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DESIGNS / MOTIFS 6.3.1 6.3.2 6.3.3 6.3.4 6.3.5















6. BAGRU PRINTING In the previous lesson you had learnt about Sanganeri Block Printing. In today’s lesson we will cover another famous style of Block printing from Rajasthan called Bagru.


Objectives After studying this chapter you will be able to:

• Trace and examine the evolution of Bagru printing techniques and designs over a period of time.

• You will learn about different kinds of resists and the dyeing process.



Bagru is a small village town in Rajasthan, situated at a distance of 32kms from Jaipur city (Fig. 6.1). Its traditional processes of hand block printing on textiles with rich natural colours have been known for many centuries.



Fig. 6.1 Bagru is near Jaipur in Rajasthan

Resist pastes, natural dyes, khar earth from the bank of the river flowing nearby and the excreta of the animals were used. In building up patterns, geometrical forms were adopted along with floral, animal and bird forms. Everything seemed to be inspired from local sources. Even though centuries have gone by, the same processes in bleaching, resist printing, colour printing and dyeing continue. Synthetic dyes have replaced some natural dyes, but the resists and their application, the processes and their sequences have undergone little change. The styles and motifs have been adapted to some extent to the changing markets. Bagru Printing is a kind of block printing, which is commonly called Dabu Printing or Mud Resisting. The blocks are mainly printed on coarse cotton cloth by indigenous processes of dyeing and printing in black and red over a ground of Yellow Ochre. Dyeing in many colours, like yellow, blue, green, orange and violet, also brings various colouring effects in printed fabrics. The textiles are resist, printed and dyed. The basic techniques, colours and preparation remain unchanged and unaffected although some adaptations of other cultures have been seen in the motifs and designs. The Bagru prints in the past have been mainly used by the local population, particularly by the females.

Self-check Questions 1.


Where is Bagru situated?

Historical Background

The name Bagru has been derived from Bagora, the name of an island in a lake where city was originally built. There is no authentic literature available to indicate when this printing started in Bagru. The hand printers, known as chhipas, came from Sawai Madhopur, Alwar, Jhunjhunu and Sikar districts of Rajasthan to settle in Bagru and made it their home some 300 years ago. They perhaps came for the then royal patronage but more for the abundant availability of water, which had excellent properties suitable for dyeing and printing. Abundant flowing water for washing, processing etc., and a clean sunny bed are the important basics for printing; and the Sanjaria River with its constant water stream and stretches of sandy bed was aptly suitable for the purpose. The entire population of the chhipas was engaged on the production of the local varieties of printed fabrics, mostly of fadats, lugdis, angochhas, bichhaunis, rezais, etc.


Designs / Motifs

The motifs were not very large in number in the olden days. But most of them were derived from nature as can be seen from their very names. In the old style, the motifs, mostly floral and vegetative in character, were being arranged in a linear pattern and were comparatively smaller in size; whereas, in the later periods different geometrical motifs and forms of arranging motifs like circles, semicircles, squares, cones etc., were introduced. The Bagru motifs may be arranged in five distinct groups, viz., i) Motifs of Flowers, Leaves and Buds ii) Motifs of Intertwisted Tendrils iii) Motifs of Trellis Designs iv) Motifs of Figurative Designs v) Motifs of Geometrical Designs 6.3.1 Motifs of Flowers, Leaves and Buds In this group there are flowers with petals and spikes arranged in a circular form round a centre or a spray of the floral design with buds, leaves, shoots and stem (Fig. 6.2).

Fig. 6.2 Motifs of flowers, leaves and buds

The names are patashi, kachnar, chheonra, suraj ka phool, chakri, golab ka phool, tilak, laung, chhatri, divi ka chirai, nimsher, nathadi, bada phool, kel, dupatte ka bunta, supari, latti, makkhi, laddu, nargis, turhi, gobi, mugal, badam, am, dipak, mirchi, bankdi, bada bunta, chhota panja,seat, keri,

pankhi, titli, gundi, hajura, bundoli, bewada, patti, gamla, dhania, anguthi, etc. The names of the motifs do not represent the natural objects as such, but the arrangements of leaves, flowers and buds etc. are made in such a manner so as to bear resemblance to the shapes of the objects. 6.3.2 Motifs of Inter-twisted Tendrils

Fig. 6.3 Jal

Motifs of this class comprise spiraling or intertwisted stems with flowers, leaves or buds, they are used in bels and some of them have the characteristic border lines on both the sides. When such motifs are used in combination with other forms to cover the entire body of the cloth they are also known under the common name jal (Fig. 6.3). Fig. 6.4 Bel

Most of these motifs have a common name bel (Fig. 6.4) and do not bear any specific individual name. The older motifs have however such names as jhad, kesi, kamal kali, panadi and kanta.

