Top 10 Block Printing/ Fabric Dyeing Techniques of India

With a printing tradition dating back to ages, India is host to a wide variety of textile arts. Celebrated all over the world and applauded within the nation, the handicrafts sector in India has been one worth boasting about. Different regions boast of different textures, styles and techniques and each has a different method along with a unique output. Each has a distinct style which is easily recognisable when worn. Initially, the tools of block printing were crude and undeveloped, but there has been significant progress in the area. The entire concept of printing has undergone a complete revolution, and currently, the industry is blooming. This article will elaborate on different kinds of block printing and fabric dyeing techniques in India that deserve to be preserved, promoted and appreciated.

1. Bagh

An indigenous printing technique from the state of Madhya Pradesh, the name originates from the Bagh district, where it is most practised. It essentially refers to a technique of block printing by hand where the colours used are absolutely natural.

Background: The printing technique is said to have originated after the Khatri population decided to migrate from Sind and settle near the Bagh River. The designs have been inspired by paintings of the Taj Mahal, flowers, mushrooms and others.

Technique: The process includes the use of geometric designs and bright colours, and the chemical properties of the river are used to the maximum benefit to obtain the most unique shades. From cotton, silk, chiffon to bamboo chicks, this process can be carried out on a variety of fabrics. The fabric after removal of starch is made to undergo what is known as the “bhatti process” which includes boiling, drying and subsequently printing.

This kind of block printing has seen widespread popularity and received the support of the state as well as the central governments.

2. Kalamkari

Distinct kinds of cotton hand printed or block printed material; kalamkari originates in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Background: In earlier days, singers, poets and scholars used to paint accounts of stories from Hindu mythology which ultimately led to the generation of kalamkari prints. It has been practised by families and generations over the ages.

Technique:After stiffening and drying the cloth, it is printed is different phases according to the colour scheme. Wax is used while dyeing the areas blue and the remaining areas are hand painted. A bamboo stick with a bundle of fine hair is used as a brush while painting.Ramayana, Mahabharata are used as primary themes, and this art form depicts India in all its past glory.

3. Ajrak

A particular kind of block printed shawls from the western states in India where they display designs made using block printing by stamps.

Background: They originated in the very ancient Mohenjo-Daro civilisation, and the legacy has carried on ever since.

Technique: Woodblock printing gives rise to very geometric shapes and patterns. Vegetable dyes and other natural dyes are used for the process, and this garment is a symbol of the area’s culture and heritage.

4. Dabu

Dabu or daboo originates in Rajasthan and is a beautiful mud resist hand block printing technique. It survived the test of time with some difficulty and is a time-consuming printing technique involving many phases and a great amount of labour.

Background: Supposedly, dabu printing originated in China and eventually, Rajasthan became the most popular centre of it. The designs are similar to the “batik” style of printing, but the techniques used for the two are vastly different.

Technique: A very complicated process, it involves phases of washing, hand printing, use of mud resist and drying.

Plants, flowers and different motifs are core components of this kind of block printing, and the technique is practised in various villages in Rajasthan.

5. Gold and Silver Dust

Dust of precious metals like gold and silver is used in this age-old technique to give textiles a feel of exquisite zardosi and the sparkle of gold. Over the ages, the technique has adopted the use of more affordable metals like mica and chamki.

Background: Rajasthan specialises in this kind of block printing. What is notable about this technique is the use of already printed, dyed, and finished textiles as it only involves work on the surface without much permeability.

Technique: A roghan gum paste with castor oil is used. Two different blocks are used, and through perforations, the gum paste is squeezed in a pattern on the textile. Then the metal dust is sprinkled on top of this to add the necessary amount of shine and glitter.

Small dots and dashes comprise most designs.

6. Sanganeri

Sanganeri, a kind of block printing that originated in Rajasthan, adorns home decor materials as well as apparel.

Background: This handicraft developed over the ages and saw contributions when people from neighbouring states like Gujarat migrated due to wars.

Technique: A hand printing technique which involves laying out of the material on tables and then printing using blocks with intricate designs. The fabric is marked before, so that symmetry of design is maintained.

Beautiful floral designs with buds, flowers, leaves, mangoes and even jhumkas sometimes are part of the detailed designs on the blocks.

7. Bandhani

A tie and dye technique that dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization, bandhani is popular amongst all.

Background: Started by the Khatri community of Gujarat in India, the printing technique finds mention even in historical texts like the Harshacharita.

Technique: The cloth is plucked by fingernails into tiny bindings and then dyed. A design made up primarily of dots of different sizes against a backdrop of bright colours mark bandhani.

8. Leheriya

A simple dyeing technique popular in Rajasthan, it results in striped textiles in a huge variety of bright colours. Cotton or silk cloth is subjected to resist dyeing.

Background: In earlier times, five different colours were used, and natural dyes were the chosen form of colours. The technique is named after the pattern it forms, that is, waves, which is called Leheriya in Rajasthan.

Technique: The cloth is tied and folded in a manner that the colour is applied only in a particular pattern on the textile.

9. Batik

This kind of prints revolve around selective soaking of cloth in a colour and preferentially printing it using wax.

Background: It originated in Egypt and has traces of its legacy in many countries. The process includes soaking, beating, drawing of patterns, applying of wax and other techniques.

Technique: A wax-resist dyeing technique, this process is applied to the whole length of the cloth. Either a spouted tool or a copper stamp called cap is used for this.

10. Bagru

Being popular Jaipur in Rajasthan, the printing technique is laborious but produces exquisite results.

Background: Over 100 years old, this technique has been developed by families and handed down traditionally in Rajasthan.

Technique: Washing, hard dyeing, drying and other parts form the core of the printing process. Blocks are placed from left to right and slammed hard on the fabric. The fabric is dried afterwards. They are then washed and boiled and finally rinsed to get the final product.

Conclusion

All the block printing techniques and tie and dye prints that are practised in India boast of the rich culture and heritage of the country. Creativity, craftsmanship and a whole lot of effort go into keeping these printing techniques alive and trending around the globe. Different designs and techniques contribute to the popular saying of “unity in diversity”. The variety of different colours coupled with intricate designs is a rich source of culture that has been handed down and delicately preserved in the country. They deserve all the patronage and love that they can get.

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