Bandhani –The Tie and Die Art since Time Immemorial

Bandhani –The Tie and Die Art since Time Immemorial

 

Bandhej & Lehriya (implying Tie and Dye), a form of resist dyeing, is a technique of patterning fabric by tying parts of it in different ways to prevent the penetration of dyes. Bandhani comes from the Sanskrit word, ‘bandh’ which means to tie. This craft is one of the oldest in the world for making coloured designs on a fabric. The technique involves dyeing a fabric which is tied tightly with a thread at several points in various colors, thus producing a variety of patterns like Bandhni, Lehriya, Mothda, Ekdali and Shikari depending on the manner in which the cloth is tied. There is a magical quality about Bandhini: vibrant colours, arresting combinations, dramatic swirls and twirl – “Bandhini” derives its name from the Hindi word Bandhan which means ties, relation and therefore tying up. It is an antique art generally practiced mainly in Western India. Bandhani is being sold all over India and the demand has increased over the past few decades. Sales go up during the festive and wedding seasons in India. Majority of the market is domestic. If talking in terms of International demand, Safas and turbans of various kinds are more popular.

It is generally believed that ‘Tie & Dye’ method began almost 5000 years before! Again, it is another assumption that it was during the reign of King Harshacharita, ‘Bandhani’ saree was donned initially and the occasion was a regal wedding. It is also presumed that the method of ‘Tie & Dye’ was customary at the time of Tang Dynasty rule in China and at the time of Nara in Japan.

Spicy Orange Bandhani Sari from Rajasthan with Zari Weave on Border

Bandhini is the Rajasthani art of tying small dots on fabric with a continuous thread and dyeing it. The result is a vibrant and irregular mix of vermillion and saffron, emerald and sapphire or aqua and yellow. Interestingly, the art of tying involves the use of a long finger nail, which is used to pick that portion of the fabric which has to be tied. Main Centres for Bandhani are Jodhpur, Jaipur and Udaipur in Rajasthan. A specialty of Rajasthan is the Leheriya or Chundari where the fabric is tied to create stripes instead of the usual dots. The Leheriya technique is quite different from the Bandani technique although thistoo is a tie and dye process. Here the fabric is rolled from one corner to the other diagonally and then it is tied at intervals with strings. Mothra is an extension of Leheriya in which diagonal lines cross each other in opposite directions, at 45 degrees, giving rise to small diamond shapes./book/sanskrit/

When many think of tie-dye, their minds travel to the 1960s and 1970s hippie movement in the United States. However, the history of tie-dyeing can be traced to pre-historic times. There is tie-dye evidence as far back as the 300s BC, as Alexander the Great mentions in his texts the beautiful dyes he encountered in India. For centuries in India, Japan, and Africa, different tying and dyeing techniques have been practiced using both natural and man-made elements to create both plain and patterned pieces. Dyes in India have held deep meaning for thousands of years for several reasons. One example still practiced today is that for good fortune, brides have traditionally worn the “Bandhani” saree. The ancient “Bandhani,” or Indian Tie & Dye technique began around 5000 years ago in the Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Many believe and attribute the Muslim Khatri community of Kutch as some of the first to use this form of dyeing.

Bandhani Gharchola Dupatta from Gujarat with Zari-Woven Checks

Bandhani is extremely prevalent in Gujarat. However, Rajasthan also produces fine quality of bandhej. Places in Rajasthan like Jaipur, Sikar, Bhilwara, Udaipur, Bikaner, Ajmer, and Jamnagar in Gurjarat are the well-known centres producing odhnis (Dupattas), sarees and turbans in Bandhani. Different communities in Rajasthan have for ages followed the tradition of tying turbans with different patterns of bandhani on their heads. These were used to identify which community the person belonged to. The safas or turbans look beautiful in orange, red or multi-coloured patterns.

