Bagru Printing is a 500 year old traditional block printing technique on fabric using natural colors and wooden carved blocks. The motifs are inspired from nature. It includes birds, animals and eye-catching geometric pattern. It has got its unique name from its place of origin Bagru – a small village in Rajasthan.
What is block Printing?
Block printing is an ancient method of printing textiles by stamping ink-dipped engraved wooden blocks onto the fabric. It is the simplest ways of creating stunning custom fabric with minimum investment. It is believed this technique originated in China in 15th Century and gradually spread to Asian subcontinent. The process of printing is nothing less than an artistic marvel as wood blocks are cut with tools to make the desired pattern on it.
Bagru – History & Craft
Bagru, a village in Rajasthan, situated at a distance of 30 Kilometer from Jaipur is famous for hand block printing. The artisan community known as Chhipas have been practicing hand block printing on fabric for almost 500 years. The popularity of the craft at the ancient time made people from the neighboring districts like Sikar, Alwar, Churu, Jhunjhunu shift to Bagru. Now it is the main livelihood of people living in the region. They take a great pride in teaching this skill to the next generation.
Why Bagru Print is famous?
Eco friendly way of hand printing using natural and pigment colors coupled with attractive motifs makes it an eco friendly choice. Its popularity can be judged from the fact that Bagru Print Bed Sheet is one of the top exported fabric from India.
Over the period, basic technique of printing has remained unchanged although some adaptations of other cultures have been seen in the motifs and designs. Generally, motifs you will come across include: –
- Motifs of Flowers, Leaves and Buds
- Motifs of Inter-twisted Tendrils
- Motifs of Trellis Designs
- Motifs of Figurative Designs
- Motifs of Geometrical Designs
Carving of Blocks
Blocks are made using traditional tools like saw, routers, rulers, chisels, and wooden mallet. Each design needs a different blocks including an outline and a background. On average 4 to 5 blocks are required to create a hand printed cloth.
Preparing the cloth
The cotton cloth is bleached to make it softer and absorbent. After this, the fabric is dipped into a yellow color and dried in the sun. Now it is ready for printing.
Mixing of Dyes
The dye stuffs are mixed in a printing tray, known as TATI. It is a bamboo frame. Over its top a woolen cloth is placed. The dye is prepared by mixing the color into the binder. This solution is poured into the tray, where it gets soaked by the woolen cloth. After all these preparations, printing process starts.
Printing the Fabric
Bagru printing has two variations Dye Printing and Resisting Printing. In both procedures, first the blocks are soaked overnight in mustard oil or refined oil and then washed. Printing is done on wooden tables. These tables have a layer of ply on which there are 20 layers of tart and a sheet of cloth. The outcome of the process is the final fabric, ready for dyeing.
Dyeing the Fabric
The dye solutions are poured in the tray. The printer presses the block into the dye tray and then onto the cloth until the pattern is embossed. For every imprint the block is pressed into the tray to get a fresh smear of paste. The outline pattern is done in blocks for background. Once each pattern is complete, the cloth is ready for the dye vat.
Once the printing and dyeing are complete, the cloth is again hand washed and sun-dried. This completes the whole process of block printing.
Initially Bagru Prints were used mostly by the local population for ghaghras (skirts), odhnis (scarfs), lugdis, rajai (quilts) etc. With an increasing demand and popularity the prints are now being used extensively in dress materials, sarees, apparels, home furnishings etc.
In order to meet the market demand and changes in lifestyle and fashion this traditional art is having a tough time however, with an increase in inclination towards environment conservation a shift to natural dyes is observed and has renewed interest towards use of natural eco-friendly dye print fabrics.