Pulsating patterns, vibrant colours, stunning prints, daring designs and intricate workmanship. Each fabric relives a great tradition in India. Among the noteworthy ones, the art of block printing is especially popular because the simple process can create such sensational prints in rich and exotic colours. This particular art of printing employs wooden or metal blocks to print designs and patterns on fabrics by hand.
Excavations of printed fabrics have traced the origin of block printing to the 12th century. In Gujarat, this form of hand printing has been perpetuated and handed down from generation to generation by the Paithapur families. Here, these types of prints are called Sodagiri. In Kutch, the popular patterns are black and red designs of animals, birds and dancing girls. Dhamadka, a village in Gujarat, has many printers using mostly madder root for printing red colour, rusty iron solution for black, and indigo for shades of blue. These fabrics are known as ajrakh prints and the designs made are usually geometric.
Rajasthan also has a legacy of its fine hand printed textiles. Block printing here bears a special trait with colourful prints of birds, animals, flowers, human figures, gods and goddesses. Artists practising this form in Rajasthan belong to the Chhipa community. This particular craft is widely popular in Sanganer and Bagru near Jaipur, Akola near Udaipur, and in Barmer and Jodhpur.
Motifs of flowering shrubs carry the imprint of the Mughal printers, who during the reign of Jehangir and Shahjahan, specialised in making superb stylised drawings of flowering plants. Bagru craftsmen use traditional vegetable dyes in their hand block prints.
In Madhya Pradesh, vegetable and natural dyes like indigo, turmeric roots, lac, iron and other substances are used for printing to create an effect that is rich yet subtle. Bagh is one of the prominent locations for block printing in Madhya Pradesh. The designs and patterns here comprise geometrical and floral compositions and the blocks used are intricately carved. Bagh layouts are dramatic in the use of black and red on a white background.