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Traditional West Bengali hand-embroidered pure silk kantha shawl scarf throw

Traditional West Bengali hand-embroidered pure silk kantha shawl scarf throw


Traditional densely hand-embroidered pure silk kantha shawl scarf or throw. Kantha or the hand-embroidery of an item in thousands of tiny running stitches 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 illustrated online are the only ones I have left. This one has a base of warm chocolate brown silk - almost with a soft warm purple hue and then embroidered almost entirely with feather stitch in long stripes the length of the shawl along with some running stitch and thick stripes of close straight stitch - all in colours of orange, red, soft green, and white. I love the zig zag border which is not embroidered but the design is accentuated with embroidery outlining it. Gorgeous!  See photo of the full length shawl for the correct colours.

55cm x 180cm  

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 chant 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 to strong 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 for cloths or sitting on or used to wrap special objects. The world renown Gurusaday Museum in Kolkata holds the largest collection of 19th and 20th century kantha cloths/wraps in the world and was a very special highlight of my trip. See gurusadaymuseum.org