Bagru is a small city near Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, Known for its art of textile printing using natural dyes and handcarved wooden blocks. The tradition of bagru block printing is centuries old and has been kept alive by “Chippa community.” Chippa is derived from word chapa which means impression. The community is concentrated in locality kown as “Chippo ka mohalla”
The process of block printing involves many steps starting from making of blocks. Patterns of flora, fauna and geometrical patterns are drawn paper and then traced on flat surfaced wooden pieces. The patterns are then hand-carved with high precision. Printing single textile involves use of many block, sometimes upto 20 or more. The blocks have to be carved with such detailing and precision that one block fits and complements other to complete a pattern
The undyed fabric is then soaked in muddy water and then sun dried. The process rids fabric of starch and other impurities and makes it more absorbent for colors too. The fabrics are sun-dried
Dries fabric is straightened and made wrinkle free and then laid on long table, secured with wax.
The block-printing expert, with a trolly containing colours and blocks, travels along the length of table and prints fabric with high precision.
Designs with different colours are printed in different steps. First colour/pattern is printed and sun-dried, then another colour/pattern, using different block, is printed and sun-dried and so on.
Finally its washed to remove excess colours, dipped in fixant like alum(though most of hand-dyed fabrics colour-bleed as harsh artificial colour-pigments and fixants are not used..
Just like many other similar labour-intensive work this industry is also suffering set-back due to low-cost machine made fabrics. On Hand-dyed fabrics, wrong-side also has faint prints, unlike machine-prints which are white.
So next time when you are offered a price to-good-to-be true, please think about these perishing traditional art-forms.
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