An absolute textile art piece. One only. Traditional densely hand-embroidered pure silk kantha shawl or scarf or even a glamorous throw. Kantha is the hand-embroidery of an item in thousands of tiny running stitches and is a tradition from undivided Bengali history. It is still practiced in the rural villages of the divided countries of West Bengal and Bangladesh.
These shawls illustrated online here are the only ones I have left - see photo of full length shawl for most accurate colour. This one is longer than most at 55cm x 200cm. It is pure undyed natural silk embroidered with village scenes, including the traditional circle of life/solar motif. Around the entire edge is a border of figures and at each long end are 3 tassel-like/peacock? (fertility) symbols. Such an unique piece.
I bought these stunningly completely hand embroidered pure silk kantha (running stitched) shawls/scarves in Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal when I went to immerse myself in the goddess Durga festival that takes place for 9 days in October. I also wanted to track down the mantra villages in rural West Bengal. Unfortunately everyone was on holiday as the Durga festival is a very holy festival. I thought I would find kantha-stitched pieces everywhere but found only one stall in the main city market of Kolkata.
The kantha on these shawls is worked on silk ranging from natural undyed silk, red, royal blue, purple, emerald green, leaf green and black. Some have been worked on a base of a hand painted design. All are densely hand embroidered and the work is extraordinary.
There are 3 main designs:
1. Geometric designs in stripes, triangles, zig zags, circles and squares
2. Floral/leaf/plant designs
3. Intricate village life including people, animals, plants, houses and domestic items
Traditionally kantha covered cloths were made to be used as bed covers or cloths for sitting on or used to wrap special objects. The world renown Gurusaday Museum in Kolkata holds the largest collection of 19th and 20th century cant cloths/wraps in the world and was a very special highlight of my trip. See gurusadaymuseum.org