The not-so-easy process of Bagh printing!
Previously, we talked about the history of block printing and its evolution as Bagh printing. Now is the time to know the process of printing and how it is executed! It’s not a simple art-form which just involves a group of people performing the designs and prints on fabric, but it entails tedious and lengthy procedures of washing, drying, dyeing, printing and bleaching.
Bagh Printing - How do they do it?
Carried out by a huge workforce in the town of Bagh in Madhya Pradesh, Bagh printing is all done manually, involving several painstaking processes of repeated washing, dyeing, and printing. In the first step, the fabric is soaked overnight in water to get rid of shrinkage, then dried in the sun for hours. The fabric is then dipped in a big container filled with a mixture of castor oil (arandi ka tel), goat dung (mengni), raw salt (sanchura), and water, processed by walking on it constantly. Then the cloth is dunked overnight in the mixture. After a soak, it is washed with water. All these steps are repeated thrice to get completely rid of impurities and starch. Later, the fabric is drenched and dyed in a mixture of harad (Terminalia chebula) and water in order to form a base for printing.
How are colours made?
Natural colours are mined from fruits, flowers, seed, iron etc. Alum (fitkari) is simmered and stored in a pot then boiled with the powder of tamarind seed (chiyan) to get the red colour. For black, hirakasish (iron sulphate) or a piece of iron, jiggery and water are mixed and stored in an iron container for 20-25 days. Then, the processed rust water and powder of tamarind seed are boiled together to get the intense colour.
The printing process
The paliya (dye tray) is set with seven layers of jute, which work like a dye pad for designing. After printing, the fabric is dried in the sun for 10-15 days and then taken to the river and washed in flowing water there; this process of washing is called ‘vichliya’.
In the next step, the fabric with the mixture of floral and leaf extracts is boiled in a copper vessel. The concoction allows shine, colour-fixing, and fastening; this process lets the red, black, and white to finally develop and appear. The fabric is now washed in clean water and then bleached. After some more drying, the colours are fixed, and the finished printed fabric is arranged to be sold in the market.
The motive behind motifs!
According to Umar, some of the wooden blocks he still uses are around three-hundred years old. The designs are inspired by nature, wildlife, architecture and the ancient Bagh Cave paintings. Name of the blocks are as follows: Genda (Marigold flower), maithir or makkhi (mushroom), leheriya (waves), keri (mango), saaj (border), nariyal Jaal (inspired by Taj Mahal), tikoni (triangular), chaukdi (rectangular), dhaari (stripes), mitthu Boota (inspired by parrot) and jurvaria (polka dots).
What kind of fabrics are used for printing?
Bagh printing not just adorns cotton but also silk fabric, cotton-silk, tussar, maheshwari, chanderi, jute, chiffon and crepe. One can find a pool of Bagh printed stoles, sarees, dupattas, bed sheets, curtains, pillow covers, cushion covers, mats, table runners and rugs in the market reflecting the class and sophistication. Salute to the efforts of Khatri community, who have educated and encouraged over a thousand local residents and inspired many designers to take up this craft.
Innovation and Bagh go hand in hand!
In a further conversation, Umar Farook Khatri (a national awardee), also mentioned a new project he is working on. The exclusive creation will be a blend of Bagh print, Shibori (a Japanese art of dyeing) and Indigo (colour). He has named this piece of art ‘Baghigo’ (derived from Bagh and Indigo), the name is suggested by one of his US-based clients.