Building Blocks of Bagru
Bagru has a unique name in the world of textile industry with its unique style of block or wooden printing commonly known as Bagru Prints. Bagru is a small village on the Jaipur – Ajmer road about 35 kms from Jaipur. Bagru has put the ancient Indian tradition of wooden block printing right on the global map. The process employs simple and ancient techniques. As per the more than 400 year old tradition, the design is first made and then exclusively engraved into a wooden block. Then this wooden block is applied for replicating this design on the desired fabric. An additional but good feature of Bagru Prints is the usage of ecologically conscious dyes in the coloring process. Bagru Prints are known for their natural and traditional dyes as coloring agents. Even today the artisans tend to use the traditional natural or vegetable dyes for printing on the cloth. For example the blue color is made from indigo, green comes out of indigo mixed with pomegranate, red from madder root and yellow from the spice turmeric. The vibrant natural colors and the varied print designs are unique to this form of artisan ship.
The floral patterns for which Bagru Prints is known is called by the name ‘ajrakh’. The traditional craft behind Bagru Prints may date back to more than four hundred years. It has been preserved all these years but the sustained efforts of the members of Chippa Mohalla (or Chhipas), the craftsmen of Bagru. These efforts prevented its untimely death. There are still specific areas of the Bagru village which are inhabited by members of families who still work on this unique way of printing with wooden blocks and natural dyes. These craftsmen, following the original tradition, wipe the piece of cloth with fuller’s earth and then immerse it in turmeric mixed water. This gives the cloth with its cream color. After this coloring the various designs are embossed on the desired fabric with the help of natural dyes to give the creation its final look.
The prints of Bagru are so distinctive that the quite famous Calico Museum of Textile in Ahmedabad, India, is known to have commissioned a three years study in 1970s of the Bagru printing and dyeing tradition. There is no authentic literature for the start of the Bagru form of printing. But popular opinion says that this art form started more than 400 years back and nurtured by the Chhipas, the traditional crafts people who mostly printed by hand. Then people slowly came from around the districts of Rajasthan and settled in Bagru and also became Bagru craftsmen. They started creating unique designs of luxuriant trellises in sophisticated natural colors. Originally Bagru Prints were almost exclusively for ghagras (skirts) and odhnis (scarves) for women. But now the Chhipas play with new designs and colors. They have moved away from sitting on floor only. The stand and work on long tables. Today Chhibas are comfortable doing textured fabrics and create garments both traditional and contemporary. Through them Bagru Printing has quietly entered new areas of home furnishings, apparels, and accessories.