Fig. 6.5 Trellis

6.3.3 Motifs of Trellis Designs These are popularly called jals in Bagru, and their forms definitely indicate Persian influence. Such motifs cover the entire body of the cloth. They are without borders (Fig. 6.5).

6.3.4 Motifs of Figurative Designs

Fig. 6.6 Hiran

Animal, bird and human figures are used in this class of motifs. Hathi (elephant), hiran (deer), sher (tiger), mayur (peacock), kabutar (pigeon), and sua (parrot) are among the common animal and bird figures. Human forms as (fairy), men and women are also used. Such motifs are either printed to cover the entire body of the cloth or are printed on the borders and selvedges only (Fig. 6.6 Hiran).

6.3.5 Motifs of Geometrical Designs The motifs of this class are lahria, choupad, kangura, sidhi line ki dhar, bindi, choubindi, chatai (Fig. 6.7), chhedani, chundri, sona, etc. The ornamentations are straight lines, circles, squares and triangles and are used either separately or in combination. Some of these motifs cover the whole body of the cloth. A few of them are exclusively used for borders only. Fig. 6.7 Chatai

Self-check Questions 2.


For which type of printing is Bagru famous?


The Bagru prints are essentially in two colours, namely, red and black. A few other colours are sometimes used for printing, but not in general. The dyers and printers of Bagru adopt their own traditional methods in preparing, printing, dyeing and finishing cloth. Dyeing is done to impart a colour to the ground fabric, as also to bring out different colouring effects in the printed motifs. These colours are generally green, black

and red. Formerly, natural dyes, madder, indigo, pomegranate rind, turmeric etc., were being used as colouring materials. For the past 70 years alizarine has been introduced in place of madder. Natural indigo has been replaced by synthetic indigo. Direct colour like congo-red is used for brightening the red colour and pink shades. Also direct yellow is employed to give yellow imprints. Other natural dyes continue to be used. The traditional preparations for mordants and resist pastes, however, continue as before and the age old operations almost remain the same. 6.4.1 Emulsions and Resists i) Telkhar emulsion: It is an emulsion for oiling and is used to desize and bleach the grey cloth to be printed. ii) Pila karna solution: Giving a primary creamish-yellow colour to the fabric, this solution acts as a mordant for the syahi paste. iii) Begar paste: This is the mordant of alum which, in combination with alizarine, develops a rich red colour. iv) Syahi paste: Syahi is essentially a fermented solution of iron, the fermenting agent is jaggery and gur and this with the addition of gum becomes a paste ready for use in printing. Syahi in combination with the mordant harda develops into a deep black colour. v) Dabu (resist paste): Dabu is the local name of the resist paste which is applied on those parts of the printed motifs whose colour is sought to be protected and sealed off from the effects of further treatments that the cloth undergoes in subsequent processes.

6.4.2 Dye Vats and Solutions i) Alizarine Bath This is a red colouring dye bath. This alizarine is extracted from the roots of madder plant (Rubia Tinctoria) and used with mordants to dye yarns and fabrics. With different mordants the different colours are obtained. The synthetic alizarine, now available, is used here to develop the begar prints to a dark red colour. The alizarine dye bath is prepared mixed with dhawai ka phool. Dhawai ka phool is used to prevent spreading of red colour, developed on the begar (alum) mordant, to other parts. ii) Indigo Blue (Nil) Stock Vat Indigo blue or nil is a blue colouring matter extracted from nil plants (Indigofera tinctoria). The dye stuff is obtained from the leaves. Extraction of indigo is not however done at present by the Bagru printers. Ready synthetic indigo granules are available in the market for use. iii) Potna Dye Solution

Anar ka chhilka (pomegranate), haldi (undried raw turmeric) powder and mitha tel (til oil) are required to make the solution. From Anar ka chhilka an orange colour is extracted to this haldi powder is added along with the mitha tel and the solution is boiled developing into a rich golden yellow colour. After a thorough boil, the solution is strained through a cloth filter and kept in a vessel to cool down. This solution, cooled, is used for potna which literally means a wiping or smearing process applied on the surface of the cloth. iv) Alum Water A solution of alum (fitkari) water is is used as a fixing agent. Treatment with fixes and the colour tones of the prints as well as brightens it substantially. v) Printing Blocks Hand-printing blocks locally called buntas or buntis are made of wood, and are mostly rectangular in shape. Circular, oval and segmental blocks are also in use, although such forms are of recent origin generally, seasoned teak wood is employed for the purpose. vi) The Chippas The chhipas of Bagru generally obtain their blocks from Farrukhabad, Mathura, Delhi, Pethapur and Jaipur. Before new blocks are used for printing they are kept immersed in mitha tel (til oil) or mustard oil for a period of 10-15 days and this softens the grains in the timber. vii) Types of cloth used for printing and dyeing: For Bagru printing and dyeing cotton cloth of various types is used, which includes: a) Mulls or mulmul b) Lattha c) Handloom fabrics d) Dosuti fabrics f) Rezi cloth g) Khaddar cloth viii) Other Requirements The Direct synthetic colour, mostly used in Bagru for dyeing the ground in chocolate colour, is kusumal. This is a direct synthetic congo-red colour. Previously patang wood and manjit were being used for this purpose. In the present times the direct congo-red colour, in required quantities, is added to the hot alizarin bath after the alizarin dyeing is completed, and the cloth is treated therein to get the desired ground colour.

