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Stories of Krishna

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India Anonymous,
Stories of Krishna, early 20th c.
100 in. x 49 1/2 in. (254 cm x 125.73 cm)

Object Type: Textile
Technique: Woven
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Ames
Accession Number: T578

Full Title: Temple Hanging: Stories of Krishna

This temple hanging from Andra Pradesh depicts various events in the 9th c. poetic text Bhagavata Purana describing Krishna's loves and adventures. At center Krishna embraces two women, and in the panels below he is surrounded by female cow herders. Krishna also battles the stork demon Bakasura and the poisonous snake Kaliya, depicted above the central panel.
- Dr. Bruce A. Coats, 2022

White cotton tabby hand-painted and resist dyed.

Object Description
A Srikalahasti kalamkari temple hanging from Andra Pradesh, richly died in red, white, yellow, blue, and black. Depicts scenes of Krishna’s adventures from the Bhagvata Purana, with captions in Telegu writing.

The temple hanging comes from Andra Pradesh, where kalamkari has been used for centuries to pattern cloth. There are two types of kalamkari: Machlipatnam and Shrikalahasti. In Machlipatnam kalamkari, woodblocks are used to print designs in dye, mordant, or wax. In Srikalahasti kamkari, which is more technically demanding than Machlipatnam, the artisan hand paints designs using a kalam, a pointed bamboo stick tied with rags saturated in dye. As the artisan paints the design, he or she can control the flow of liquid dye by pressing on these rags.

Kalamkari uses a variety of patterning processes, such as resist dying and cold dye application. Unique to kalamkari, however, is a process in which designs are drawn in mordant, which is invisible by itself, but which fixes dye to the pattern when cloth is later dipped in a dye bath. The dyes used in kalamkari are all natural. Yellows are made from turmeric roots or mango leaves, red from madder roots, and blue from indigo. Black dye, used to outline designs, is brewed by soaking scrap iron in a mud pot full of palm-jaggery and water. Even the mordant used to set dyes is made from alum, and the tannin-rich fruit of the myrobalam tree.

While kalamkari was once a hotly traded commodity (one which inspired batik when Dutch traders used kalamkari textiles to trade for spices in Indonesia) pieces such as this hanging were made for local temples. This hanging depicts scenes of Krishna’s adventures from the Bhagavata Purana, a ninth century mythological text. Notable scenes in the design include the vanquishing of both Bakasura, an insatiably hungry stork demon, and Kaliya the serpent.

Ramani, Shakuntala. Kalamkari and Traditional Design Heritage of India. Wisdom Tree, 2007.

Essay by Tara Contractor SC'13, Academic Year Wilson Intern 2010-2011.

For more kalamkari temple hangings, please see: T577

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