Kantha – the embroidered poetry on cloth – speaks volumes about the imagination of Bengali women and the aspirations that her craftwork reflects. It is a well-conceived art work, which has always attracted people from all walks of life. She creates the most amazing Kanthas with great love and affection for her dear ones. Her creativity stands unmatched when she breathes life into a discarded saree, worn out from constant use and laundering. She transforms this simple five metres of old cloth into a most admirable, attractive and unparalleled utilitarian artefact. Initially, light coverlets or quilts – to withstand the mild winters and cool monsoon nights of Bengal - were made using the Kantha embroideries, which was limited to simple stitches and a few colours. Some Kanthas were used as swaddling clothes for babies; expectant mothers spent their last stages of pregnancy in making a Kantha for the new born, with the belief that this piece of cloth would bring good fortune for the family and protect the baby from diseases. Every home in a Bengali village housed a number of Kanthas that were more for personal use than commercial gain. This folk art emerged from a combination of materialistic circumstances and daily needs, climate, geography and economic factors. The motifs embroidered were influenced by religious beliefs and superstitions, and of course what the women saw around them. These motifs embroidered in the simplest of running stitches, speak of folk beliefs and practices, religious ideas, themes and characters from mythology and epics, flora, fauna, man and nature; they also reflect the social and personal life of people in their own way.
Kantha signifies a poor man's wrap consisting of old used up cloth patched up and sewn into a single garment. It seems probable that patch works Kantha constituted the original form of Kanthas and that Kanthas of a decorative ‘appliqué’ type were evolved from this”.