Kalamkari or pen work refers to textiles that are printed or painted using a particular technique. It is a traditional textile painting technique, where the lines are drawn with kalam (pen), made from a stick with a wad of cotton at the tip. Often kalamkari is combined with block-printing. Modern kalamkari can be traced to 17th century Andhra Pradesh. Like most other Indian arts, it owes its birth to temple rituals. Kalamkari textiles were used as aids to storytelling in temples. The themes were drawn from Hindu mythology. The two major centers of Kalamkari are Masulipatnam and Shrikalahasti. Such wall hangings were used to decorate chariots and temple walls on festive occasions.

This kalamkari depicts Ganesha, the God wisdom. He is being worshipped by devotees and celestial nymphs. He is seated on his vahana (vehicle) rat.


  • Title: Ganesh Puja
  • Date Created: 20th century CE
  • Location: India
  • Type: Pen Work
  • Medium: Kalamkari on Cotton
  • Region: Tamil Nadu
  • History of Style of Technique: <i>"I’ve painted my body red, I’ll paint my mind all red Kabir says I’m off to my wedding, I’m marrying the Imperishable One"</i> There is an array of religious textiles with equally varied meanings and usages across different religions in India. These include the temple and domestic shrine decorations, devotional offerings, banners, ritual costumes and narrative scrolls. Large painted textiles have often been used to narrate stories and exploits of deities, saints and heroes to the common folk. One such textile is the Pabuji no Phad (painted scroll of Pabuji) which is used by the Bhopas of Rajasthan to narrate the story of Ramnarayana or Pabuji. In Andhra Pradesh, the kalamkari (painted cloth) is used to narrate the story of gods and goddesses. They are also used to decorate temple walls as well as rathas (temple chariots) at the time of a procession. In Gujarat Mata ni Pachedi (painted and printed cloth depicting the Goddess) is used to create an enclosure for the shrine.
  • Accession Number: 82.5

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