and references[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nakshi Kantha.


^ "Nakshi Kantha-Benhal Craft". Bengal
Crafts. Retrieved 10 November 2008.  ^ Zaman, Niaz (2012). "Nakshi Kantha". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh
(Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.  ^ a b " Quilt
(Kantha) Art of Bengal". Jaismuddin.org. Retrieved 2 January 2009.  ^ Ghuznavi 1981, p. 23. ^ Sirajuddin, Muhammad (1992). Living Crafts in Bangladesh. Dhaka: Markup International. p. 44. OCLC 29737195.  ^ Kantha, Sarees. " Kantha
Silk Sarees". sareesofbengal.com.  ^ "About Nakshi Kantha". Aarong. Retrieved 9 December 2008.  ^ Ghuznavi 1981, pp. 23–24. ^ Ahmad 1997. ^ Ahmad, Perveen (1999). "Lecture: Aesthetics and Vocabulary of Nakshi Kantha". Vihangama. Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA). VII (1-4).  ^ Zaman 1993, p. 36. ^ a b c Zaman 1993. ^ Dutt, Gurusaday (1995). Kantha: Album of Art Treasure (Series One). 24 Parganas, India: Gurusaday Dutt Folk Art Society, Gurusaday Museum. OCLC 475731213.  ^ Zaman 1993, p. 114. ^ Zaman 1993, pp. 44–45. ^ Ahmad 1997, p. v. ^ Mukerjee, Radhakamal (1964). The Flowering of Indian Art: The Growth and Spread of a Civilization. Bombay: Asia Pub. House. p. 35. OCLC 30086718.  ^ Zaman 1993, p. 82. ^ Ahmad 1997, p. 92. ^ Zaman 1993, p. 94. ^ http://www.ttg-sric.iitkgp.ernet.in/GIDrive/images/gi/registered_GI_13June2016.pdf ^ http://dpdt.portal.gov.bd/sites/default/files/files/dpdt.portal.gov.bd/page/cc2ca133_4da5_42f7_9776_21cff528a032/GI%20Act-2013%20Bangla.pdf ^ "Press reports on Protecting Geographical Indication Products in Bangladesh". Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD). Retrieved 24 November 2015.  ^ "India – Bangladesh
Parliamentary Dialogue". Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry. Archived from the original on 27 January 2016. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 


Ahmad, Perveen (1997). The Aesthetics & Vocabulary of Nakshi Kantha. Dhaka: Bangladesh
National Museum. ISBN 984-585-000-6.  Ghuznavi, Sayyada R. (1981). Naksha: A Collection of Designs of Bangladesh. Dhaka: Design Centre, Bangladesh
Small & Cottage Industries Corporation. OCLC 10301770.  Zaman, Niaz (1993). The Art of Kantha
(Second Revised ed.). Dhaka: University Press. ISBN 978-984-05-1228-7. 

Further reading[edit]

Basaka, Sila (2007). Nakshi Kantha
of Bengal. New Delhi: Gyan Pub. House. ISBN 81-212-0895-5. 

External links[edit]

Registered GI The Beautiful Art of Nakshi Kantha independennt-bangladesh.com-naksi-kantha Gurusaday Museum, India Bangladesh
National Museum Kantha
of West Bengal

v t e



Assisi Bargello Berlin work Blackwork Broderie anglaise Broderie perse Candlewicking Canvas work Celtic cross stitch Counted-thread Crewel Cross-stitch Cutwork Darning Drawn thread work Free embroidery Goldwork Hardanger Machine Needlepoint Quillwork Smocking Stumpwork Surface Suzani Whitework


Backstitch Blanket Box Buttonhole Chain stitch Couching
and laid work Cross stitches Embroidery
stitch Featherstitch Holbein Parisian Running Satin stitch Sashiko Shisha Straight stitch Tent stitch

Tools and materials

Aida cloth Embroidery
hoop Embroidery
thread Evenweave Perforated paper Plainweave Plastic canvas Sampler Slip Yarn

Regional and historical

Art needlework Bunka shishu Brazilian Burmese Chikan Chinese (Cantonese, Xiang) English Indian Islamic Jacobean Kaitag Kantha Kasuti Korean Mountmellick Nakshi kantha Persian Opus Anglicanum Rushnyk Sewed muslin Ukrainian Vietnamese Vyshyvanka Zardozi


Butler-Bowden Cope Bayeux Tapestry Bradford carpet Hastings Embroidery Hedebo Hestia tapestry Magna Carta (An Embroidery) Margaret Layton's jacket New World Tapestry Overlord embroidery Quaker Tapestry Fragments of a Cope with the Seven Sacraments

Designers and embroiderers

Emilie Bach Leon Conrad Kaffe Fassett Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty Marilyn Leavitt-Imblum François Lesage Ann Macbeth May Morris Jessie Newbery Charles Germain de Saint Aubin Mary Elizabeth Turner Dimitri Vlachos - Castano Teresa Wentzler Kathleen Whyte Erica Wilson Lily Yeats

Organizations and museums

Embroiderers' Guild (UK) Embroiderer's Guild of America Embroidery
Software Protection Coalition Needlework
Development Scheme Royal School of Needlework Chung Young Yang Embroidery
Museum Han Sang Soo Embroidery


Appliqué Crochet Knitting Lace Needlework Quilting

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Layered textiles and quilts


Baltimore album Corded quilting Crazy quilting Hawaiian quilt Nakshi kantha Patchwork
quilt Provençal quilts Quilt
art Quilting Quilts Ralli quilt Sashiko quilting Trapunto


English paper piecing‎ Foundation piecing Patchwork Possum-skin cloak


Appliqué Broderie perse Khayamiya Mola Penny rug Ribbon work

History of quilting

Gee's Bend quilts Rajah Quilt Tristan Quilt Underground Railroad quilts

Notable modern works

AIDS Memorial Quilt Quilt
of Belonging Chinese Souls #2 International Honor Quilt


Sandy Bonsib Jo Budd Jennifer Chiaverini Mimi Dietrich Radka Donnell Michael James Harriet Powers Holice Turnbow Molly Upton Marie Webster

Organizations, museums, and events

Great Lakes Quilt
Center International Quilt
Study Center Museum of the American Quilter's Society Quilt
Index Quilters Hall of Fame Quilt
National Quilt
Treasures San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles [National Museum of Australia - 1894 Autograph Quilt]

v t e

Clothing in the Indian subcontinent


Achkan Ajrak Angarkha Antriya Bakhu/Kho Blouse Burqa Choli Churidar Daura-Suruwal Dhoti Dumdyam Dumpra Dupatta Farshi Pajama Gagra choli Ghoonghat Gamucha Gamosa Gharara Gho Jamawar Jodhpuri Kabney Kasta sari Kaupina(m) Khalat Kira Kota Doria Krama Kurta Lehenga Lehenga
Style Saree Langa Voni Langota Lungi Madisar Mekhela chador Mufti Mundu Mundum Neriyathum Naga shawl Nehru jacket Onnara Patiala salwar Phiran Riha Sari Shalwar kameez Sambalpuri saree Sarong Kerala sari Sherwani Toego Uttariya Wonju


Dhaka topi Gandhi cap Jaapi Karakul Kolhapuri pheta Mysore Peta Paag Pagri Pakol Phesta Puneri Pagadi Rumi topi/Fez Sehra Sindhi cap Taqiyah Turban

Stitching and design

of India Bandhani Chikankari Gota Kantha Kasuti Nakshi Phulkari Shisha Zardozi Zari


Jutti Kholapuri Mojari Paduka