Bagru: Pioneer of Block Printing

Undoubtedly, India has been a pioneer of culture and traditions. Cultures, traditions , crafts and art can be found at any corner of our opulent country, from a metro city like Delhi with Haat Bazaars to a small village like Bagru that is acclaimed all over the world for its block printing.

Hand block printing has been flair of Indian artisans for more than 500 years. Indian artists, especially the natives of Bagru (a small village in the arid land of Rajasthan, near Jaipur) have proven their skills and artistry in the business of block-printing, which is now acclaimed all over the world for its intricate designs and prints. Chippa community of Bagru is engaged in developing the block printing techniques from the natural vegetable dyes.

Patterns and Colors of Block Printing

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Bagru prints are predominantly done on white, off-white, and beige fabrics. Main colors that are used in Bagru block printing are red, black, and maroon. And interestingly, all these colors are derived from naturally occurring sources, like black from soaking camel shoes in water, red from gum paste, and maroon comes from amalgam of red and black.

Apart from these base colors, many natural colors are used that are made from natural vegetable dyes such as indigo, madder, pomegranate rind, turmeric, etc. These days, even pigment colors are used such as green, rust, and violet, to appease the need for vibrant colors.

There is a variety of motifs that are used in the printing process such as rose petals, neem leaves, chilli, cauliflower, and many more. The printing and patterns are quintessentially inspired by the local flora and fauna.

Process of Block Printing:

  • Preferentially, block printing is done on a cotton fabric. Cotton fabric of desired amount is used like 7 meters for a sari, 10 meters for a running fabric and 2.5 meters for dupattas.
  • The fabric is washed prior to further treatment for the sake of removing starch, dirt, and other contaminates from it.
  • The fabric is then “yellow dyed” in hardha solution that makes vegetable dyes to stick to the fabric, and also make the fabric colourfast. Hardha is derived from fruits of Myrobalan plant. The fabric is then allowed to get dried under the ample sun shine, and develops a yellowish-cream color.
  • The dyed fabric is spread on the printing tables. Printing always moves from left to right. The printer (man power, generally) dips the wooden printing block in the tray of colored dyes, then applies it carefully onto the fabric, taking care of corners. While tapping the colored block onto the fabric, the printer has to pay a special attention so that dye does not spill over the fabric.

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  • The process is repeated all over again in three sub steps- first with the gadh block (background), and then with rehk( fine outlines), followed by data (inside filling) blocks in different colors.

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  • Once the printing process is completed, the fabric is allowed to dry for around 2-3 days before it is rinsed. Once it is dried completely, it is boiled in water with alum and rose petals. While boiling, it is stirred constantly so that it does not get burnt.
  • After boiling, the fabric is washed again for one last time, to remove any remaining dirt or contaminates and then dried.

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  • Finally, the printed product is packed and sent to the markets for sale.

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So, how did you find the process of Bagru block printing?

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