Tie and dye in Rajasthan originally began, as an embellishment to the plain coloured clothes that people in the region would wear because of the extreme heat and the plain arid feel of the natural surroundings. Tie and dye added specks, stripes and varied patterns of colour to fabric and these fabrics were worn by men as turbans or stoles to their plain white or neutral coloured ensembles. Women usually wore tie and dyed fabric as head-covers that would fall to their skirt-waist and get tucked in, in place. These were used to identify which community the person belonged to. Different colour combinations and different patterns would belong to the various communities of society.
The Muslim Khatri Community of Kutch started Bandhani work in India. The tradition has passed from one generation to the other. The art of Bandhani is highly skilled process. The technique involves dyeing a fabric, which is tied tightly with a thread at several points, thus producing a variety of patterns like Leheriya, Mothra, Ekdali and Shikari depending on the manner in which the cloth is tied. The final products are known with various names like Khombi, Ghar Chola, Patori and also Chandrokhani etc.
Varying forms of tie-dye have been in use since the time before time, when the Mesopotamians inhabited the verdant crescent many millennia ago. The art of dying is, in layman’s terms, the application and bonding process of bright colors to fabric. The ability to create aesthetically appealing works of art has, for eons, been a fascination for human kind. Colors people wear have been considered an expression of their own souls for the longest time. The dying of fabric has been used in several well-known ritualistic aspects of ancient history. In ancient Egypt several different archeological digs have discovered that the bandages wrapped around various specimens of mummies were dyed in intricate color combinations, the purpose of this is not conclusive, but it is apparent that the ancient Egyptians considered colors to be an important aspect in the representation of deceased Pharaohs and other important members of their society. Evidence of the use of dyes has also been discovered far down the Silk Road in places as far off as India and even as far off as China. The Indian culture has been long considered, by people who’ve traveled there and by historians who’ve studied it extensively, a colorful culture. Brightly colored dresses and the native ‘Sarong’, have all been known to boast bright colors and even vague traces of what we consider to be the art of modern tie-dye; complete with brave color mixtures and picturesque blends of color. Even people of the lower castes wore colorful clothes; which helped attribute them as one of the most colorful civilizations in history. Although black sometimes symbolizes death, evil, and darkness, it isn’t always an ominous color. Black also represents the night and the unknown, which is portrayed quite nicely in our Moons of Jupiter and Stained Glass designs. In Medieval times, Lords often designed crests to represent themselves on important occasions. Heraldry has also been considered a way to represent one’s self through color. Colors also had their own significances in the middle ages. When looking at art, or any aspect of life involving color, it is always fun to project different aspects of yourself into everything you do, artistically and personally, or into what you wear. When taking that into consideration, it is fun, and often educational to imagine the colors that represent you fold out in front of you on your favorite designs and use the vibrant colors the same way ancient people of the earth have done; as an expression of yourself.
Tie-dye has existed for over two thousand years, and is known all over the world by different names: ‘shibori’ in Japan, ‘bandhani’ or ‘leheriya’ in India, ‘plangi’ or ‘tritik’ in Indonesia, ‘adire’ in Nigeria, ‘amarra’ in Peru, and ‘zha-ran’ in China. Most of these terms translate as something close to “tie and dye.- It’s plausible that the very first iterations of tie-dye sprung up independently throughout different cultures as happy accidents when someone forgot to stir their dye bath. Over time the technique developed and certain cultures became renowned for their splendid resist-dyed textiles and garments. Early trade routes between ancient China, Egypt, and Turkistan can be traced through archeological findings of tie-dyed textiles that date back to 400-“500 CE. The spread of tie-dye and Islam occurred in tandem and could be attributed to the technique’s inherently abstract nature, which must have been particularly enticing to artists working within Islamic laws that prohibit representational art. Later European colonization of the Far East and Latin America revolved largely around the trade of these textiles and the export of dyestuffs. It was not until the 20th century that tie-dye would get its current name, when RIT dye sponsored a booth at the 1969 Woodstock Festival and helped to outfit Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and an entire generation. Designs from various regions are often indicative of a community’s artistic vision and cultural symbolism. Some methods are unique to a specific region, such as Japan’s itajime fold-and-clamp technique. Other processes, like the circle technique, are used universally but vary immensely in style, color, and detail. Designs in Central Asia tend to be plotted out in orderly grids, while those made by the Berber artists of North Africa usually incorporate circles into fluid, free form patterns. Japanese shibori displays elaborate graphics made up of countless small-scale circles, while West African artists enlarge their circles to create bold, graphic, oversize motifs. By recognizing the breadth of designs that originated from this art form, we can begin to appreciate the infinite possibilities that tie-dye holds for current and future designers and admirers. It is difficult to 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 Muslim Khatris who are still the largest community involved in the craft brought it to Kutch from Sindh. The earliest reference to bandhni is in Bana Bhatt’s Harshacharita, where he describes a royal wedding; “the old matrons were skilled in many sorts of textile patterning, some of whom were in the process of being tied (bandhya mana)”. This material was used to make the skirts for women. A 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.
