Kalamkari and the Kerala Sari ? #AtoZChallenge 2017

Image for Kerala Sari

Today I am focusing on two traditions from the South. One tradition  is elaborate and colourful . It has mythological characters drawn with strong strokes. And the other is a simple , creamy, white cotton with burnished gold.


Image for centre panel of Kalamkari

For many years I had this  beautiful Kalamkari hanging on my wall. I could spend hours staring at the pictures of Ram and Sita and the demons as they played out the story of the Ramayana. This ancient style of hand painting literally means Pen Craftstmanship  or KALAMKARI. The artists ( for they are no less than that) take their inspiration from the ancient myths and legends, more specifically the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. The cotton canvases show  elaborate scenes depicting the Krishna Leela, the pantheon of Indian Gods and Goddesses, with elements like peacocks and lotuses providing the finishing details.

Image for side stories of the Ramayana


Can any of you recognise the two side stories of the Ramayan depicted above? Perhaps those who can read the script will find it easy but for those who don’t, it will mean a little hard work.

As you can see, this style is practiced largely in the Golconda and Coromandel regions where a the twig of a Tamarind tree is used as a pen. The colours used are natural  dyes  and the canvas in mainly cotton. However, you can also find silk Kalamkari saris and garments.

Kalamkari is also a popular furnishing fabric and I’m sure many of you have used it in your homes.

The Kerala Sari?

Image for Kerala Sari


Why the question mark?

Well, because actually there is no such thing as a ‘Kerala Sari’ in the way as we know a sari to be : 6 yards of fabric. Traditionally, the Kerala sari is a two piece costume made of the finest cotton in soft, fine creamy,white with a border of plain gold. The gold bands are repeated in the paloo and the over all effect is one of stunning simplicity.

However, in modern times as with everything traditional, the Kasavu has been modified to a six yard length with variations in the border as you can see from mine above. But what remains unchanged, however, is the soft feel of the cotton.

Image for Kasavu Sari


Now isn’t this a gorgeous work of art?

Disclaimer : I am neither a textile manufacturer nor a historian . I am just passionate about textiles and fabrics. I have gathered all my information from the Internet. Please excuse any errors and omissions.

Acknowledgements :



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Author: Unishta

A granny who always sees the humour in life and tries to do things differently. When others make cupcakes, this granny makes banana fritters. When she’s not busy chasing her grandchildren who love making her run around, she indulges in her passions of reading, writing, meeting friends and watching movies. And somewhere between all this she enjoys travelling and cooking!


  1. Hey, just a suggestion: for those of us less familiar with some of the stories and terms, you might want to link throughout your post to other sites. For instance, I’m going to Google “Ramayan” now but that would be something to link. Also, possibly a link for more about the Tamarind tree or the origins of the sari (why six yards?). Just a thought. Love your blog; I always learn something.

    1. Thanks Casey. Sure I will provide the links. And 6 yards because this is unstitched. You wrap this round your body, make a pleated panel that allows you free leg movement and flip the rest of the loose fabric over your shoulder like a stole. This is long enough to wrap around like a shawl either over your head or just round the shoulders. There are some women who wear 9 yards which is draped like a loose trouser . The good thing is that one size fits all and you don’t have to worry about your weight. 😉

  2. I liked that you discovered that the Kerala Sari has actually two piece. I have a set too. It is easy to wear and simply comfortable. My grandmothers and those in her generation wore only these. It evolved into the whole 6 yards for the next generation. And into Salwar-kameez material, or Skirt material in the more recent generation. I liked Casey’s idea of linking to other websites.
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  3. The two-set kasavu is what the generation before my mother’s always wore, that is, my grandmother’s generation. My grandmother’s sister gave me one of hers. I still have it somewhere I think. I have a couple of the more commonly available one-piece Kerala saris as well. They’re so comfortable. If I’m not wrong I think they’re all handloom. Could be totally wrong about this though
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