Kantha (Embroidered Quilt)

Artist/maker unknown, Bengali

Made in Faridpur District, Bangladesh, Asia
or West Bengal, India, Asia


Plain weave cotton with cotton embroidery in back, buttonhole, darning, satin, split, running, eye, and dot stitches

31 1/4 x 29 inches (79.4 x 73.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Stella Kramrisch, 1968

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Scenes from the Ramayana intertwine with the story of the Bengali snake goddess Manasa on this early kantha. The goddess, portrayed as a snake-flanked water pot at lower left, is both benevolent (she protects from snakebites) and malicious (she unleashes her snakes and inflicts deadly venom). When Manasa was denied worship by a wealthy landholder, she killed each of his sons on their wedding nights. When his youngest son married, the landholder built a house of iron to protect him, but Manasa’s snakes wiggled though a hole in the wall, as depicted at lower right. The valiant widow Behula takes her husband’s body on a river odyssey to visit the god Shiva who successfully resurrects all four brothers.