The town of Bagru is about half an hour by car from Jaipur, the fairly well-known capital of the north Indian state of Rajasthan. It has been the home of the eponymous (‘Bagru’) naturally dyed, hand block printed fabric for over 350 years.
Block prints from Bagru often have a characteristic off-white to beige base, achieved by soaking the fabric in a ‘Harda’ solution created from the myrobalan plant.
The wide variety of designs, which range from floral to geometric, are then printed by hand using traditional, hand-carved wooden blocks mainly made of Sisam (Indian Rosewood). The dyes used come from natural and non-chemical/ non-synthetic sources such as blue from indigo, red from madder, greens from indigo mixed with pomegranate, yellow from turmeric, and blacks and browns from rust and sugar.
In order to create white patterns on a coloured base, the artisans use a form of resist dyeing called ‘Daboo’ (sometimes spelt ‘Dabu’). This method involves first printing the fabric with a paste of mud and then dyeing it in a vat of the colour to be used as the base.
This is a complicated, time and labour intensive process which requires the skill and expertise of the traditional artisans of Bagru.
Both these traditional methods of block printing with natural dyes, need several rounds of washing and drying. Rajasthan, the desert state, with its fierce sunshine and blazing heat is particularly well suited for this activity. However, in the monsoon and winter months, all printing and dyeing has to be suspended because the lack of steady sunshine can affect the quality and colours of the dyes.
At Purvaai we are privileged to work with the artisan suppliers of Bagru and Sanganer who are engaged in the age-old tradition of block printing with natural dyes. Their lovely designs are translated into scarves in cotton and silk, cushions and curtains, which we are proud to bring to the world.