The bandhani or bandhna is the greatest masterpiece of the Indian dyer’s art. It is both a complicated and sophisticated method of resist-dyeing. Bandhani goes beyond being an art, and it is in every sense a labour of love involving tremendous patience, skill and aesthetics.
The advent of this art has been shrouded in mystery. Researchers have discovered that art touched many cultures and its origin cannot be traced to one particular place. This form of tie-dye is referred to as Plangi in the Far East by the Malay. It is known as shibori, in Japan and adirreido in Nigeria and Ghana. In India, the earliest evidence is found in the murals of Ajanta and Bagh caves indicating different patterns in bandhani and ikkat weaving. It is believed that Sindh, in present-day Pakistan must have been an original and important centre of Bandhani work in India. From Sindh, the art gradually developed and spread to Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
In the present day, Bandhani or the dotted pattern is mainly seen in three states of India - Gujarat, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. The line-patterned textile known as leheriya is a speciality of Rajasthan and only seen there. They are used as odhani, sari and headgear for men. In Tamil Nadu, the dotted pattern is referred to as Sungri/Sungudi which is a simple dotted pattern on a fine cotton saree. While they look similar, the process and tools used to design them are different.
Resist-dyeing by binding individual areas of cloth to shield them from the dye is usually known as bandhani derived from the verb bandhana, meaning to tie.
The tie-dye technique involves two processes: one is tying and the other dyeing. Both these processes are handled by two different communities. The tiers are mainly women belonging to the local communities whereas the dyer is generally a Khatri who produces interesting patterns in dots and different hues. The finesse and intricacy of dots to form the motif and colours used vary from region to region.
Preparing the fabric
White silk, cotton or wool fabric is cut from the thaan (fabric roll), according to the length required. The raw materials are sized or starched with arrowroot or rice paste before tying. The tying of dots is usually done on four to six layers of fabric, for which the cloth is first folded lengthwise and then widthwise to get four or more layers. The material is then ready for printing the designs.
Printing of designs
A craftsman then selects the design and the fabric, keeping in mind the end use of the product. Woodblocks, nail blocks and paper patterns are used for printing designs with geru and water. Nail blocks are usually used for geometrical designs and are seasoned overnight in oil. The next day, blunt iron nails are hammered into the block according to the design.
Tying is done with respect to the intricacy and type of design that has been printed. Twisted cotton threads of varying thickness are used for tying. Fine threads are used for intricate designs and thicker threads are used for bold patterns.
Tying produces two types of dots: square and circular. The squares are done by flattening the fabric in a square and then picking the pointed corner for tying. The round dots are produced by picking or raising the cloth and tying it with thread.
Colours surcharge the emotional quotient of the wearer. The basic colours used are red which is a symbol of suhaag (married women), yellow the colour of spring, blue the colour of Krishna and purple the colour of wealth.
Traditionally the fabrics are dyed in natural colours. The components used for natural dyeing are rusted iron pieces, myrobalan powder, alizarin dye, kesuda flowers, pomegranate peel, dried mango powder, lime juice and alum.
The richness of Indian textiles is woven into every aspect of our life. A noteworthy contribution of this land, though greatly unsung, is in the field of weaving and textiles. Rooted in customs and rituals, this industry has provided employment to many and carved a place for itself. At Sundari Silks, it is with great pride that we have an exclusive collection of Bandhani Silks that tell a myriad of lovely stories from Gujarat and Rajasthan.