Saving India’s Calligraphy Culture

Skyler Cutsforth, Editor

Although the 22 official languages of India live on, the culture of calligraphy has slowly been dying. Calligraphy used to be a traditional way of representing communication through art. Scribes would sit upon steps, drink tea together, as the community gathered around to watch. Today, there are very few artists left, and Qamar Dagar is fighting to preserve the unique tradition.

Dagar uses an “abstract style called pictorial calligraphy.” This style combines both letters and pictures that reveals her interpretation of the words. Promoting her own work was simply not enough to keep it alive, so she created the Qalamkaari Creative Calligraphy Trust, to help organize events for artists to share their work. For this, Dagar received the Nari Shakti Award: the highest civilian honor award for a woman in India in 2017. 

She is also working on passing down her knowledge to younger generations by holding workshops, and calligraphy programs at schools throughout India. “Now, people are realizing the importance of [calligraphy] and what India can contribute to this field,” she says. “There is no dearth of talent here.”