Our ancestors left us with a treasure trove of ideas for textile prints, which we preserve and emulate today. Antique textile prints, whether it is the 1950s Middle-eastern atomic prints or the 1970s classic textile prints or 20th-century metallic, floric, novelty-themed prints, all prints depict the rich history, culture and heritage of their own country. India is a country known for its own unique kind of textile prints that reflects its diverse and vibrant cultures.
Indian craftsmen pour their creative skills into textiles, from florals to animal prints to abstract prints. These works have stood the test of time. In this article, we cover five timeless antique textile prints of India that have inspired the world.
Bandhani Textile Print
Bandhani is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘to tie,’ and its origins can be traced back to the Indus Valley civilization. It is a tie-dye textile which workers decorate by plucking the cloth with their fingernails and turning it into tiny bindings, making a figurative design. In this way, a variety of patterns including dots, stripes, waves, squares and more can be produced and dyed. Gujarat, Sindh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Tamil Nadu are centers for bandhani textile printing. Bandhani sarees are popular in India and are admired all over the world.
Batik Textile Print
The word Batik is derived from Javanese word amba, which means “to write” and tiktik which means “dot.” Batik textile print is a 2,000-years-old dye technique which uses wax resist with a spouted tool called a tjanting to create intricate patterns on the cloth. Earlier, these textile prints were found in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Indonesia. The Batik textile print is achieved by decorating cloth by covering a portion of it with wax coating and dyeing the cloth. Batik textile printing is famous in India. The highest artistic expression of Batik can be found in Indonesia as wekk. In 2009, UNESCO designated Indonesian Batik as a ‘Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.’
Kalamkari Textile Print
Kalamkari is a Persian word that translates into ‘the art of drawing with pen.’ In ancient India, artists, singers, musicians and painters used to travel to villages and draw the lore of Hindu mythology on a bolt of canvas with dyes made of natural plant extracts. Later, the Golconda sultanate patronized this artwork in the Coromandel and Golconda provinces. Today, Kalamkari textile prints are not only famous in India but also Persia. In some villages in India, Kalamkari is still made in the traditional way, using bamboo or date palm sticks soaked in fermented jaggery and water and vegetable dyes for coloring. Kalamkari depicts the mythological stories of Mahabharat, Ramayana and even Buddhist art forms.
Dabu Textile Print
Dabu, which originated from the Hindi word dabana meaning ‘to press,’ is a mud-resistant hand-block textile printing technique from Rajasthan, India. A farming community in the north of Gujarat, India, uses this technique. These farmers use naturally pounded wheat chaff, calcium hydroxide and gum to make the material mud resistant. Textiles are laid on a flat surface, and the block prints are applied. Dabu textile prints require hard labour and beautiful motifs to weave a subtle magic on the garment. Western fashion designers have created Dabu print and modified it to fit their own taste and culture.
Bagru Textile Print
Bagru textile print is a three-century-old hand block printing technique created by the Chippa community in Rajasthan, India. The print is loved and celebrated across the world. Bagru block printing is a long process that involves creating and washing resistant prints. Bagru artisans are experienced and skillful in using wooden blocks and natural extracts, vegetable dyes for printing, and motifs of speciality. A fabric is laid on a low table, and craftsmen sit on the floor to imprint it by slamming blocks with the fist back of the handle to register good patterns.
India is a pioneer in textile prints, and the above are a few examples of its brilliance. Ancient artworks are passed on to generations and today the world is celebrating the Indian arts.