Fine prints, pure fabrics, beautiful colors, and immense hard work, I guess this completely describes the textile culture of Rajasthan. Rajasthan is an outstanding state of India with its different shades of culture, art and history folded together. The particular art we are talking about is hand block printing. This art has been flourishing in this state from the 12th century. Since the kings of that era gave this art a royal patronage this art has been happily passed on to generations of artisans. For now tons of this printed fabric is exported every year from Rajasthan across the world.
The beginning of this rich art is basically marked by the Chippa community of Bagru village who later with time, shifted to Sanganer. Owing to this, the block printing is now segregated into two categories, the Bagru print, and the Sanganeri print. In the Bagru style block printing, the traditional plant-based dyes are developed and used whereas in Sanganeri style, the colors are mixed with AZO-free pigment dyes. The entire process of block printing goes as follows:
Block carving: First of all, a print is drawn on paper and then it is meticulously carved across the Sheesham or timber wooden block of 18-25 centimeters. Similarly, for every design and every color, these blocks are prepared. Then these blocks are kept in oil for 10-15 days to get soften. The blocks are named differently as per their uses. For example, the block which used to print the outline on fabric is known as ‘rekh’ block. The fill block is known as ‘Datta' and the ground color block is called as ‘gud’. The block carving is entirely done by hand and indeed requires years of practice to carve a design perfectly on a block.
Preparing colors: After the blocks are carved, the colors are prepared. The colors are kept separately on the trays which already contain liquid made of glue and pigment binder. This mixture gives the color a soft base and lets it spread evenly on the block.
Printing: Before the printing starts, the fabric is washed to make its starch free. Now the color is evened out on the tray, each block is dipped carefully and pressed hard on the fabric to make a clear impression. First, the outlines of prints are done then the other blocks are used to fill the color. The process indeed takes a lot of time as the variety of blocks (depending on design) is printed repeatedly to ready a piece of fabric. Once the fabric is printed, it is dried in sun and then rolled in the newspaper so that the print doesn't stick to each other. It is steamed and again dried in sun after a wash so that the masters get assured of his fabric and print. Lastly, the fabric is ironed, packed and sent to market.
Undoubtedly, it is the slowest of all methods of textile printing but then it is the exclusive and extremely artistic one. Traditionally, only designs like flowers, leaves, or trees were carved on blocks but now many western designs inspired by cityscapes, other cultures have come up. The trends of geometrical and abstract figures are also seen in hand block printing now. Shirts, Sarees, bed sheets, dresses, women Kurtas, and many other options are available in the market of this hand block printed fabric. They not only make you look elegant but also set you apart from the crowd.