Kalamkari: Tale of the Lion and the Bull

in Image Gallery
Published on: 17 August 2018

M.D. Muthukumaraswamy

M.D. Muthukumaraswamy is a Tamil writer, Director of National Folklore Support Centre, Chennai, and a Consultant at Sahapedia.


The story of the 'Lion and the Bull' drawn by Kalamkari artist C. Subramanyam from Andhra Pradesh is derived from the Panchatantra repertoire attributed to the authorship of Vishnu Sharma. Subramanyam presents the background story of Panchatantra in the first picture and narrates the particular story in the rest of the pictures. Kalamkari paintings, normally drawn on cloth with a pen and coloured with natural colouring agents, is a tradition lost and revived by the illustrious work of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay. Now thriving in the temple town of Srikalahasti, the Kalamkari tradition flourishes with the skills of many families, including Subramanyam's. Kalamkari artists are well-versed in the Silpa Sastra and Chitra Sutra since Kalamkari art follows the prescriptions of the ancient texts for depicting the figures of gods and goddesses. We can see Subramanyam following the rules of symmetry and grandeur even while drawing the first frame to narrate the background story of the Panchatantra. The colours, blue and magenta, are dominant, similar to the traditional Kalamkari even in the paintings done on paper. Unlike other genres of traditional paintings, we also see Subramanyam creating visual depth when narrating the story of the bull and the lion. Subramanyam's storytelling is a blend of realism and traditional stylisation and he succeeds in achieving the right artistic balance.