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The traditional embroidery stitching on clothes are known as the Kantha, this hand work is specially found doing by the women in outskirt of Bengal. Providing different design of hand work on the clothes have made Kathan a contemporary style along with a ancient traditional style. Earlier the work was done by ladies in their free time, later with the raise in demand this became a source of income for many men and women too.

embroidery photoPhoto by steph.clifford

The beginning of the Kathan Stitch.

  • This Kathan embroidery is found in the South Eastern Asia, mostly in West Bengal and Odisha, also some part of Bangladesh.
  • The old capital of Bengal was called Satgaon , the Kathan work was initially stared in this place.
  • The Katha means ‘story’, the embroidery work was like narrating a story of nature or life, thus the stitching was later  called the Kathan stitch.
  • The Krishnadas Kaviraj had mentioned about the Kantha embroidery in one of his book Chaitanya Charitamrita 500 years ago.
  • There are lot of similarity in that Kathan work and the ancient art,symbolizing beauty of nature, the birds, Sun, Trees, Pond, Flowers etc
  • With time Kathan work was used for the cultural and religious work, like using Kathan embroidery for Wedding, Puja , Birth celebration ceremony  and many more.
  • The origin of Kathan can also be discovered during the Pre Vedic ages,
  • The work on the Kathan embroidery are never the same , none of the piece of design were similar to each other. They always do different work on different clothes.
  • The hand work of Kathan was ealier restricted to women , using their fee time to show case their art skill,The ladies of the high class would do the embroidery on their quilt handchief and other piece of clothes for personal use or to gift as atoken of remembrance to the near and dear ones.

What makes Kathan So Special

  • A Personal Dairy is the how Kathan was treated in Bengal, one can narrate her thought, feel and mood on the piece of cloth in the form of embroidery.
  • This was also like a  considered as a letter, where one express her feeling in the form of art,the art of  the embroidery.
  • In parts  East Bengal this was a very common form of expression, for the  thought and scenario of the environment around the people.
  • Often the Kantha embroidery was  crafted for God, to please him and get blessed and protected by the Lord.
  • A Kathan can easily describe a story with out any one narrating in verbally, the art of Kathan will itself narrate the story in form of art made on the cloth.
  • The tradition of this embroidery skill is passed from one generation to the next by the mothers.
  • The Kathan is very much crafted by the Hindus and the Muslim too
  • The crafting of the different caste can be easily identified, as the Hindu choice to craft God and Goddess  and shapes and symbols of Hindu religion. Where as Muslims will craft  geometrical shapes, flowers moon etc
  • Muslim women made the Kathan design on the ‘Jainamaz’ which is the mat on which they sit and offer prayer.
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Types of Kathan in Bengal

Seven different kind of Kathan works are renowned. They all are famous and has individual distinct style to classify them self from one another, with maintaining the charm and comfort.


  1. Nakshi Kantha- in this form Nakha (patterns)are made on the cloth.
  2. Another is the  Lep Kantha, it is the padded quilts made for the warmth.
  3. The Sujani Kantha this is the type done on the beding, bedsheets and bed covers used on special days
  4. Baiton Kantha the the pattern used on the books cover and other valuable things.
  5. Oaar Kantha this the cover design on the pillow,
  6. The Archilata Kantha is the sheets of colored clothes made to cover the glass and mirror.
  7. Durjani Kantha is small design in the wallet and bag
  8. On the hand-chief and small piece of clothes design with Kathan work is called Rumal Kantha.

Buying Kathan is in huge demand. These days everyone buys Kathan. it is not more a fascination for Bengali but is a favorite of all. Even foreigner are crazy about the Kathan work and often purchase it for them self. The rich cultural value  of this embroidery work has become world famous and these days many exporter are exporting the Kathan clothes all over.

Kathan Hand Craft Of Bengal

  • A style of embroidery initially practice by women in the outskirt in their free time.
  • However the popularity of the Kathan work has made this as a profession for many
  • The quality and texture of the work, defines the value of the product
  • The pricing of the Kathan worked clothes are quoted on the basis on the time spend on the work.
  • The Kathan stitched saree are very famous among all ladies.
  • In recent time Kathan work is fusion with modern clothes, making it more contemporary.
  • Today Kathan is not only done on old clothes for reuse, but mostly done on fresh clothes for the demand of the Kathan work.
  • Silk is on of the suitable clothes for Kathan, along with the Cotton materials.
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Having a traditional and strong cultural value, Kathan hold the equal importance in the present time. It is a pride for the Bengali art and culture. This is a must in very Bengali ladies wardrobe, this famous hand craft is very  nostalgic and famous in Bengal. Till date wearing a Kathan saris or a Kathan work Panjami is a matter of pride and expression of celebrating a special day. On Bengali New year or Durga Puja spreading the Kathan bed sheet or table cloth is still a fascination for Bengali. For Bengali its a pride to have the Kathan stitch as a part of the Bengali ancient traditional culture. However the work of Kathan is also done in many part of India in these days. But the professional and skilled artist of the Kathan art originated from Bengal.

Featured Photo by Bekathwia


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The Famous Traditional Embroidery Of Bengal The Kathan Handcraft

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