THE JOURNEY TOWARDS A NAKSHI KANTHA (Part 1)

History of Nokshi Kantha

The word kantha has no satisfactory etymological root. The exact time of origin of kantha is not accurately known but it probably had a precursor in kheta (khet in Hindi and Bangla means "field") Niaz Zaman the  word kantha originated from Sanskrit word kontha meaning rags as kantha is made of rags.

Tradition of a few thousand Years. The traditional needle craft of Bengal .This is another  noteworthy part of Bangladeshi culture. Undivided Bengal (now divided between India and  Bangladesh) has been known for their folk needle craft of Nakshi Kantha. East Bengal, now Bangladesh and West Bengal, now a state in east India have embroidered Nakshi Kantha (Zaman, 1993).

The term nakshi kantha, popularly used in Bangladesh, is found even in medieval literature. The name nakshi kantha became particularly popular among literate people after the publication of jasimuddin's poem Naksi Kanthar Math (1929). In, West Bengal all kanthas, both plain and embroidered, are referred to as kantha. In East Bengal dialects the kantha is also variously referred to as kheta or kentha. In Bihar and parts of West Bengal, the kantha is also known as sujni. Made from old cloth, discarded saris, dhotis, and lungis, kanthas range from utilitarian quilts to exquisitely embroidered heirlooms Depending on the thickness required, three to seven saris are layered and quilted with the 

 

Nokshi kantha, approximately 19th century

simple running stitch, which typically produces a rippled effect. Traditionally, thread drawn from colored sari borders would be used to embroider motifs or border patterns imitative of sari borders. At present, embroidery skeins are used for motifs and border patterns. Yarn usedfor weaving is also used for kantha embroidery, particularly in the Rajshahi-Chapai  Nawabganj  area where the quilting is heavy. Kanthas exemplify thrift, as pieces of old cloth are put together to make something new.

However, old cloth also has a magical purpose, as it is believed to ward off the evil eye. The kantha made of old cloth is thus supposed to keep its user safe from harm. Kantha motifs, many of them common to the alpona also have a magical purpose and reflect both the  desire of the needle woman for happiness, prosperity, marriage, and fertility as well as wish- fulfillment.