A Basic synthetic colour used in Bagru for the preparation of printing paste is toruphulia which is a lemon yellow colour. Yellow imprints are imposed on parts of the motifs previously dyed blue, so that the resultant colour of such portions becomes green. Yellow printing paste is also used sometimes for printing yellow. None of the colours are permanently fast. Hara gulabi is yet another Basic colour used to increase the depth of the red shade in dyeing in certain styles of printing. This is a fugitive colour and washes off soon. ix) Processes The process of Bagru printing involves the following steps: a. De-sizing the Fabric - Before dyeing or printing it is necessary that the fabric, which is originally grey in colour, should be made free from starch. For this, the fabric is unfolded and dipped in tank full of water. It is soaked for about 24 hours. This makes the fabric free from dirt, gum and other impurities. Then, the cloth is washed, first by beating it on a cemented platform and then in running water. Finally, the cloth is spread out to dry (Fig. 6.8). b. Peela Karna - When the fabric is moist, it is soaked in Myrobalam solution commonly known as ‘Harda’ or ‘Harad’. This acts as a mordant. The ground is dug and Harda powder is mixed with water to form a paste. This paste is then dissolved in large quantity of water. Before use, it is strained and then the cloth is dipped in the solution. This process makes the cloth soft and pliable for printing and more absorbent in dyeing. Finally, the cloth is dried.

Fig. 6.8 De-sizing fabric

Fig. 6.9 Peela karna

Fig. 6.10 Printing the harda treated cloth with syahi paste

c. Printing with Syahi and Begar - Syahi and Begar solutions (pastes) are the two treasured consumables. The printer spreads out the harda treated cloth either on a patia (a low wooden table) or a mej (a high wooden table) for printing in the sitting or standing position. The syahi and beggar printing pastes are poured into two separate printing trays known as saj or tari. The saj contains a bamboo net (katli) with two layers of unicloth (coarse woolen handloom cloth, also called as kambal ki gadi) spread over it. The bamboo net prevents the excess of printing paste coming to the surface, while the unicloth impregnated with the printing paste helps in a

uniform off-take of printing paste by the wooden buntas. The cloth is slowly moved after a line along the width is completed and next line is taken up so as to cover the whole length of the cloth with the printing pattern (Fig. 6.10). The cloth is printed with syahi or begar in the first instance, and spread out in the sun or air to allow the printing paste to dry. After completing the printing with one of such pastes, printing with the second paste is conducted in the same manner and the cloth is dried. While impressing the block, smeared with the printing paste, to transfer the motif to the cloth, the printer puts the block on the cloth with his right hand and adjusts the outline so as to coincide with the outline of the previously imprinted motif and strikes on the handle on the upper part of the block with edge of his left palm once then with the edge of his right palm twice, thus giving it a stout beating so as to apply uniform pressure for getting the correct imprint.

Self-check Questions 3.


What does pila karna mean?


6.5.1 Class assignments i)

Make a replica on a drawing sheet of a Bagru Printing.


Draw sketches of various motifs used on Bagru Printing.

6.5.2 Home assignment i)


Find samples of printed fabrics in your house. Paste them neatly on clear pages with labels under each photo or picture.

Summing Up

Bagru, a small village, 32kms from Jaipur, is famous for its hand block printing work known as Bagru Printing. It is also called as Dabu Printing and Mud Printing. The blocks are printed mainly in black and red over a ground yellow ochre of coarse cotton. The printers, who originally came from Sawai Madhopur, Alwar, Jhunjhunu and Sikar districts of Rajasthan, are called Chippas. The motifs, largely derived from nature, are of

fine types (1) Flowers, leaves and buds, (2) Inter-twisted tendrils, (3) Trellis designs, (4) Figurative designs and (5) Geometrical designs. The process of Bagru printing involves De-sizing, Peela Karna, and printing with Syahi and Begar. Over the period the basic technique of printing has remained unchanged although some adaptations of other cultures have been seen in the motifs and designs.

