Did you know that the design on your grandmother’s saree or on the bed sheet in your home or on the dress your mother wears is everything exceptional and our heritage? All this traditional glory sets a context for us to talk about bagh prints today.
What is Bagh Print?
Bagh Print is a traditional India handloom design which is in existence for over eight hundred to thousand years. It gets its name from a village called Bagh which is located on the banks of Bagh River in Madhya Pradesh. Often called as ‘The Heart of India’, Madhya Pradesh gives India the lifeline to most of its textile industry. Bagh Print is a hand block printing technique which has geometrical and floral compositions that use naturals colours made from vegetables. The process of Bagh printing is not a simple art-form, but it entails lengthy procedures of washing, drying, dyeing, printing and bleaching.
Bagh Print Origin and Evolution
This art draws its roots to Larkana in the Sindh Province (now in Pakistan) under the influence of a community of Muslim Khatris. Then how did it become India’s preferred design? Well, the story here goes that the Khatri community migrated from Larkana to Marwar (Rajasthan) and settled in Manawar (Madhya Pradesh). The Khatri community then started the block printing work but had to travel to Bagh often. For their convenience, they moved to Bagh, which was where they settled, and also used the river extensively for their work. These prints were originally worn by Kings and Rulers as they oozed class, intricacy and royalty. Now, this folklore over the years has become a common thing in the lives of people around and beyond the village.
The Variants of the Design
The carvings on the wooden block are mostly inspired by paintings which are 1500 years old. They are
- Nariyal Block
- Rani Block
- Leheriya ( waves)
- Maithir or the mushroom,
- Chameli or Jasmine flower
- Star phool border
- Leaf (Patti) border
- Royal camel
- Tikoni( triangular)
- Jurvaria(polka dots)
How is it made?
Like any other handcrafted materials, Bagh printed clothes have their nuances and are time-consuming to prepare, but they have an excellent market appeal. The process is done in three stages- pre-printing, printing and post-printing.
Stage 1: Pre-printing
The pre-printing process includes washing the fabric in running water for two hours and then beaten rigorously to remove starch. Cotton is the most common fabric, but it also made on mulberry silk, crepe, georgette, Kosa silk, bamboo chicks, and chiffon.
Stage 2: Printing
Printing process includes making dyes and colours. Red and black are the most common colours used made from alum and corroded iron. Also, various other colours like yellow, green, indigo are made from vegetables. The printing blocks are carved from teak or Sheesham wood and are reused for generations. These blocks are soaked in the dyes and then stamped on the fabric, which is done by an expert craftsman.
Stage 3: Post-printing
Post printing includes drying the fabric for around fourteen days to fully absorb the colour and then it is again washed to remove excess dye. In the final stages, the fabric is put in the Bhatti ( a boiler ) for the colours to come out well.
The Family That Knit the Tradition Together
Ismail Sulemanji Khatri was the man that had directed the growth of this handicraft to its pinnacle. It was his dedication that kept the tradition alive even when a lot of artisans opted out of Bagh printing fabrics in the 1960s with the introduction of synthetic fabric in the market. His family also is now profoundly associated with the production of fabric which is mostly used to make sarees and dresses. To be in tandem with the market trends, this family now craves new designs on the block/motifs.
Where Can You Buy?
If you have loved these prints and designs and still haven’t found them in your nearest market, then you can buy online too. Here are the sites where you can give a try:
- Unnati silks
- Bagh India
- Fab India
Interesting Facts to Know
- The Bagh River has a chemical composition which is the main reason that the fabric, natural colours and dyes has a lustrous look and better quality.
- Suleman Khatri once made a bed sheet which had 1248 block designs on it, for which he also won a National Award.
Women have always been appreciative of art, culture and heritage. There is always this homely feeling when our lifestyle is adaptive of traditional wear and methods. Even top most designers in India these days have revived fashion to handloom and have connected our rural craftsmanship to top end fashion. The saying goes that fashion has many follies but the ones that can slip into what they like are the masters of all. Have a suggestion for us? Please share your thoughts via comments.
featured image credits: unnatisilks