Kalamkari Printing is a type of printing which is done cotton fabric and that too hand painted or it can also be known as block printed style on cotton. The name kalam kari arrived from Kalam, which means pen, so this name itself defines what is Kalamkari printing and how it is done. Therefore, it means drawing with pen.
It is a art which done especially for decoration and religious ornamentation. The fabric gets its glossiness from its immersion in milk and resin. There are two distinctive styles of kalamkari art in India - one, the Srikalahasti style and the other, the Machilipatnam style of art. The Srikalahasti style of Kalamkari, wherein the "kalam" or pen is used for free hand drawing of the subject and filling in the colors, is entirely hand worked.
Kalamkari fabrics are created in seventeen steps, using only natural dyes, with numerous washes. This printing is very much related to rituals and religious beliefs therefore the motifs are taken from these types of themes. Typically, the motifs capture the essence of temple architecture and scenes from great epics. Kalahasti & Masulipatnam located in Andhra Pradesh in south India are famous for Kalamkari art . Kalamkari cloth also followed the old tradition of religious mural paintings. Craftsmen painted the narratives of religious legends from which people learnt the stories of their Gods.
The artist who used to do kalamkari printing are expert in hand drawing. They usually use thin pointed pen to make the outlines and then thick one for filling in the outline. Previously natural colours were used instead of artificial colours used in recent kalamkari paintings. Before the artificial synthesis of indigo and alizarine into dye-stuffs, blues and reds were traditionally extracted from the plants indigofera anil and rubia tinctorum. Alizarine, commonly used as a colouring agent, was found in the ancient times in madder. The madder root, rubia tinctorum, widely used in India, chay, the root of the oldenlandia umbellata were highly estimated as fine sources of red in the South. The dye roots of morinda citrifoliainn and morinda tintoria known as al or cirang were to be found in Southern, Western and Central India. These were the main sources of traditional Indian dyes.
The technique of kalamkari printing is also very interesting. In its technique, The cotton fabric gets its glossiness by immersing it for an hour in a mixture of Myrobalans and cow milk. Contours and reasons are then drawn with a point in bamboo soaked in a mixture of jagri fermented and water; one by one these are applied, then the vegetable dyes. After applying each color on to the motif, the Kalamkari fabric is washed after drying. Thus, each fabric can undergo up to 20 washes. Various effects are obtained by using cow dung, seeds, plants and crushed flowers to obtain natural dye.
Therefore, Kalamkari printing is a very traditional and artistic form of art which has been developing with time and faced many changes in its process and techniques of applying it.