The popularity of Kalamkari grew, and Pedana residents wanted a faster way to make and sell Kalamkari fabric. And that gave rise to screen-printed Kalamkari.

As fake Kalamkari takes over the market the original form struggles to survive
Delve Kalamkari Monday, July 30, 2018 - 14:52

Pedana, a small town near the coastal town of Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh is the largest hub in the country for hand block printed Kalamkari. Today, most of the Kalamari fabric you find in stores in across India comes from here.

Pitchuka Srinivas, based out of Pedana is one of the only artisans in the country who still follows the original technique of hand-block printed Kalamkari.

“Over 90% of the Kalamkari you get here in India is fake. Wherever you see it, online and elsewhere, it’s not block printed, its screen printed Kalamkari, made with chemical colours,” claims Srinivas.

Kalamkari has been around for nearly 2000 years in India. The word Kalamkari is a combination of Kalam, which means pen, and kari, which means work.

Hand block-printed Kalamkari is a tedious and time-consuming process involving a minimum of 10 steps. Therefore, it can take days to produce one original hand block-printed Kalamkari bedsheet or saree.

As the popularity of Kalamkari grew not just in India, but abroad as well, residents of Pedana wanted a faster way to make and sell Kalamkari fabric. That’s how screen printing came into existence.

There is a clear difference between block-printed and screen-printed Kalamkari. But at first sight, it is difficult to tell the difference. As a result, screen printed Kalamkari is being sold across the country from small markets to branded handloom stores.

Cost is also a big differentiator. The cost is at least Rs 120-150 a metre. However, the same metre costs only Rs 50-70 for screen-printed fabric. As a result, people started opting for the brighter, cheaper fabric, which further made screen-printed Kalamkari a profitable business.

In fact, Pedana Kalamkari also has the Geographical Indications (GI) tag. However, screen printing violates the very process that Pedana Kalamkari is associated with, thus violating the GI tag.

As a result, Srinivas doesn’t have a market in India and exports to the US, Netherlands, Japan and a few other European countries.

Watch the video below:

Also read: As fake Kalamkari takes over the market, the original struggles in Andhra’s Pedana

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