South 24 Parganas (West Bengal) Mar 17 (ANI): Women in West Bengal's rural hinterland have become self reliant through traditional embroidery work called 'Kantha'.
For over six decades, Bengali women have recycled and reused old clothes. The run-stitch used to create patterns on quilts is now being used on dress material and sarees.
The revival of 'Kantha' in Bengal is the brainchild of Shamlu Dudeja. She brought 'Kantha' out of the rural households in the 1980s, starting with just four women in the beginning, and now provides gainful employment to over 800 women in five districts of the state - Birbhum, North and South 24 Parganas, Burdwan and Nadia.
While Kantha was traditionally done on two to four layers of mostly old cotton clothes, with rural designs depicting village life or scenes from Mahabharat and Ramayan, Dudeja introduced the run stitch to sarees, salwar suits and even western wear with modern geometric designs and patchwork.
Dudeja encouraged rural women folk to diversify into making bedcovers, pillow-cases, table linen, wall hangings, lamp-shades, upholstery and curtains.
"Our women in Bengal have been doing it for at least 600 years because they were using old sarees and layering them. So they were reusing and recycling old sarees, which would have no value otherwise. Of course this goes back to Buddha and his bhikshus (disciples), who used to wear patched, recycled, reused 'Kantha' embroidered robes. 'Kantha' basically is a running stitch," said Dudeja.
For rural women, 'Kantha' is a blessing. Earlier they made 'Kantha' during their free hours in the afternoons, but now, they are getting paid money for their work.
"By doing this work, I have become self-dependent. I have started sending my children to school and can provide them with a good education. My husband earns 2000 rupees and I am also earning somewhere between 1500- 2000 rupees. Our economic condition has improved and I hope it will improve further," said Putul Das, a worker.
Many unmarried girls have also started making these Kanthas.
"I came here and saw that everyone was enjoying their work. I realized that if I do this work, I would be able to bear my tuition and education expenses and support my family without taking any help from my parents," said Bharati Singh, another worker.
Self Help Enterprise (SHE), a non-profit body set up by Dudeja is to provide medical help, nutrition assistance and education to rural women. Mallika's Kantha Creation sponsors SHE that run as a cooperative. Here women bring Kantha pieces for sale and the proceeds are used to help the rural women for their development. By Ajitha Menon(ANI)