Handicrafts are more than just art. They are the valuable possessions passed on to  generations. The craft was born as soon as the first human being made  mark on Earth. Handicraft tradition is as old as the first human being’s  mark on this land. As humans evolved crafts were born, modified,  underwent several changes and have resulted in what we can see today.  Our  ancestors initially led a nomadic life. Protecting themselves from the  external threats was the major challenge for survival. External threats  include other forms of life and Mother Nature herself. With changing  weather conditions and varied landscapes, our ancestors had a lot to  learn. In the process of overcoming these challenges was born the skill  called “CRAFTS”.


The crafts were born and  there rose a booming handicraft industry. The traditional and the  artistic value of the products were identified with the geographic  region associated with them. Sadly, we have lost many crafts today and  very few exist. Fortunately, one that still breaths fresh air is the  KANTHA Stitch.Kantha  is a type of embroidery in Southern Asia, especially in Bangladesh and  parts of West Bengal & Odisha, India. There are various discussions  about the etymology of the word KANTHA.  Few say that there are no proper roots to identify. A possible root is  that Keth in Bengali means field and Ketha was the original word, which  by years became KANTHA. According to Niaz Zaman, the word “KANTHA” has its origin in Sanskrit – “Kontha” meaning rags.

The craft was not initially a full time  job for women of the house hold. Almost all women were experts in this  exceptionally beautiful art. Rural women worked on it during their  leisure time or before the onset of rainy or winter seasons. Therefore,  there is no wonder if it had taken several days, months or years to make  it.

This art has been passed on to generations. Mothers to  daughters to granddaughters and so on.  So every woman made stitches for  their beloved ones – kids, husband, father, siblings, friends etc. It  was never a material of business instead a feel love, responsibility,  care etc. They etched the daily lives, their names, daily activities,  generations, stories, message they wanted to convey with their stitches. The  art was initially born with the help of available material, needs,  wants, geographic conditions, threats and safety. Traditionally KANTHAs  were made from old sarees, lungi, worn out cloths etc. to protect  themselves from cold climates. Usually 6-7 layers of cloth were used to  withstand the climate.

Now, let's see how a Kantha is made – for that, we need an old cloth and thread. Kanthas that were used to make simple quilts were called Nakshi  Kantha – Naksha in Bengali meaning artistic patterns. The running stitch called Kantha stitch is the main stitch that runs all along.

When a KANTHA  is made  sarees or cloth pieces are joined so that we get a required  size. The cloths are widely spread on the floor and made sure there is  no fold at the all over. This is to avoid any uneven portions in the  blanket that is being made. Then a normal hand stitch is given between  layers. The wavy nature or the wrinkled effect is due to this handmade  stitch.


We must be thankful to all those  passionate, hardworking and creative minds that keep this craft still  alive and making it spread all over the world.

While designing the motifs, initially the outlines are  made with needle and thread. Once the outlines are finalized the filling  of the etched designs are completed. First, the center design is done,  followed by corners and at last the inner details in a leisurely manner.  

In some type of Kanthas  like the blankets, carpets etc.., wooden blocks were used to print the  outlines. These are replaced by various pattern involving modern  technologies in textile industry today. The earlier day’s rags are today  replaced with layers of good cotton fabric. Originally, the KANTHAs were made for the family use and in the present days, they are widely used for commercial purpose. Generally, KANTHA refers  to quilts made with such running stitches. Now a days it has a wide  range of use such as pillow covers, bed spreads, blankets, hand towels,  kerchiefs and the like.  

We must be thankful to all those  passionate, hardworking and creative minds that keep this craft still  alive and making it spread all over the world