Dawood yusuf, a master craftsman of bandhni (tie and dye) and
a national award winner in 1983 creates intricate and traditional
patterns reflecting the ethos of the land he belongs to Kutch
district in Gujarat, one of the main centres of the tie and dye
at the Crafts Museum at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi he carefully
explains the various steps involved in creating these intricate
designs. He proudly displays his finished sarees and odhnis
(veils) explaining the special significance of each pattern. The
chandokhni and shikhara are specially created for the
brides. The barah baag when opened looks like a garden
of flowers a set of 12 (barah) beds of flowers. Once
there was a design called bavan (52) baag, but no one
makes it now because it takes too much time and labour. The
ambadal, a network of branches and leaves interwoven with a
variety of birds, represents the branches of a mango tree. Chokidal
is a pattern of squares with elephants and other animals. He then
showed me a kambaliya a design with a dotted pattern in
the centre and a different design along the border. The basant
bahar represents the flowers of spring, the mor zad
a peacock pattern, etc. All these design are
traditional. Any new design that a craftsman creates is called
fancy, says Yusuf.
other centres of tie and dye fabrics in Gujarat are Jamnagar in
Saurashtra (the water in this area brings out the brightest red while
dying), and Ahmedabad. The finest bandhni work in 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 the auspicious colours of yellow
is difficult ot trace the origins of this craft to any particular
area. According to some references it first developed in Jaipur in
the form of leheriya. But it is widely believed that it was brought
to Kutch from Sindh by the Muslim Khatris who are still the largest
community involved in the craft. Bandhni was introduced in Jamnagar
when the city was founded 400 years ago. This city has now become
one of the principal centres of bandhni, creating new pattern and
experimenting with modern colours.
process of making bandhni clothes is basically the same in Gujarat
and Rajasthan, though the pattern and designs vary. The craftsmen
from Rajasthan are easily recognizable because they grow the nail on
their little finger to facilitate their lifting the cloth to tie it.
On they wear a small metal ring with a point. The Gujarati craftsmen
prefer to work without these aids. The flow is much better
when youre working with your bare hands and there is no risk of
damaging the cloth, says Khatri Dawood Yusuf. The dyeing and
printing of textiles has become at highly a form of tie-resist dyeing
and patola are two outstanding examples of the Indian dyers
earliest references to bandhni ae in Bena Bhatts Harshacharita
where he describes a royal wedding, the old matrons were
skilled in many sorts of textile patterning, some of which were in
the process of being tied (bandhya mana). He
later explains how these textiles were dyed. This material according
to him was used to make the skirts for women.
bandhni garment was considered auspicious for the bride. One also
finds the maids in the ajanta wall paintings wearing blouses of tie
and dye patterns.
women and girls can be seen sitting in their homes with pieces of
malmal (fine muslin), hadloom or silk cloth. This cloth is
first bleached and then folded into two or four layers depending on
the thickness of the cloth. A rangara or designer marks the
layout of the pattern on the material using wooden blocks dipped in
geru, a burnt sienna colour mixed with water.
craftsmen begin to tie the cloth which is not to be dyed. The folds
of the material within the small motif are lifted and tied together.
The materials with the first set of ties is dyed yellow. There is
also a process, mostly followed in Rajasthan of dyeing parts of the
material by hand lipai technique the material is again
tied and dyed into red or gree. If the border has to be darker all
the lighter parts are tied and covered with plastics foil and the
edges dyed the required colours. Repeated tying and dyeing can
produce elaborate designs.
raw materials required for bandhni are muslin, handloom or
silk cloth, ordinary thread for tying, starch and colours for dyeing.
Traditionally vegetable dyes were used but today chemical dyes are
becoming very popular. The tools required are also very basic
wooden blocks for marking designs and the simple implements for
used colours in bandhni are red which is a symbol of marriage,
saffron which is worn by the yogi who has renounced the world.
Yellow stands for spring and black and maroon are used for mourning.
Bandhni material is sold still folded and the knots tied. One has
to pull the folds apart for the knots to open. The payment made is
according to the number of dots in the pattern. An intricate design
in a saree would have approximately 75000 dots.
is difficult to assess the number of people involved in bandhni
making as the material passes from hand to hand for the different
processes. But it can easily be said that 90 per cent of the persons
is essential in bandhni is the minute and skilful manipulation of the
fingers for tying, extensive knowledge of colour schemes and skill in
dyeing materials. It takes several years for a crafsman to perfect
his skill. Khatri Dawood Yusuf moved from Kutch to Jamanagar at the
age of seven to learn this craft and to earn a living. Now his four
year old daughter sits with him learning the name of the patterns and
the process of tying the cloth.
sarees and dupattas are available at most shops all over India but to
get the authentic material it is advisable to buy from the Rajasthan,
or Gujarat Emporia which have outlets in all major citries.
cotton duppata costs about Rs. 50/- onwards and a saree about Rs.
80/- to Rs. 250/-. A silk dupatta costs about Rs. 250/- and a saree
about Rs. 400/- to Rs. 2000/-.