An Art Of Devotion: The Legacy Of Master Kalamkari Painter K. Sivaprasad Reddy

L: An untitled painting by K Siva Prasad Reddy R: K Siva Prasad Reddy
L: An untitled painting by K Siva Prasad Reddy R: K Siva Prasad ReddyL: StoryLTD R: MeMeraki

An art of dedicated spirituality — that’s how I’d describe the art form of Kalamkari. It is an age-old traditional Indian art form of hand-painting cotton textiles, with Hindu mythology and iconography being the primary themes. In the past, Kalamkari was known as Pattachitra, and is still practiced in Odisha and other regions of India and Nepal. The term 'Pattachitra' originates from Sanskrit, where 'patta' refers to 'cloth' and 'chitra' means 'picture'.

During the medieval Islamic rule in Southern India, the term Kalamkari emerged from the Persian words 'kalam' meaning 'pen' and 'kari' meaning 'craftsmanship'. This term gained popularity with the support of the Golconda Sultanate. Kalamkari originated in Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh. In this art form, chitrakars, who were musicians and painters, would travel from village to village narrating stories from Hindu mythology. They would depict these stories by painting on large pieces of canvas using simple tools and dyes extracted from plants.

L: An untitled painting by K Siva Prasad Reddy R: K Siva Prasad Reddy
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Creating a work of Kalamkari art requires twenty-three elaborate steps. It is a labor of love and patience. It requires an immense level of skill to practice it and that’s why as the days roll by, there are a few living artists capable of doing justice to this transcendental art form. Out of those handful of artists, the name K Siva Prasad Reddy shines ever so brightly. An artistic virtuoso, each of his Kalamkari hand paintings is a testament to his relentless commitment to his craft.

He reached the height of his fame when he earned his rightful inclusion in the Limca Book of Records for an artwork featuring 1926 characters from the Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, and Ramayana. Yes, you read that right - a single painting containing almost two thousand characters, making it the longest Kalamkari art piece to be ever produced. Over decades of his exemplary career, Reddy has not just produced countless masterpieces but also ensured the preservation and continuation of the Kalamkari art by teaching the younger generation at the school he established, the Kalakshetram Kalamkari Arts Center.

K Sivaprasad Reddy was born into a family of farmers in 1956 in the village of Mandal in Kurnool district. Unfortunately, due to financial difficulties, he had to abandon his education and instead help with the family's agricultural business. However, it was during this time that his passion for art grew stronger. Despite his family's lack of support, he made the bold decision to leave without informing them and pursue a two-year program in Srikalahasti, located in Chittoor district. It was this decision that changed the course of his life and forged his stairway to artistic brilliance. Even though he is now older, the master painter's dedication to his craft remains unwavering.

Find out more about K Sivaprasad Reddy here.

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