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Famous embroidery designs and motifs of Bengal

Famous embroidery designs and motifs of Bengal

Indian culture is very evocative and vivid, so are the embroidery designs of India. Each region and each sect have developed its own embroidery style, technique and pattern over the centuries. The Kantha Embroidery is predominantly the traditional folk art of Bengal. It is a popular form of embroidery practiced by the rural women of Bengal.

Kantha means ‘Patched Cloth’, and the special significance of Kantha is quilting. It is the most popular embroidery of West Bengal, done with folk motifs. Originally it was used to make quilts by joining the layers of old sarees. It was a tool of self-expression used by both urban and rural women in Bengal.


                                     (Kantha Embroidery)

There are two types of Kantha embroideries. In the first type, the old and discarded  cotton saris or dothis are piled up on the top of each other, quilted and embroidered. And the other type was quilted by using the discarded cotton bed spreads and the pictorial embroidery was done with Tussar Silk threads.

Other popular embroideries are the chikan work, the zari work and Kashida.

Chkankari found its origin in Lucnknow, Uttar Pradesh. It is a delicate and artfully done hand embroidery .The fine, subtle form of embroidery is usually done over a very fine textured cloth like muslin and cotton. The color of the thread with which embroidery is usually done is the same as the cloth itself. Like green thread is used on light green cloth while white thread may be used on white cloth.




Kashida, also known as Kasida, is a kind of embroidery done on cotton clothes using silk threads. Although it has gained maximum fame and recognition in the land of Jammu and Kashmir, it is quite popular in West Bengal as well. This embroidery is created by using thick colored threads as well as beads to create different patterns. Kashida embroidery is primarily used for designing caps and scarves used by the Muslims for prayers.



Contemporary modern embroidery, Kathiawari mirror work, convent stiches, cut work and Kashmiri stitches are also used in abundance. The modern embroidery styles and motifs are inspired by alpana designs, flowers, animals and birds.

Motifs of Bengal

Symbols and motifs are used to design all kinds of folk arts of West Bengal and express the feelings of the artisans. They represent various stages of life, nature, ritual or customs, historical story etc. These motifs were originated from leaves, creepers, flowers, rivers, birds and animals, fish, pets, sun, moon, stars, planets and several objects of daily life.

There are several kinds of symbols and motifs used in Bengal folk-art, for example birds, fish, leafy designs, men and women. These motifs were originated from leaves, creepers, flowers, rivers, birds and animals, fish, pets, sun, moon, stars, planets and several objects of daily life.

Many other common decorative patterns are seen in the folk arts of West Bengal .Bengal weavers use different types of arts or patterns as motifs in traditional Bengal sarees.

Nature related motifs like paisley, palka, twigs, flower is used in taant, jamdani and muslin sarees, whereas religious motifs are used in Balucharis.

The most common symbols and motifs, used to design the folk arts, are

Kalka Motif

 Also known as "Persian pickle" or "Welsh pear" the kalka or paisley motif originated in Persia and Kashmir. It looks like a decorated pearl drop. It can be compared with a stylized leaf, mango or flame.

Lotus Motif

The lotus motif is the most common motif found in kanthas. This motif is associated with Hindu iconography and thus is also very popular in the kantha. It is also symbolic of cosmic harmony and essential womanhood.

Swastika Motif

This motif is also known as muchri or golok dhanda. Swasti in Sanskrit means” it is well”. As a motif in Indian art, it dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization. It is a symbol of good fortune, divinity and spirituality.

Khunti-lata Motif

 It represents design of creepers composed of conch shell diagrams, wavy and interwoven leaves and creepers. The depiction of a creeper of conch shells is woven on Baluchari Sarees.

Other popular motifs are:


It represents lotus buds or watercress creepers,


 This motif represents paddy stalks.


This motif is inspired by birds and it celebrates freedom.


It represents a palanquin, carrying women or royalty


 Horse, often from a battle scene




 Female dancer, from a palatial or festive scene



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