Kantha Embroidery

The Most Beautiful Embroidery

Kantha is a type of embroidery typical of eastern South Asia, especially in the Indian states of West Bengal and Odisha.

In Odisha old sarees are stacked on each other and hand stitched to make a thin piece of cushion. This is normally used above the bed cushion or instead of a cushion, Kantha sarees are traditionally worn by in Bengal.

Kantha stitching is also used to make simple quilts, commonly known as Nakshi Kantha. Women in Bengal typically use old sarees and cloth and layer them with Kantha stitching to make a light blanket throw or bedspread especially for children.


The word “Kantha” means “Throat” and was named so due to its association with the Hindu diety, Lord Shiva. The Samudra manthan, a popular episode in hindu mythology describe that in order to protect the world. Lord of time those types of embroidery used in the vedic ages too in the Krishnadas Kaviraj’s 500 year old book. Its symbols clear that it was derived from ancient art.

Motif Used:

Kantha embroidery shows the folk expression of the embroidery’s art. General Motifs used in Kantha embroidery are human figures, animal, floral symbols which cover the surface from the corner. The tree of life that reaches out towards the centre. The centre design is usually a lotus, different patterns like birds, fishes, kalka, mandala, mythological stories are also figured.

Colours used:

The colours found in the Kantha embroidery are commonly seen in everyday life in India.  Red, yellow, green, blue and black colours are used. As dyes were traditionally made of natural substances, they were traditionally used in a wide range of Indian arts and crafts.

In contemprory Kantha embroidery an off-white based fabric is usally used to allow the embroidery colours of the thread to catch the eyes and to make it more beautiful and attractive for that always bright and dark colours are used for the embroidery.

Fabrics used:

Kantha is a form of embroidery aften practised by rural women. The traditional form of Kantha embroidery was done with soft dhotis and sarees, with simple running stitch along the edges. Depending on the use of finished product they were known as LepKanthaor Sujni Kantha & also include Shawls and soft & layered fabrics.

Threads used:

Fabric on which the Kantha embroidery is done is already the old fabrics those are underwent various washing, hence cotton threads are usually used for embroidery with that sometimes silk threads are also used. And the border of old saree threads are removed and that can also be used for the embroidery.

Types of Kantha

  1. Archilata Kantha
  2. Baiton Kantha
  3. Durjani / Thalia Kantha
  4. Lep Kantha
  5. Oaar Kantha
  6. Sujni Kantha
  7. Rumal Kantha

Stitches used

1. Holbein Stitching

Holbein stitching are mainly used in Kantha quilts outside Bengal. These embroideries are generally of geometric patterns and sometimes accompany cross pattern.

2. Running Stitches

The niddle follows the same straight line, both above and below. The embroidered stitches are either small, following each other in close succession, transversal round or triangular design function.

3. Double Run Stitch

The double running stitches fills the space between two continuous points to give the Kantha a compact, visually appealing look.

4. Back Stitch

The back stitch is generally used for the outlining purpose. When the filling of run stitch is done the outline of back stitches are made to complete the look of design.