The tying of cloth with thread and then dying it is the simplest and perhaps the oldest form of creating patterns on a plain piece of cloth. It is also the oldest forms of decorated textiles. Bandhani is a popular type of tie and dye method in India. The word “Bandhani” comes from the Hindi word “Bandhan” which means tying. Bandhani work is mostly done in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Bandhani is a technique of tie and dye. As the name suggests, the technique of Tie and Dye involves two stages: tying sections of a length of cloth (silk or cotton) and then dunking it into vats of colour. The rainbow-tinged turbans of the Rajputs and the odhnis of their women are shaded by this method of resist dyeing.
The term “bandhani” derives its name from the Hindi word Bandhan which means tying up. Bandhani is an ancient art practised by people mainly of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Jaipur, Udaipur, Bikaner and Ajmer and Jamnagar are among the important centres producing odhnis, saris and turbans in bandhani. The wide variety was evolved over the centuries because of its close links with the religious and social customs of different people. Bandhani work involves tying and dyeing of pieces of cotton or silk cloth. The main colours used in Bandhani are yellow, red, green and black. Bandhani work, after the processing is over, results into a variety of symbols including, dots, squares, waves and strips. The main colours used in Bandhani are natural. In fact all colours in bandhani are dark, Rajasthan is one of the most important centers of the tie and dye textile. Each area, each caste and each tribe has its special designs.
Tying of the border is a special process known as sevo bandhavo. The border is tied according to the desired pattern by passing the thread from one end to the other in loose stitch so as to bring the entire portion together by pulling the thread from one end. The border portion is then covered up. Some sarees have broad matching and contrasting borders. The same applies also to the pallus.
Dyeing is accomplished by the tie-resist method where the patterns are made up of innumerable dots and weaves respectively. Usually men do the dyeing while women do the tying, which is most painstaking with each dot being as tiny as a pin-head. The cloth is first washed and bleached to prepare it for absorbing the dyes. After this, it is then sent to the bandhani, the women who do the tying, lift small portions of the fabric and tightly tie a thread around it. The more minuscule the raised Bandhani – tied textile fabric, the finer the bandhana. The tied textile is then dipped in a light colour first while the tied areas retain the original ground colour. If a second dye is required, the areas to be retained in the first dye are tied for resist and the cloth dipped in a darker dye. This process is repeated, if several colours are to be combined.
Laheria refers to the wavy pattern of a fabric processed in the tie dye technique. The material is rolled diagonally and certain portions resisted by lightly binding threads at a short distance from one another before the cloth is dyed. If the distance is shorter, the skill required in preventing one colour from spilling into the other. The process of dyeing is repeated until the requisite number of colour is obtained.
For a checkered pattern the fabric is opened and diagonally rolled again from the opposite corners, the rest of the process remaining the same. When oil of sunflower, castor or linseed is heated over fire for more than 12 hours and cast into water, a thick residue known as roghan is produced. The printing of residue on cloth with coloured powder, gold or silver dust is known as khari or tinsel work.
The main colours used in Bandhani are yellow, green, red, pink, and black. The colors commonly used signify different things like – red, a symbol of marriage, saffron, a color worn by yogi who has renounced the world, yellow, which stands for spring and black and maroon, used for mourning.
Bandhni material is sold folded and with the knots tied. One has to pull the folds apart for the knots to open. The payment is made according to the number of dots in the pattern. An intricate design in a sari would have approximately 75000 dots. What is essential in bandhni is the minute and skillful manipulation of the fingers for tying, extensive knowledge of color schemes and skill in dyeing materials. It takes several years for a craftsman to perfect his skill. Bandhni saris and dupattas are available at most shops all over India but to get the authentic material, it is advisable to buy it from Rajasthan or Gujarat or their emporiums outlets in major cities around India.
Tie and dye cloth is never too expensive but be warned that the colours always run. So if you’ve bought silk, it’s safer to get it dry-cleaned.
The centers of tie and dye fabrics, especially in Gujarat are Jamnagar in Saurashtra (the water in this area brings out the brightest red while dying), and Ahmedabad. The finest bandhni work of Rajasthan comes from Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Barmer, Pali, Udaipur and Nathdwara. Rajasthan is well known for its leheriya pattern – literally meaning waves. These are harmoniously arranged diagonal stripes, which were originally, dyed in the auspicious colors of yellow and red. Pochampalli is also one of the three main traditional yarn-dyeing centers in the country. The process of making bandhni (tie and dye) varies in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Even the patterns, designs and craftsmanship vary in both the regions. The craftsmen from Rajasthan are easily recognized because they grow a nail on their little finger to facilitate the lifting of cloth for tying or wear a small metal ring with a point. The Gujarati craftsmen prefer to work without these aids. The flow is much better when one works with one’s bare hands as it assures no damage to the cloth. The dyeing and printing of textiles has become a highly developed craft in Gujarat. Bandhni, a form of tie-resist dyeing and patola are two outstanding examples of the Indian dyer’s art.