Bagru print

Sanganer print

Fig. 6.11

It is not easy to discriminate between Sanganeri printing and Bagru printing of Rajasthan. There are very minor differences between the two. The motifs printed at Bagru are large with bold lines, whereas sober colours and fine lines are characteristics of Sanganer printing (Fig. 6.11). Another distinctive feature of the two types of Rajasthani printing is that Sanganeri work is done mainly on white ground whereas Bagru printing is done on indigo, red, blue or yellow coloured ground. As water has been abundantly available in Sanganer, the washing of clothes has formed the main basis of printing and dyeing here. In water scarce Bagru, dabu resist and indigo work is mostly done.


Possible Answers to Self-check Questions


Bagru is small village town in Rajasthan, situated at a distance of 32 kms. from Jaipur city.


Bagru is famous for its traditional processes of hand block printing on textiles with rich natural colours.


Peela karna means soaking the fabric in Myrobalam solution. The process imparts a yellow colour to the ground fabric.

6.8 1.

Terminal Questions What are the raw materials used for Bagru prints and which type of patterns do they make?


What do you mean by Bagru Printing? Write a short note on it.


What are important basics for dabu printing?


Why is the cloth to be used for Bagru printing dyed?


What were the materials used for colouring?


What is the importance of colour like congo red?


Name the types of clothes used for Bagru printing and dying.


What do you know about Syahi paste?


On which parts of cloth the resist paste (dabu) is applied and why?

10. What is the main purpose of alum water while doing dabu printing? 11. What are buntas? 12. From where do the chippas obtain their blocks? 13. What is kasumal? 14. In what way the cloth is treated to get the desired ground colour? 15. What is the difference between the motifs of old days and modern times? 16. How would you classify the Bagru motifs? 17. What is meant by jal? 18. Write a short note on the following. i)

Motifs of figurative designs.


Motifs of geometrical designs.

19. Describe the various dyes vats and solutions used in block printing. How potna dye solution is prepared? 20. Describe the distinctive features of Sanganeri and Bagru block printing. 21. Fill in the blanks: i)

Natural indigo has been replaced by ____________ indigo.


Hand printing blocks locally called ________ and _________ are made of wood.

iii) The blocks are mostly _____________in shape. iv) For making the block _______________ wood is used. v)

Potna dye solution is used for potna which literally means ___________ or _____________process applied on the surface of the _______

vi) The alizarine is extracted from the ____________ of Rubia Tinctoria. vii) Yellow imprints are imposed on parts of the motifs previously dyed blue so that the resultant colour of such portion becomes ___________.

viii) ___________ is yet another basic colour used to ___________ the depth of the red shade in dyeing in certain styles of printing. ix) Most of the motifs were derived from _________. x)

The hand printers are known as _____________.

xi) The Bagru prints are essentially in two colours, _______ and _________. 22.

Indicate whether the statements are true / false: i) The main purpose of the treatment in alum water is to weaken the dabu prints. True / False


ii) Alizarine bath is a yellow colouring dye bath.

True / False

iii) The Bagru prints are essentially in four colours.

True / False

References and Suggested Further Reading


Colchester, C. 1991. The New Textile Trends & Traditions. Thames and Hudson Ltd., London.


Dhanija, J. and Jain, J. 1989. Publishing Limited, Ahmedabad.


Gillow, J. and Barnard, N. 1994. Traditional Indian Textiles. Thames and Hudson Limited, London.


Mohanty, B.C. and Mohanty, J.P. 1983. Block Printing and Dyeing of Bagru, Rajasthan. Calico Museum of Textile, Ahmedabad.


Murphy, V. and Crill, R. 1991 Tie-dyed Textiles of India-Tradition and Trade. Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd., Ahmedabad.


Singh, M. 2000. Handcrafted Indian Textiles: Tradition and Beyond. Roli Books, New Delhi.

6.10 1.


Fabrics of India.


Glossary Alizarine

Alizarine is a synthetic red dye stuff which has replaced the Madder and Al Munjeet of the Madder family. Synthetic alizarine was discovered in the year 1889, by two German scientists Graebe and Litchermann in Anthracene, a constituent of coal tar.


Dabu Dabu is a resist paste which seals the portion printed with it from the action of further after treatments.


Data block


Resist Substance used to treat yarn or fabric to resist dyeing.


Weft The yarn which runs from selvage to selvage at right angles to the warp.


Warp The running lengthwise of a woven fabric.


Indigo Nil. Name of a blue dye stuff extracted from the Nil plant, i.e., Indigofera Tinctora. The synthetic blue dye stuff is also known by this name.



Gur, molasses




Wooden hand printing block carved in bold relief mainly used for imprinting the resist paste.

10. Handi A shallow oval-shaped vessel made of clay with a wide mouth. 11. Syahi The printing paste for black colour. 12. Kharaudis

Block-engraver carpenters

13. Gad block

Wooden hand-printed block carved in the intaglio style used for printing the outline of the motif.



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