Block Printing in Rajasthan


Block printing has gained a lot of fame in Rajasthan. It’s an ancient dyeing technique of hand printed cotton textiles. The method is widely known for creating unique costumes. Skilled craftsmen are involved in block printing work. Centuries’ old master crafting is used in block printing such as warak printing, khadi priting and dabu printing. They are really unique skills. A steady tradition is visible in similar types of styles and designs of printing in spite of modern methods such as screen printing. As per the tradition craft skills get pass to other generations. The special skills remain with the family and people occupied in this profession are identified as `Chhipa community`.

Block printing is almost practiced in every Rajasthani village. It is greatly dependent on water sources. So in ancient times printing centers started close to water sources and among them most popular centers are in Akola, Jodhpur, Barmer near Udaipur, and Bagru, Sanganer near Jaipur. As the time passes on, every block printing centre in Rajasthan has formulated its unique style, technique and design such as delicate lines, low toned colors, sombre making beautiful designs such as lotus, rose and poppy, generally aligned with white background are popular features of fabrics printed and designed at Sanganer. In the similar way, motifs are typically bold and big in Bagru. The area is famous for dabu or resist-printing and dyeing to make reddish black shade. Foliage, buds and wild flowers are inspiration to Bagru’s printers. In Jaisalmer most printers employ wax stands firm and thus make a striking odhna known as jajar bhat in black and red colors.

Craftsmen of Rajasthan commonly make a motif which is a cluster of leaves, bud and flower and other types like jhumka (ear-ring), keri (mango), katar (dagger) and pan (betel leaf). A main characteristic of block printing tradition in Rajasthan is animal motifs that are commonly not used on fabric. Royal patronage is popular in Jodhpur and Jaipur which is promoted by printers to work extensively on several types of garments. Motifs are greatly influenced by the Islamic culture. Other influential sources also include floral designs usually related to crafts such as marble, brass and silverware.

Local art is also a strong inspiration, such as in Udaipur where the art pichvai painting is reflected in the printed textile. Another example is Nathdwara where dyers make their blocks from sandalwood and also add perfume to the color mixture to produce scented fabrics. Exclusive motifs on fabrics as a status of group identity remained unchanged for decades. For instance, women living in different communities wear different types of motifs on their specific ghaghras. Jat community people use motifs like koyali bhat and teetri bhat. Unmarried young girls of Jat community put on dhola-maru motif, on the other hand elderly women of Kumhar community wear daabri bhat motif.

These days, when mill-made warp-knitted and polyester fabrics have turn into the norm, people still like to wear traditional patterns and designs on fresh fabrics. This gives a new look to the outfits and beautify their appearance. Block printing is a popular handmade printing. It is a cost-effective method used mainly for single pattern designs and single yardages on cloth pieces. Sources of deriving colors are metals and vegetables. Wooden blocks are one of the major printing equipments made by carpenters. Such blocks are commonly carved by hands in circular, square and rectangular shapes. Blocks comprise cylindrical holes drilled in the backside enabling the discharge of air bubbles while printing. The side of blocks are notched arc to arrangement everything properly in all subsequent colors. Proper coloring is one of the big tasks considered very carefully in block printing. Additionally, it ensures that every block is registered accurately on fabric.

Datta, rekh and gad are 3 kinds of blocks distinct by their dissimilar carving ways. Gad is beautifully carved in intaglio manner and employed to print big background outlines, whereas data and rekh are carved in full relief. The designer outfits are made using this technique. Moreover Rekh blocks are used to outline motif and commonly used in alignment with gad blocks. Datta is beautifully carved in bold relief and sets off the designs of both rekh and gad blocks. All blocks can be used together or separately to make a wide range of designs.

Pasted used in Rajasthani block printing include dabu, beggar and syahi. Including a gum solution to paste thickens providing viscosity i.e. good for printing. Begar paste is made with gum, fitkari, geru and alum develops vibrant red color. Alum works as caustic and unites with coloring substance alizarin to make colors that range from pink to dark red. The block printing starts with washing and designing of fabrics. Paste is then poured into various size of trays called as saj. A bamboo net known as chipri is laid in the wooden tray and uncouth kambal ki gaddi, woollen clolh is widely spread throughout. This avoids extra color from mounting to surface and makes sure that block gets dye consistently. With the help of dried fabric which is equally turn out on flat yet gently padded wooden tables. For this process the block printing is started from one end. Block is softly pressed on its printing tray and again pressed on fabric. This process is repeated once again ensuring the alignment of blocks with each other throughout the cloth. All colors in design need recurrence with specific blocks. Then the dried printed cloth washed one more time to get rid of gum that was included during the printing process. In the last stage, its fabric is dried in the natural sunlight. This ensures the coloring remains in the cloth.

There are many other methods of block printing commonly applied in Rajasthan. With the help of direct technique, the block is completely dipped in the paste and tightly pressed on the pre-treated fabric. This process does not resist and no dyeing methods are required. Dabu is also well-known block printing method. In this process, the real sequencing of various stages of printing and dyeing can vary as per the preferred final form. This fabric is beautifully printed with dabu or alum or even both. When cloth is printed with mordant, it is absorbed, reacting with color and dye formulate in specific areas. In case the fabric is printed with resist, simple areas are unclogged will be consented for dyeing.

First of all, the fabric is washed and cleaned to provide the best cloth. The next step is treatment of fabric with harda solution. Dabu paste is made with clay. Once the preferred pattern has been reached, the mud-resist is excluded. Various kinds of dabu solutions are applied. Some of these solutions include gawarbali dabu, dnlidar dabu and kalidar dabu. They are made from roasted seeds with high adhesive features. Most commonly used solution is kalidar dabu, made from gaund (gum), kali mitti (clay), bidhan (wheat flour), natural adhesive and chuna (lime). The clay is completely soaked all-night and included lime solution and wheat flour.

Block printing was originated in Rajasthan which has a specific trait with beautiful colorful prints of animals, birds, human figures and deities. Block printing fabrics are also in high demand and commonly sold in festivals and fairs.