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Batik Paintings from India

The charm of batik painting lies in each piece being individualistic, and a fresh creation. Moreover certain effects are only possible through the medium of batik art. Sometimes batik paintings have the scintillating quality of the stained glass, which add their own to the already exotic Indian subjects. Theory is that Batik art went from the Coromandel Coast in India to Southeast Asia which in turn developed its own designs and really came to be known to the world from Indonesia. In fact “batik” is a Javanese word meaning wax painting. Batik later came to be revived in Shantiniketan, near Calcutta, and has now gone to many parts of India, including Calcutta, The design in Batik paintings is produced by a negative dyeing method, being marked out in wax before the fabric is dipped so that the waxed portions do not take the dye and stand out in the original colour of the fabric.

‘Batik’ is a resist technique because no dye can penetrate the parts of the fabric covered with wax. The wax is heated and the hot melted wax is applied on the fabric in the form of a design by using brush or any other such equipment. The waxed material is then dyed in any cold ice dye. In the dyeing process minute cracks occur in the wax, letting in tiny specks of dye. This produces fine veins of colour which are characteristic of batik. This 'crackle effect' is a unique aesthetic of batik and very much suits Indian subjects like dancing and dynamic deities. It also contributes to the overall mood of the batik painting, by adding its own energy to the composition. The wax is then removed at the end of this process.

The best materials for batik paintings are cotton, silk and rayon. Among these, cotton is the best suited. The surface of the material should be as smooth as possible. The choice of fabric depends on what one is going to do with the batik piece. The material should be free of starch and properly ironed. The selected design is drawn on the fabric. The type of wax selected is according to the particular design. A standard combination contains equal quantities of bees wax and paraffin wax. If the quantity of paraffin wax is increased then more cracks result for the higher the paraffin content the more friable the wax.

The wax mixture is heated. It should be uniformly heated and must not smoke or over-boil. This melted wax is applied on the fabric with the help of a brush or a T-janting. For better effect the material should be waxed twice on each side. Only the portions that are required blank (white) should be waxed. The dyes for batik are called ‘naphthol dyes’. They are also known as cold or ice dyes.


Q1. What is special about Batik?

Batik paintings are a unique form of painting, created through the wax-resist dying technique. These paintings which originated in Indonesia are now practiced in India and stand as a stunning example of artistic exchange between India and South East Asia. 

Q2. What does Batik art involve?

Batik art involves the use of hot wax, a piece of cloth, and several colors which are used in dying the fabric. Through multiple steps of layering the cloth with wax and dying it with the colors, the required pattern and image are obtained by the Batik artists. Wax is added to the cloth and is left to cool. Once clinging to the cloth on a specific area, the cool wax turns into a resist agent and shields the areas when the cloth is dipped into color. The wax is then removed and the cloth is washed and dried. 

Q3. Can you wash Batik painting?

Though it is recommended not to wash a Batik painting like other fabrics and clothes, if you need to wash a Batik painting, it should be done in cold water and by using a gentle washing agent. Always wash the Batik painting with your hands and do not rub it harshly, soak it in water or place it under running water. Doing so might lead to fading away of the colors of your Batik painting. 

Q4. What material is best for Batik?

Fine Indian fabrics such as cotton, silk, and muslin are the top choices of Batik artists due to their softness, ability to absorb colors, and lightness. Artists also use other kinds of mixed fabrics such as rayon, poplin, hemp, and viscose (an Indonesian Batik fabric), mainly because of their affordability and availability. 

Q5. Where Batik has been mostly used?

Batik owing to its bright colors and light feel is used in Asian and South East Asian nations such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Japan, Philippines, and Thailand. Other regions where Batik is used are the Middle East and Africa. 

Q6. How do you display Batik art?

Batik art is a glorious Asian art form, which has transformed itself with the changing times, and today the art can be seen in a range of objects such as draperies, curtains, wall hangings, paintings, and traditional and modern attires. You can place a traditional Batik art wall hanging in your living room or any other room in your house as the center art piece, you can frame a Batik painting to add it to your space, or you can hang Batik drapes and curtains on your windows to create an awe-inspiring effect in your interiors when the sunlight passes through the finely dyed fabric. Last but not the least, you can add a piece of Batik art to your wardrobe and don the timeless fashion of Batik any day. 

Q7. How can we describe Batik designs?

The designs of Batik are created by resist dying, which involves covering some areas of the fabric with wax that acts as a barrier when the cloth is dipped in colors. Repeating this process leads to a stunning balance of white (on areas with wax stuck to them) and rich colors on the Batik canvas which represents a variety of traditional Batik motifs and themes. Some popular patterns such as the Ceplok Batik design signify the holy lotus flower in Hindu and Buddhist belief systems and act as symbols of ancient tradition in the art.

Q8. What are the 4 types of batik?

Though there exist a variety of techniques for creating Batik art, four types of Batik can be listed as-

  1. Canting Batik- This involves a traditional Batik tool known as canting, using which the artist puts hot wax on the fabric, after which, the cloth is dipped in colors.


  1. Cap Batik- In this type of Batik, a stamp made from copper which is called a cap, is used on the fabric to create motifs.


  1. Machine Batik- As the name suggests, this is a modern technique that uses a machine to draw patterns with wax on the cloth.


  1. Painting Batik- In this technique, a brush is used by the artist to add wax to the canvas. 


Q9. How does Batik represent the culture?

Batik originated in the Indonesian region, where the textile was intricately woven into the cultural fabric of the people, who used Batik clothes in their everyday life and on specific occasions. For a newborn baby, a Batik wrap is used which has protective symbols on them, and before the birth of the child, the mother in a ceremony called “Naloni Mitoni” is wrapped in 7 layers of Batik clothes as she receives the blessings of her loved ones. Batik art also represents the religious and cultural ideals of Hinduism and Buddhism, two of the most popular religions in Asia, and displays the Hindu and Buddhist deities, the Buddha, and other cultural themes on them. In this manner, Batik has become a part of Asian culture and religion and serves as a medium to understand the people and their faith.