While Indian culture and tradition is well-depicted in its paintings, the same can be found in textiles also. The diverse styles of Indian embroidery and textile printing nee3d no introduction. In fact, the art of weaving and cotton dyeing has existed in India since ancient times, and in later eras, it has emerged in silk fabrics too. A variety of printing styles, prevalent in different parts of the country, have the purpose of adorning and beautifying the textiles. Floral and geometric patterns are the most popular styles, which find their place on fabrics. You might be surprised to know that the same motif can be used in different printing styles.
Some ancient traditional textile block and hand printing styles, which can be witnessed in different states of India are:
Bagru printing is an old and traditional technique of printing using natural colors. It is done by chippas (people whose main occupation is dyeing and printing clothes). Bagru is a hand block printing for which chippas create dyes out of rust or rotten fruits or vegetables.
Every Bagru print is distinct and unique. The designs and colors are so natural that that stand out – completely different from the designs done on the machine. The entire process of block printing and drying hundreds of yards of cloth is so mesmerizing that one can become awestruck watching the beautiful process unfold.
2. Sanganeri print
This form of hand block textile printing was developed between the 16th and 17th centuries. It originated in Sanganer, a village in Rajasthan, and thus gets the name Sanganeri. It is almost five centuries old but with its patterned lines and vibrant use of colored designs, it holds a prominent place in the world of craftsmen.
While people may often confuse Bagru and Sanganeri prints, the most common difference between them is that the former is generally done on blue or indigo background while the latter is done on off-white or pure white backgrounds with intricate detailing, such as a design of delicate flower curves and petals.
Kalamkari is a form of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile found in Hyderabad. It is a 23-step process involving use of natural dyes only. There are basically two forms of Kalamkari practiced in India – Srikalahasti and Machilipatnam.
In Srikalahasti, a pen or ‘kalam’ is used to draw on the subject and the color is filled by handwork whereas, in Machilipatnam style, a wooden stamp is used to create patterns on a fabric. The pen can be made using a bamboo stick with a bundle of fine hair attached to one point to create intricate designs, and is soaked in a mixture of fermented jaggery, water and vegetable dye to extract the natural color.
This form of block printing was founded in Sindh, Pakistan. The Ajrak shawls are very famous for their designs and patterns and are made using block printing with stamps. Ajrak works on natural dyes – both vegetable and mineral dye are used, making this printing style quite expensive. This form of printing is different from others due to its red and blue colors and its complex geometric and floral patterns. It is an extremely complex process and the complete process of dyeing and printing takes about 14-21 days. The resultant product is soft against the skin and pleasing to touch, appealing to the eye and skin.
Leheria is an old and traditional method of dyeing in Rajasthan; it in mainly done on bright clothes and has distinctive and striped patterns. It is carried out on thin cotton, georgette, chiffon, or silk clothes, mostly for dupatta, turbans, and saris. Leheria or ‘wave-like’ pattern symbolizes the unique and rich heritage of Rajasthan.
For Leheria, It is said that the craftsmen dips the cloth in five different colors, using natural dyes to finish off the process. Indigo is used for shades of blue and Alizarin for shades of red in the final process.
The word Bandhani or Bandhez or Bandhej is derived from the Sanskrit word “band” meaning “to tie”. It is a type of tie and dye textile adorned by plucking the cloth into many tiny bindings that form the designs. This form of printing is practiced mostly in Gujarat. Bandhani designs are generally made from natural colors – the finer the bandhani print, the more expensive is the fabric. It is a very royal form of printing and is generally worn in weddings.
Bandhani sarees and dupattas are quite popular. Mirror or gota work is mostly used in bandhani to make it look more majestic. The most common colors used in bandhani are red, saffron, yellow, and maroon.
With time, several modern printing tools have come into use, but they have not replaced the traditional styles of block and hand printing. The coordination between human skills and use of modern techniques in the printing process will lead to a more economically sustainable scenario.