Procedure for Washing, Boiling and Milk Soaking

- In outlining the main theme, the leading figures are sketched first, followed by the others. The charcoal drawing provides the basic layout.

- All details are subsequently filled in by pen. A woolen blanket is spread on a wooden table. This provides a smooth work surface and also absorbs color seeping through to the reverse side.

- The myrobalan-processed cloth on which charcoal outlines have been made is placed on it. The iron mordant is kept in a mug. The pointed kalam is used to make outline drawings and other line details.

- If larger areas in black are desired, the second pen with the broader tip is used. The outline is drawn with charcoal and iron acetate.

- The procedure followed is the same as for iron acetate. This operation has to be accomplished very skillfully so that there is no smudging of mordant. The fabric is then taken to the river. It is opened out and held in the flowing water by two persons holding either end.

- There is no overlapping of fabric. It is kept in this position in the river for above five minutes. It is then lifted out, shaken thoroughly and dipped back into the water. By this time, the excess mordant would have been swept away in the flowing river.

- The fabric is then squeezed. The dipping and squeezing procedure is repeated two to three times.

- All the impurities are removed, and the unevenness in mordant painting is neutralised by these actions. Prior to boiling, the fabric is opened out and inspected.

- If any spreading or blotching of iron or alum mordant is noticed, it is rectified by the application of the juice of raw lemon on the affected areas. A large opened-mouthed copper vessel is filled with sufficient water to soak the required quantity of cloth.

- Copper would be preferable as there would be no admixture of metal to reduce the color. Pobbaku (Narigama alta) is mixed into the water by hand, and the water is brought to a boil. Powdered Chevalakudi (Rubia Cordifolia linn) and Suruduchakka (Ventilago madraspatana gartan) are added. The mixture is stirred continuously.

- The cloth is slowly inserted into the boiling solution. It is moved in and out of the solution with a wooden stick until the entire quantity has been put in.

- The fabric is allowed to remain in the liquid until it boils over. The cloth is taken out, cooled with cold water, taken to the river and washed in the flowing water. At Kalahasthi, material with black filling is boiled separately from that with a dominant red color.

- After washing the cloth in the river, it is spread out on the wet sand of the riverbed for a few hours. At intervals water is sprinkled on it to keep it wet.

- The cloth is squeezed and beaten on the stone to remove the fugitive color. This is done twice. It is then wrung out and dried on the wet sand. If a second boiling in madder is not required, the cloth is put through the sheep dung bleaching stage.

- If a deeper shade of red is required, the process of myrobalan and alum application, washing in the river for removal of excess alum, boiling in madder and washing and drying in the river is repeated for a second time.

- For bleaching purposes either sheep dung or cow dung may be used. Sheep dung is more effective as it contains a higher proportion of sodium carbonate. A handful of dung is mixed in enough water to bleach 10 meters of cloth.

- The mixture is kept in clay. The cloth is dipped in this solution, taken out, squeezed and kept aside. Fresh dung with water is added as required. The material is rolled up and kept through the night with the dung mixture. The following morning it is taken to the river, beaten and washed in the flowing water. It is dried on the wet sand. To keep the cloth wet, water is sprinkled on it every few minutes. The fabric is exposed to the sun.

- This bleaching process continues for four to five days until the non-mordant portions become white. After the bleaching process, the cloth is dipped in a milk solution. This helps in applying the color only to the areas required, that is, it prevents the running of one dye color into other dyed areas of color. The yellow used may be the extract of either the myrobalan flower or pomegranate rind. It is applied with the round-tipped pen in the same way as in filling in the alum.

- After painting it yellow, the cloth is washed in the river as in the case of alum painting and dried on the sand in the same way.

- Surruduchakka, which has a basic brown color, is used to darken the shade of red got from Pobbaku and Chevalikodi. The blue color is prepared with a solution of indigo mixed with a little alum. Blue is applied with a broadtipped pen in the same manner as the alum. Painting red on blue yields violet, painting yellow on blue provides green. - After the application of blue, the cloth is washed in the river as after boiling for Manjishta (madder). The excess blue is washed away and all the dirt is removed.


Historically, as described above, Kalamkari wall hangings have had a popular demand in diverse markets. Currently, Kalamkari paintings are sold through Lepakshi showrooms across the country, Cottage Industry and other craft stores. Exhibitions conducted by both the state and central governments (handicrafts) and others also provide a channel for sales and publicity regarding the craft.