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Bengal's Kantha artist hopes Padma award will inspire more people

Pritikana Goswami started practising the centuries-old embroidery about 50 years ago

Kantha with a leaf pattern, made in undivided Bengal c. 20th century.

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Kantha embroidery artist Pritikana Goswami, who was among four Padma awardees from Bengal, hopes the coveted award will inspire many more women to take up the traditional art form.

The septuagenarian from Sonarpur village on the outskirts of Kolkata, said she couldn’t believe it when told she had been selected for the high award.

She had taken up embroidery and stitching as a profession 50 years ago after her father's death to help run her family of five sisters. After the initial struggle, things started looking up for her when her works caught the attention of the state’s crafts council in 1990.

Also read: The pioneering artist who combined kantha and carpets

“I received a phone call from Delhi around 10pm on Wednesday night informing me about my selection for the award… I could not believe my ears…. This is a recognition not just for me but for hundreds of women working with me,” she told reporters.

Goswami said the award will inspire many more women to take the plunge into the world of arts and explore their skills.

“The award is recognition of my years of toil and struggle. God has blessed us and I know he wishes me to take my work forward, to the global stage, in a more effective manner,” she said.

Kantha stitching is believed to be at least 500-year-old way of recycling used saris, dhotis and other used household textiles where old clothing are stacked into each other and hand-stitched to make a thin cushioned layer. They are often embroidered with animal and floral motifs or with scenes from rural life to give the cushioned fabric an artistic touch.

Popular in Bengal, Odisha, Assam and Bangladesh, the traditional stitching technique similar to the Japanese Sashiko style is used to create multi-hued jackets, quilts etc..

Over the years, the style of stitching has been replicated to produce Kantha style embroidered women’s saris and men’s dresses as fashion statements.

Also read: Those invisible women who labour over kantha quilts

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