Bagru is a small village just 30km from Jaipur and it has been preserving India’s biggest tradition: the traditional Hand Block Printing Technique! In India, the Block Printing technique is peculiar to the state of Rajasthan. This art fascinates India’s visitors since decades and there are even many workshop opportunities to explore this century old art. This century old method uses natural colors for curating textile that uses hand, wood and natural colors. Indians were among the pioneers in the art of dyeing and printing with fast (natural) colors. This Hand block printing technique is recognized as a craft that is preserved through generations. There are only few communities left that follow traditional steps and procedures. Additionally, each of the groups follows its distinctive style & method. They use some locally available natural materials and motifs that make them unique.
‘Bagru’ print is a term that has established itself thanks to a special community of people. In this blog you will learn about the story of this unique community .
Rajasthan, a state in west India, is the place where the tradition of block printing emerged. In its small village called “Bagru”. Bagru is popular for keeping the three-centuries-old tradition of printing alive. Their technique is known as the “Bagru printing”.
People believe that this technique is some 450 years old. The Chhipa community who migrated from Sawai Madhopur (Alwar) and settled in Bagru introduced this technique in India. The Chhipas were so settled in Bagru that others have started identifying that area with their name “Chhipa”. Until today locals still call it Chhipa Mohalla (Printer’s Quarters). Chhipa literally means “people who stamp or print” and you can walk into this quarter engross yourself with with dyes and blocks.
The abundant clay at the riverside provided them with the main ingredient of their designs. The artisans smear the cloth with Fuller’s earth which they get from the riverside. Then, they dip it in turmeric water – this way they get the beige colored background. After that, they stamp the cloth with beautiful designs using natural dyes of earthly shades.
Well, the above was one interpretation of the story. Different people have different stories about how these Bagru prints came into existence. One of the beliefs is that the Thakur of this village brought two families of printers from Isarda. During these times, these families, called the Chhipa, established themselves on the riverside by taking sand as their core ingredient. The Chhipa then formed some intrinsic patterns which made this art famous in Rajasthan.
Today the Chhipa Mohalla is the hub of hand block printing technique in Bagru where one can see various colors of fabric hung on terraces.
Even today, artisans use traditional vegetable dyes for block printing the cloth. Like, we use indigo to make the color blue. For greens we mix indigo with pomegranate and for red we use madder root. Usually Bagru prints have ethnic floral patterns in natural colors. It is a labor-intensive process that requires a lot of skillfulness, time and tolerance power of artisan.
First, we soak the cloth overnight in oil. Then, after washing it, we use the wooden blocks of teak-wood to print the design. These collections of the blocks are the actual wealth of Chhipa’s that they collected over generations.
Lastly, we soak the fabric in Fuller’s earth and dip it into turmeric water. This creates a warm tone of yellow color. Neat stamping and precision are foremost to get the appealing prints.
Artists then use the blocks to stamp the dyed fabric with designs. The base color of the fabric is usually the dull shades such as white, cream and beige and natural colors.
After printing, we leave the cloth for drying in the sun for a final touch-up. Different types of motifs used in Bagru printing are Aath Kaliya, Chopard, and Kamal. There are different ways how to speed up the process. If you was the dyed fabric in salty water it will have the same effect as when we dry the cloth in the sun. To achieve a multi-color result we can use up to 7 different layers. Interestingly, more than 7 layers of color are not possible.
As Jaipur is famous for the art when on a Tour to the Royal city, take a look at any authentic hand block-printed fabric and you will realize the minuteness of the work involved. The human touch is evident due to the presence of minor imperfections. One can apparently appreciate the efforts that go into every stage of creating a hand block printed fabric. Thus, the hand block printing technique is an environmentally friendly art that deserves appreciation and recognition. Being in the city of Jaipur, you may shop for these authentic pieces of art for yourself.
Do check our other blogs about block printing and its techniques: – Block Printing, History And Importance and Importance of Rajasthani Block Printing . It will give you a good understanding about this unique technique.