2002/147/1 Quilt, cross design nakshi kantha (patterned quilt) with fringe, cotton, embroidered by a Bangladeshi woman in Rajshahi (south of Dhaka), Bangladesh, 1980 - 1989
This nakshi kantha is a modern style of quilt developed in Rajshahi, south of Dhaka.
It is not known when Bangladeshi women began to produce kantha, which have long been part of the culture and tradition of Bangladesh, although it may have been in the 17th century. Kantha means 'patched cloth', and kantha-making was the equivalent of early Western quilt making when old materials were given a second life by being incorporated into a new article. The women of Bangladesh used old saris and dhotis layered one on top of the other, then covered them in either red or cream hand-woven cotton. This was then quilted and embroidered with geometric and figurative designs, using threads drawn from the borders of old saris.
Quilt making for the home had died out in Bengal by 1925 but is now being revived using old patterns and methods amd good quality materials. Traditionally, a lotus flower is the central motif of many kanthas; the lotus was thought to provide protection from the evil eye and to be a supplication to the gods. Another popular design was the mandala - symbolising the unity of the universe. As in Western samplers, Bangladshi women would also embroider familiar homilies into their kanthas. For many Muslim women, however, it was thought to be against Koranic principles to use figurative representations. Kanthas however were always uniquely the product of the women who made them and of her imagination.
A kantha is often given as a gift; shape and size determe its usage, which may be anything from a bed cover to Quran cover in a Moslem household. A pregnant women will sew a kantha for her baby and the bride-to-be will take a new kantha to her husband's household.