Since our country has always been associated with rich weaves, and unique textiles, our love for colours and prints is legendary. What gives our fabrics their unique identity is the prints and weaves that are so unique to the region. Inspired from nature, architecture of temples and forts, rural life and geometric patterns, these prints in rich vibrant colours, speak a thousand words to the beholder.
With talented craftsmen from every part of the country pouring out their imagination on cloth, we have hundreds and thousands of prints to choose from. Be it florals, animal prints or abstracts, our artists and craftsmen endeavour to produce something new every time they put their thinking caps on. So, here is a list of some of the most popular Indian prints that have found much love across the world.
A particular kind of block printed shawls from the western states in India where they display designs made using block printing by stamps.
Background: They originated in the very ancient Mohenjo-Daro civilisation, and the legacy has carried on ever since. It is a unique form of block print that is popular in Sindh, Pakistan; Kutch, Gujarat; and Barmer, Rajasthan in India.
Technique: These prints include designs and patterns made using block printing by stamps Ajrakh printing uses natural dyes that include both vegetable dyes and mineral dyes, with Indigo being the key dye.
- Bagru print
Being popular Jaipur in Rajasthan, the printing technique is laborious but produces exquisite results.
Background: The brainchild of the Chippa community in Rajasthan, Bagru block printing has been alive for centuries creating some of the best Indian prints
Technique: A tediously long process that involves creating wash resistant prints, the craft boasts of master craftsmen who have been dedicated to it for over 30 years now. Exacting, but ultimately beautiful, the Bagru block printing technique is all natural, right from the dye to the wooden blocks and is celebrated all over the world for their simplicity and effortless elegance.
- Bagh print
Practised in Bagh, Madhya Pradesh, Bagh printing is a traditional block printing technique that uses only natural colours.
Background: The printing technique is said to have originated after the Khatri population decided to migrate from Sind and settle near the Bagh River. The designs have been inspired by paintings of the Taj Mahal, flowers, mushrooms and others.
Technique: In this printing technique, the cotton and silk cloth is subject to treatment with the blend of corroded iron fillings, alum and alizarin. The designs are patterned by skilled artisans, who have the knowledge passed down from their ancestors. On completion of the printing process, the printed fabric is subject to repeated washing in the flowing waters of the river, and then dried in the sun for a specific period to obtain the fine luster.
- Varak gold and silver leaf printing
A traditional form of printing, ‘Chandi Ki Chhapai’ or ‘Silver Printing’ is a delicate way of embellishing clothes or fabrics. Also called ‘Varak Gold or Silver Leaf Printing’.
Background: In ancient times, it was hand printed onto flags, royal tents and other insignias of power to reflect the status and prestige of the possessor. It is popular embellishment in holy shrines and temples today. The technique of varak block printing is extremely rare today and there are only two printers who do this in Jaipur.
Technique: This kind of printing uses varaks made by flattening gold or silver into a thin paper like consistency. These thin sheets of silver are also used to garnish Indian sweets. Today, silver and gold leaf printing can be seen on rich Chanderi sarees and dupattas, done by some of the finest craftsmen in the country.
Sanganeri, a kind of block printing that originated in Rajasthan, adorns home decor materials as well as apparel.
Background: This handicraft developed over the ages and saw contributions when people from neighbouring states like Gujarat migrated due to wars.
Technique: A hand printing technique which involves laying out of the material on tables and then printing using blocks with intricate designs. The fabric is marked before, so that symmetry of design is maintained.
Beautiful floral designs with buds, flowers, leaves, mangoes and even jhumkas sometimes are part of the detailed designs on the blocks.
A tie and dye technique that dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization, bandhani is popular amongst all.
Background: Started by the Khatri community of Gujarat in India, the printing technique finds mention even in historical texts like the Harshacharita.
Technique: The cloth is plucked by fingernails into tiny bindings and then dyed. A design made up primarily of dots of different sizes against a backdrop of bright colours mark bandhani.
A simple dyeing technique popular in Rajasthan, it results in striped textiles in a huge variety of bright colours. Cotton or silk cloth is subjected to resist dyeing.
Background: In earlier times, five different colours were used, and natural dyes were the chosen form of colours. The technique is named after the pattern it forms, that is, waves, which is called Leheriya in Rajasthan.
Technique: The cloth is tied and folded in a manner that the colour is applied only in a particular pattern on the textile.
This kind of prints revolve around selective soaking of cloth in a colour and preferentially printing it using wax.
Background: It originated in Egypt and has traces of its legacy in many countries. The process includes soaking, beating, drawing of patterns, applying of wax and other techniques.
Technique: A wax-resist dyeing technique, this process is applied to the whole length of the cloth. Either a spouted tool or a copper stamp called cap is used for this.
The small predominantly farming community in Deesa, in the North of Gujarat, is famous for its distinct mud resist printing technique called Dabu
Background: Supposedly, dabu printing originated in China and eventually, Rajasthan became the most popular centre of it. The designs are similar to the “batik” style of printing, but the techniques used for the two are vastly different.
Technique: Calcium hydroxide, also known as chuna, naturally pounded wheat chaff (beedan), and gum (gond) are the main ingredients that go into making the mud resist. The paste is applied onto a fabric that’s laid out on a flat or a running table and block prints are applied. The print gets its name from ‘dabana’ meaning ‘to press’. The cloth is then thoroughly washed to wash off the mud and reveal the prints. This community is famous for producing vibrant fabrics that are lovingly woven into ghagras, cholis, turbans and so much more. Plants, flowers and different motifs are core components of this kind of block printing, and the technique is practised in various villages in Rajasthan.
Distinct kinds of cotton hand printed or block printed material; kalamkari originates in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
Background: In earlier days, singers, poets and scholars used to paint accounts of stories from Hindu mythology which ultimately led to the generation of kalamkari prints. It has been practised by families and generations over the ages.
Technique: After stiffening and drying the cloth, it is printed is different phases according to the colour scheme. Wax is used while dyeing the areas blue and the remaining areas are hand painted. A bamboo stick with a bundle of fine hair is used as a brush while painting.
Ramayana, Mahabharata are used as primary themes, and this art form depicts India in all its past glory.
All the block printing techniques and tie and dye prints that are practised in India boast of the rich culture and heritage of the country. Creativity, craftsmanship and a whole lot of effort go into keeping these printing techniques alive and trending around the globe. Different designs and techniques contribute to the popular saying of “unity in diversity”. The variety of different colours coupled with intricate designs is a rich source of culture that has been handed down and delicately preserved in the country. They deserve all the patronage and love that they can get.
-By Rukaiya Kudrati