Rajasthan has a rich tradition in textiles dyeing and printing. We had written about the magic of Bandhej in one of our earlier posts and just as we were touring the other lovely states in India, Rajasthan beckoned us again, enticing us with the beautiful hand-block prints from Sanganer and Bagru.
Last January, I was in Jaipur and took a detour to Sanganer, a small village situated around 30 km from the walled city of Jaipur. Apparently, water of the river flowing through Sanganer is considered to be having special quality that brings out the radiance from the natural dyed fabric. The village accommodates more than 5000 block printers from the Chippa community and has a large number of block-cutting and printing units.
A little bit of trivia: Sanganer was selected for its abundance of soft water and clay suitable for the process of sun bleaching fabrics, developing it into a major printing centre by the Jaipur royal family. During the regime of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh in 18th century the craft started building its roots in Sanganer when he invited printers from Andhra and Gujarat to settle in this newly developed block printing village. This village was suitable for the craft as it had a river flowing through it which helped the artisans with constant water source for washing and dyeing the products.
Did you know that the finesse in flowers-petal designs, curves and delicacy are the prime specialties of Sanganer prints? The curvature of flowers in the ’bootas’ is generally shown on the right side? Well, i read an extremely informative article on hand printing in Rajasthan. Read more about it here.
Another destination for people who are absolutely adore textile printing is Bagru. Bagru is a small village in Rajasthan on Jaipur-Ajmer road at a distance of 35 kilometers from Jaipur. The classic wooden block printing of Bagru which is considered unparalleled, in addition to its ecological consciousness and the use of traditional dyes gives it a position of pride in India’s textile map.
Printing at Bagru is a completely eco-friendly process. The base cloth is first treated with Fuller’s earth (multani mitti), soaked in turmeric (haldi) before being stamped with beautifully patterned blocks of wood using natural dyes of earthy hues. Added to that, natural coloring agents such as alum, turmeric, pomegranate, dried flowers, indigo, etc are used to add colorful designs and motifs to the fabric. Blue from indigo, green from indigo mixed with pomegranate rinds, red from madder root and yellow from turmeric. Wow! It’s sad to know that Bagru now boasts of only a handful of crafts persons who still use traditional vegetable dyes in their hand block prints.
The main distinguishing feature between Sanganer and Bagru printing is that Sanganer print is usually done on a white ground, whereas Bagru prints are printed on an Indigo or a dyed background. Local water also has its effects on the results of block printing – one will find rich, dark shades of colour in Sanganer, while at Bagru one finds a reddish tinge in the block printed textiles. Traditionally, motifs printed at Bagru are large with bold lines, as compared to Sanganer, where sombre colours and fine lines, intricate detailing are practiced. The textile experts will be able to tell many more differences, but to the untrained eye, these are the most distinguishing features.
In spite of a flourishing trade and surge in demand from India and overseas, the socio-economic condition of the artisans is something to worry about, coupled with occupational health and safety hazards faced by them. Many artisans do not wish to pass on the knowledge to their children, as they do not see any future in this craft. Something we all need to worry about…imagine a world without the beautiful hand block prints from Sanganer and Bagru!
If you are planning a holiday in beautiful Rajasthan, do consider staying at a place which offers workshops/day tours to get a first hand experience (and of course, learn something you would always treasure). Here are two we found very interesting – 1) Block printing lessons at Savista and 2) Bagru printing workshop by Jai Texart. Here’s an experience you can read about this workshop.
I cannot imagine my wardrobe without these gorgeous hand printed textiles – kurtas, tunics, sarees…You will find their imprint even in your home. Here are some beautiful pieces to entice you to go shopping:
The handblock printing process and the final work is awe-inspiring. The magical fingers of artisans work relentlessly to keep the craft alive and bring such gorgeousness to us. If you are planning a trip to Jaipur anytime (other than the scorching months of April, May and June), do visit the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing, located in a restored haveli. A walk through the galleries will give an in-depth view of the beautiful hand block printing tradition and just when you are ready to take a break , do stop and shop at the museum shop. After all, you love shopping but you are notjustashopper…