There are various skilled arts and handicrafts that are manifested on textiles. These enhance the look and feel of the clothes, at the same time, exemplifying the artistry and talent of the designers. The fashion industry is an important creative field in our times, yet a lot of the fashion sense has pervaded for centuries in the form of various coloring, dyeing and designing techniques that have beautified garments for generations. One such is Bandhani, the art of tie and dye method that is most prevalent in Rajasthan, Gujarat and some parts of Punjab and UP.
What is Bandhani?
Bandhani comes from the Sanskrit word, ‘bandh’ which means to tie. The fabric is tightly tied in various places to form a design and then dyed with bright colors. After drying, the knots are opened which retain the original color of the fabric and what results is a beautiful form of color and designs.
Technique and style
This art form requires skill and precision. The fabric is tied with fingernails into very tight knots. However, the knots are not just randomly made but cater to specific designs or patterns, such as Chandrakala, Shikari, Bavan Baug and more. The uniformity of the dots, their size, shapes and spacing, as well as the contours of the dots are indication of the mastery of the artist.
The cloth is often dyed with vivid colors, such as yellow, red, green, blue and black. After dyeing the fabric is left for drying before opening the knots. It might take 4-5 hours to dry the cloth on a hot summer day, whereas around 2 days during the monsoons.
Depending on the pattern of the knots, the final product can be classified as a Patori, Khombi, Gharchola, Chandrokhani etc. Besides, the designs are also understood according to the number and type of knots. For example, a single knot is called ekdali, trikunti for three knots, chaubandi for four knots. Or dungar shahi for a mountain pattern, boond when there is a small knot and a dark center or kodi which is a tear shaped knot. Hence, the different knot types and patterns give rise to various designs that are specific and each have distinct characteristics. It is therefore, just not a random tying of the material but a calculated, yet creatively skilled production of designs and patterns.
Bandhani arts are practiced in limited geographic locations. They are said to have been started by the Khatri community in Gujarat and this art form has found representation in the Ajanta caves, thus dating back to many centuries. In many rural areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan Bandhani is a way of life. It is associated with the culture of the land and the social practices of its people and craftsmen. For example, a Gharchola saree with zari or golden borders is given by the man to his bride. The brides of the Khatri community wear the Chandrokhani which is believed to be a parallel between the beauty of the bride and the moon. The Bhavan Baug and Rasamandali is a celebration of natural gardens and dance forms, formed on bright red backgrounds with designs about peacocks, elephants and women dancing. Women adore the bandhani prints in sarees, salvar kameez and dupattas, whereas, men wear the designed turbans on important social and family occasions.
Bandhani is usually a family affair with the women of the household and village busy at work. The Kutch belt is known for its Bandhani handicrafts and some of the areas where Bandhani is created include Bhuj, Mandavi, Pethapur, Jetpur, Anjar, Rajkot, Jamnagar and more.
The Bandhani patterns and colors are marked with a distinct traditional and local feel that is hard to find or replicate in other products or designer wears. The essence of ethnicity mingled with what one would call a ‘desi’ touch, bandhani wears are stylish, bold and make a strong statement of skill and creativity. At the same time, it does not lose its originality in spite of use of synthetic colors and modern designs. The fact that it is still practiced in its place of origin speaks volumes about its sustainability and that skill and beauty always find connoisseurs and ways to survive. On a personal note, I remember wearing a bandhani print to work one day and my colleagues who were not from India, found the design and color so fascinating that they had incessant questions about it even in the middle of a meeting. That perhaps is the most signifying moment for traditional Indian techniques. They are appreciated across the globe and yet are so grounded that it is hard to imagine where the art would go if their wings fluttered just a little bit more and if their artists recognized their worth a lot much more.