Nakshi kantha is a Bangladeshi traditional folk art made by household women and girls.
The process involves sewing patches for bedspreads, quilts or for wall decor. It is made mainly from old embroidered clothes, like lungis and sarees, and in itself showcases the Bangladeshi heritage of hand-stitching and needlework
The early kanthas had a white background accented with red, blue and black embroidery; later, yellow, green, pink and other colors were included. The main stitch used, a running stitch called the “kantha stitch”, has been traditionally and culturally associated with peoples of the Indian subcontinent. Nakshi kantha techniques are commonly passed on from generation to generation.
Nakshi kanthas are in high demand. However, women who have learned this craft are now in small numbers, so the supply is limited. During the 200 years of British rule in the Indian Subcontinent, women who made nakshi kantha had British patrons. Now many international development organizations like BRAC and other home-based handicraft companies supply nakshi kantha products to Bangladeshi middle and upper class citizens. The most unique products are exported to rich Americans and Europeans. A lot of wealthy people are waiting for these tapestries.
Since the techniques of this folkcraft is passed down generation to generation, no standardized guidelines exist. Each family passes down its heritage, historical background, and social tradition and culture. Each nakshi kantha is completely unique; making a kantha is not a job but an art that passes on skills in hand-sewing and design, as well as cultural and historical knowledge.
Nakshi kantha has also its place in Bengali literature: in folk songs, poems, verses, and theatre. It carries with it the history of India, especially of undivided Bengal. Rightfully, the people of Indian subcontinent have a brilliant history of dress, embroidery, and weaving. Furthermore, Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation of India, was known for his Charkha Movement. He used the charkha as a symbol of Indian independence.
The handcrafted clothing products like Nakshi Kantha will surely reign in the exclusive clothing market. People give tribute to the great craft which carries their heritage, great culture and traditions as well as the history of their religion. This work of art is a way of recalling the past and looking forward to fruitful years to come.
About the Author
Paul P. Saha is a professional consultant who actively serves 300 government registered NGOs in Bangladesh. The last 30 years, he has been effectively and successfully showing his extraordinary contribution in preservation of human rights to the disadvantaged and vulnerable girls and women.