Bagru, a rural Indian village in Rajasthan is situated around thirty kilometers east of Jaipur city. Its traditional process of hand block printing on textiles, with rich natural colors has been known for many centuries. The elaborate and rich colored floral prints of Bagru are very distinctive, so much so, that the renowned Calico Museum of Textile in Ahmedabad, India, commissioned a three years study in 1970s of the villages printing and dyeing transition. The village hums with much activity today, supplying the exquisite printed material for export trade. Buses and Jeeps are the main source of transportation available between Jaipur and Bagru.
History of Bagru
No authentic literature is available to indicate the beginning of this kind of printing, but this art is said to have started around 450 years back. The village had a community of CHHIPAS, or traditional crafts people who printed fabrics by hand. Bagru chhipas came from Sawai Madhopur, Alwar, Jhunjhuna, and Sikkar districts of Rajasthan to settle in Bagru and make it their home outset around 450 years ago. They are known for their unique designs of luxuriant trellises in sophisticated natural colors.
Until about fifty years ago, Bagru prints were still used mostly for ghagras (skirts) and odhnis (scarves) for women in surrounding communities, and the chhipas relied solely on this local market. Printed lengths of rough cotton about 50 cms wide were typically sewn color, different prints served as identifying emblems for various Hindu castes. In this highly stratified culture, leather workers, for example could wear the same floral prints as blacksmiths, but the base color of dark green or red distinguished the two groups. These lengths of uncut material were made only by the Chhipas and were worn only by Hindus.
Transition of the Craft
Today, however, trends in Indian fashion promote synthetic clothes and western designs. This has made chhipas give up their labour intensive process of printing with intricately carved wooden blocks.
In the early years, printers sat on the floor and worked on low tables; now they often stand while working at six meters long tables. Earlier chhipas used to do only running lengths- strips of a single pattern or of fabric with a single, repetitive motif. Now they are compatible in doing layouts, using different textured fabrics to print on, while playing with new colors and designs. The printing techniques themselves have changed a little as now they often incorporate spirals, circles diagonals in various patterns laid out on larger wider pieces of finer cotton. These aesthetic changes have occurred because the export market demands novelty in a way that the traditional market did not.
Bagru prints are immensely used in contemporary as well as conventional garments.
Conventionally, Bagru prints were used mostly for ghagras (skirts), odhnis (scarves) and pagris (turbans). The printed lengths of rough cotton about 50 cms wide were typically sewn together for long skirts.
Today, the products made with Bagru block prints have entered into Home Furnishings, apparel and accessories.
The colors for the Bagru prints are prepared from natural dyes. The prints are essentially in two colors - Red and Black