Let us give you a brief introduction to India’s oldest block printing method – Bagh. Bagh is a unique style of block printing on handloom fabrics. The name ‘Bagh’ is because it’s origin in the current form is from a village by that name in Madhya Pradesh, India.
An art brought from another region by migrant settlers in the 1960s, who travelled from Manawar and settled in Bagh village on the banks of the Bagh river, has taken block printed fabrics to a new level altogether. The Narmada river, about 30 kilometres from Bagh, which is a perennial source for water, is important for this art work, particularly during the dry season when the Bagh river goes dry.
Bagh was initially practiced by these settlers in the village and their print subjects were mainly geometrical prints and floral compositions. There was a lull in between that led to many a Bagh practitioner losing heart in the face of the cheaper production of synthetic fabrics that fetched better returns and soon there was an exodus of most who knew the art, towards joining the power loom industry for survival.
It was a dynamic enterprising weaver who gave the Bagh its present form by staying on in the practice of this art and experimenting with designs. In a brave move he altered the concept, the process and the look of these printed fabrics and brought the turnaround of a doomed art. He happened to get 200 year and 300 year old blocks which were based on traditional motifs that had been inspired by the 1500 year old cave paintings of nearby regions.
Block printed designs having the Nariyal zaal, ghevar zaal motifs (Designs from Taj Mahal paintings), and others like Saj, Dakmandwa, Chameli or Jasmine flower, Maithir or the mushroom, leheriya or jurvaria (designs of small dots on a field) were experimented as block print designs.
Villigares made blocks based on the Jaali work found in the Tajmahal and local forts. Initially, they used red and black colors from alum and corroded iron and later discovered green and yellow from vegetable dyes.
It was an art of drawing & designs. With their transfer onto blocks, the art revolutionized. Then, by experimenting with colors and designs, the existing Bagh got a new lease of life, since the market woke up to something extraordinarily captivating. With imagination and logic, he created designer patterns from 1230 different blocks on a single bedspread. The feat earned him fame and recognition and with them, a National Award. Today Bagh is a healthy mix of the traditional designs and current day subjects of floral scapes, geometrical shapes, large captivating bootis and the like.
Bagh print fabric with replicated geometric and floral compositions with vegetable colours of red and black over a white background is a popular Textile printing product. In taking advantage of the chemical properties of the river and with the effective use of colors, Bagh Prints appear as a unique art form.
I hope you enjoyed the introduction to Bagh and it helped you understand the history of Block Printing better 🙂