Kantha embroidery is one of the popular embroidery styles of India. In fact, it is considered as a specialty of West Bengal
. `Kontha` or `Kantha` is a Sanskrit word, which means `rags`. It is also called as the `recycling art`. There are several legends that are associated with the origin of this art form. It is said that in the past, the precious clothes that were torn out were piled in layers and stitched by the women. Another legend relates `kantha` origin to Lord Buddha
and his disciples because they used the thrown away rags to cover themselves. They used to stitch those thrown away rags.
Actually the Kantha stitch is simple running stitch particularly made on the edges. It is the way it has been used that makes it extra ordinary. The thread that is used for doing Kantha stitch is actually taken out from the borders of the used piece of cloth. In this form of stitch, around five to six pieces of torn out clothes are taken and they are stitched on the edges. Thus, five to six clothes form a quilt when they are embroidered together. Thus, Kantha in West Bengal is popularly known as embroidered quilt. Kantha also means `dorukha` that literally means transforming the worn out and used textiles into beautiful fabrics. There are different types of Kantha that are used for varied purposes. The thick quilt is a warm winter cover, large and rectangular, for ceremonial purposes. Moreover, cloths with beautiful Kantha embroidery are used by the women as shawls.
Various themes are applied in Kantha embroidery. It usually includes folk design, floral motifs, birds and animal figures as well as several geometrical shapes and patterns. Mostly the themes are inspired by the day to day activities of the people. However, contemporary Kantha embroidery differs from the old embroidery basically done on multi-layered dhotis or saris. Kantha embroidery can be seen in various types of garments right from sarees, shirts to furnishing fabrics.
Kantha embroidery has several variations and they range from being simple motifs to very intricate ones. Kantha embroidery is considered as a typical example of how a simple stitch can create elaborate motifs. The Kantha embroidery of West Bengal has for its base discarded sarees piled on top of one another and quilted. Kantha embroidery has limitless designs, for every woman who works on it can make almost any innovations possible. Kantha embroidery is hugely popular among the tourists.