The diverse styles of Indian embroidery and textile printing need no introduction. In fact, the art of weaving and cotton dyeing has existed in India since ancient times, and in later ages, it has emerged in silk fabrics too. A variety of printing styles, widespread in different parts of the country, have the purpose of adorning and beautifying the textiles. Floral and geometric patterns are the most prevalent styles, which find their place on fabrics. You might be surprised to know that the same motif can be used in different printing styles.
Here are some ancient traditional textile block and hand printing styles, which can be witnessed in India.
Bagru printing is an old and traditional technique of printing using natural colours. It is done by chippas (people whose main occupation is dyeing and printing clothes). They create dyes out of rust or rotten fruits or vegetables. Bagru is a hand block printing which has been recognized as a craft through many generations.
Every Bagru print is distinct and unique. The designs and colours 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.
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 coloured designs, it holds a prominent place in the world of craftsmen.
While people may often confuse with 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.
Ajrak 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.
Leheriya 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, scarfs 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 colours, 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 with the fingernails into many tiny bindings that form a figurative design. This form of printing is practised mostly in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
With time, several modern printing tools have come into use, but they have not replaced the traditional styles of block and hand printing. The harmonization between human skills and use of modern techniques in the printing process will lead to a more economically sustainable scenario.