The art of bandhani is currently concentrated in desert areas from Kutch in Gujarat, through Saurashtra, Rajasthan, and Haryana, to the environs of Delhi. The finest tie-dye is produced by the Khatri community in Kutch, Gujarat. Madhya Pradesh also produces tie-dyed fabrics, used by peasants and tribal communities, in its areas bordering Rajasthan. Another minor centre is Madurai in Tamil Nadu.

Special types of bandhani are made for the Muslim Bora community, as well as for the Khatris' own families. The Bora women wear an abho (a loose shirt) and salwar (pantaloons), as well as ordhani (veils). These are mostly in silk with black backgrounds and motifs worked in red. Thick cotton cloth with bold tie-dyed patterns were made for the seminomadic Rabaris, as well as for the skirts of the Meghvals, the craftsmen's community. Woven woollen shawls were also tie-dyed and embellished with embroidery.

Salwar Kameez Bandhani Tie-Dye Dress Material from Gujarat with Embroidery and Mirrors

It is the oldest method still in practice and is used to make sarees, odhnis, and turbans. “Bandhani” comes from the word “bandhan” which means tying up, the technique that is used to make different patterns. People often wear a unique pattern that identifies them as a member of a particular community. The Bandhani techniques have been passed on from generation to generation as a form of art. The patterns are made in very particular ways, depending on how the cloth is tied. In early times, natural elements such as flowers, roots, leaves, bark, and berries were used to make the dyes. Today, both natural and man-made elements are used.

The area of fabric to be dyed is outlined lightly in the colour of choice. Next, a thin sheet of clear plastic is placed on top. This plastic has pin-sized holes over the indicated area, and the colour and pattern desired is transferred onto the fabric. The dyer then finds a spot with an imprint of the hole and pulls a small amount of fabric through, winding thread around the cloth and coming through the hole to form a small knot. After all knots are tied, the fabric is washed to remove the imprints left. After this, the cloth is dipped in a chemical called naphthol for five minutes, and then in a light colour dye for another two minutes. The fabric is rinsed, excess liquid squeezed out, and then it is dried, tied, and dipped again in a darker colour. The cloth is left alone for three to four hours as the colours soak into the desired areas, allowing the fabric beneath the threaded knots to remain undyed. Once completed, the fabric is washed and starched as required. Once dry, the makers pull apart the fabric in a very precise way to release the tied knots and reveal the unique pattern of blank dots beneath them. The result of this Bandhani tie & dye technique is a beautifully dyed fabric with elaborate shapes and designs, such as flowers and bells.

Green-Flash Shaded Bandhani Tie-Dye Gajji Silk Sari from Rajasthan

The most common clusters and patterns of knots made from clusters each have their own name.

Ekdali: single dot

Tikunthi: three dots that make circles and squares

Chaubundi: four dots

Satbandi: dots in groups of seven

Boond: small dot with a dark centre

Kodi: tear or drop-shaped pattern

Dungar Shahi or Shikargah: a mountain like pattern

Jaaldar: web like pattern

Beldaar: vine like pattern

Laddu Jalebi: swirling pattern

Leheriya: wave like pattern

The art of Bandhani 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, designer lehengas and dupattas, whereas, men wear the designed turbans on important social and family occasions. It does not lose its originality in spite of use of synthetic colours 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.

Bandhani Gharchola Sari with Zari Weave and Tie-Dye Motifs

Just as the patterns of Bandhani dyeing hold deep meaning, so do the colours. Traditionally, only two colors are used at a time. When this type of tie & dye began, the colors yellow and red, which are lucky in Indian culture, were used. In the Bandhani technique now, bright colors such as yellow, red, green, and pink are used in various shades. While the colors vary in modern times, certain ones still hold huge cultural meaning. Red represents a bride or woman who was recently married, and yellows are used for a new mother. How does on recognize a real Bandhani? The structural consistency is a notable trait. There will be detailed designs comprising of strips, dots, squares, etc. The usage of vivid colours is another specialty of ‘Bandhani’.

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