Indian art is not bound by complex techniques or elaborate paraphernalia. A cave, village wall, a piece of wood, rocks, floor, a palm leaf and even the palm of a hand serves as the canvas for creating beautiful pieces of art. ‘Bandhej’ or tie and dye is one such art form where captivating patterns in brilliants hues and shades are created on fabric.
Photo from Flickr
Tie and dye or Bandhej is a craft of resist dyeing, where the patterning is done by tying parts of cloth in different ways to prevent the penetration of dyes. The colored design is always created on the fabric and the craftsmen claim that this art form is one of the oldest in the world.
An ancient art, the history of Bandhej goes back to some 5000 years ago in India. With a rich history backing it, the art was brought to India by the Muslim khatri community of Kutch and is passed on generation after generation. In those early days the dye used were extracted from natural sources of flowers or other plant parts such as blackberries, lichen, saffron, marigold, onion, sage, indigo, turmeric etc. Silk hemp was the natural fiber which was then prevalent.
The fabric is tied tightly with a thread at several points and then it is dyed. This creates a variety of patterns like Leheriya, Mothda, Ekkali, and Shibori. The pattern formed essentially depends on the manner in which the cloth is tied. There are three types of Bandhni designs;
1. Single Ikat, Masheri-Either the warp is tied and dyed or the waft is tied and dyed.
2. Double Ikat, Patola, Teliarumal-Both the waft and the warp are tied and dyed.
3. Bandhni, Leheriya, Mothra, Shibori- The fabric is tied and dyed.
Traditionally, the fabric used for tie and dye were muslin, handloom, silk or voile and vegetable dyes to color made it a perfectly organic piece of clothing. These days, synthetic fabrics and chemical dyes are popularly used.
Regional centers of Tie and Dye
The images of brightly hues fabrics instantly come in mind as you think of deserts of Rajasthan or the charming state of Gujarat. The largest center of tie and dye are Mandvi, Jamnagar and Mundra in Gujarat; Jodhpur, Jaipur and Udaipur in Rajasthan. Leheriya hails from Rajasthan while Gujarat specializes in Gharchola Sari. Madhya Pradesh and Tamilnadu also offer variations of tie and dye.
How is it done?
Tie and Dye is an art form which employs entre villages and communities and is carried out in various steps.
Motif: wash the fabric, dry it and fold it in 4 layers before tying. The design is now marked onto the fabric using washable ochre either with a wooden block or drawn by hand.
Tying: the fabric is then tied with a synthetic thread or with a thread pasted with a resistant paste.
Dying: the tied fabric is then dipped in the lightest dye bath first of all. After drying the threads are removed from the tied areas and repeat the tying process at new points to create the desired pattern. The fabric is again dipped in dye bath, a slightly darker color and left to dry again. This is continued till the design is complete and all the colors have been applied.
Finishing: this is the last stage. The fabric is washed when all the colors have been applied. Once dry, all the tied threads are removed gently and carefully and what emerges is a beautiful, bright and lively piece of fabric.
Tradition and Bandhej
This traditional handicraft is not just a stunning piece of artwork but it also symbolizes ethnicity of Indian women. The chundri from Rajasthan and Gharchola from Gujarat is considered auspicious and is worn during weddings and festivals. Bandhni in the true sense represents cultural identity and tradition of the colors of India.