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Kantha came from the land of Kali, Kalikata, now known as Kolkata. It originated from the way in which Bengali housewives mended old clothes by taking out a strand of thread from the colorful border of their saris and making simple designs with them. The traditional form of Kantha embroidery was done with soft dhotis and saris, with a simple running stitch along the edges.The finished product they were known as LepKantha or Sujni Kantha.
The Kantha in its simplest form was invented out of necessity and made in varying sizes and layers, starting with small pieces of cloth spread in the courtyard to lay new born babies on while they were massaged with mustard oil, to the light covers that adults use at night, and wrap over their shoulders in winter mornings.
Kantha embroidery is a homegrown household craft that is also considered a form of art, due to the uniqueness of individual creations, its ability to convey a story and its use as a form of personal and artistic expression. What sets this form of needlework embroidery apart from others is the wide use of the running stitch, also known as Kantha.
The Sanskrit word kontha means 'rags.' One legend links their origins to Lord Buddha and his disciples, who used to cover themselves with garments made from discarded rags that were patched and sewn together. Rags displayed at Indian shrines or tied to tree limbs symbolize prayers and wards off the evil eye. The oldest extant Kantha date from the early 1800s and is embroidered with blue, black and red threads that were unraveled from sari borders.