Bandhani is a technique of tie and dye. As the name suggests, the technique of Tie and Dye involves two stages: tying sections of a length of cloth (silk or cotton) and then dunking it into vats of colour. The rainbow-tinged turbans of the Rajput and the ‘odhanis’ of their women are shaded by this method of resist dyeing. The term “bandhani- derives its name from the Hindi word Bandhan which means tying up. Bandhani is an ancient art practiced by people mainly of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Jaipur, Udaipur, Bikaner and Ajmer and Jamnagar are among the important centers producing odhanis, saris and turbans in bandhani. The wide variety was evolved over the centuries because of its close links with the religious and social customs of different people. Bandhani work involves tying and dyeing of pieces of cotton or silk cloth. The main colours used in Bandhani are yellow, red, green and black. Bandhani work, after the processing is over, results into a variety of symbols including, dots, squares, waves and strips. The main colours used in Bandhani are natural. In fact all colours in bandhani are dark, Rajasthan is one of the most important centers of the tie and dye textile. Each area, each caste and each tribe has its special designs. Tying of the border is a special process known as sevo bandhavo. The border is tied according to the desired pattern by passing the thread from one end to the other in loose stitch so as to bring the entire portion together by pulling the thread from one end. The border portion is then covered up. Some sarees have broad matching and contrasting borders. The same applies also to the ‘pallus’ (end-pieces). ‘Leheriya’ is another technique of tie and dye practiced widely in Rajasthan. Unlike bandhani, the designs are not specks, but stripes. It is practiced on both cotton and silk
Tie and dye no longer happens with natural colors and the prominent use of synthetic dyes has led to a lot of water pollution and skin problems to the customers. There is also heavy influence of western tie and dye patterns in the tie and dye of Jaipur.
The process of making tie and dye work is quite simple, but also time-consuming. Over the years, the process of tie and dye has evolved and become more convenient. However, in certain parts of Rajasthan and Kutch, the traditional method is still followed. The method involves tightly tying the cloth at both ends. The area to be dyed is outlined with temporary colours. A thin sheet of plastic is then placed over the cloth.
Tie and dye requires fabric, dyes and lots of water. Some dyes require heating for preparation, while some are cold dyes. The fabrics used are cotton, silk, polyester, rayon, georgette, chiffon and linen. Sometimes wool is used as well. The dyes to be used with each of these materials differ with characteristics. Earlier, only natural dyes were used but with the coming of artificial fibers, the requirement for chemical dyes came up.
Dyes are used for coloring the fabrics. Dyes are molecules, which absorb and reflect light at specific wavelengths to give human eyes the sense of color. There are two major types of dyes – natural and synthetic dyes. The natural dyes are extracted from natural substances such as plants, animals, or minerals. Synthetic dyes are made in a laboratory. Chemicals are synthesized for making synthetic dyes. Some of the synthetic dyes contain metals too.
1) Natural Dyes It is the most common approach to apply a color pattern onto a fabric. If done on colored fabric, it is known as overprinting. Pressing dye on the fabric in a paste form produces the desired pattern. To prepare the print paste, a thickening agent is added to a limited amount of water and dye is dissolved in it. Earlier starch was preferred as a thickening agent for printing. Nowadays gums or alginates derived from seaweed are preferred as they allow better penetration of color and are easier to wash out. Most pigment printing is done without thickeners because the mixing up of resins, solvents and water produces thickening anyway.
2) Synthetic Dyes Synthetic dyes are classified based upon their chemical composition and the method of their application in the dyeing process.
3) Basic (Cationic) Dyes Basic (Cationic) Dyes are water-soluble and are mainly used to dye acrylic fibers. They are mostly used with a mordant. A mordant is a chemical agent which is used to set dyes on fabrics by forming an insoluble compound with the dye. With mordant, basic dyes are used for cotton, linen, acetate, nylon, polyesters, acrylics and mod acrylics. Other than acrylic, basic dyes are not very suitable for any other fiber as they are not fast to light, washing or perspiration. Thus, they are generally used for giving an after treatment to the fabrics that have already been dyed with acid dyes.
4) Direct (substantive) Dyes Direct dyes color cellulose fibers directly without the use of mordents. They are used for dyeing wool, silk, nylon, cotton, rayon etc. These dyes are not very bright and have poor fastness to washing although they are fairly fast to light.
5) Mordant Dyes The mordant or chrome dyes are acidic in character. Sodium or potassium dichromate is used with them in the dye bath or after the process of dyeing is completed. This is done for getting the binding action of the chrome. They are mostly used for wool, which gets a good color fastness after treatment with mordant dyes. They are also used for cotton; linen, silk, rayon and nylon but are less effective for them.
6) Vat Dyes Vat dyes are insoluble in water and cannot dye fibers directly. However, They can be made soluble by reduction in alkaline solution, which allows them to affix to the textile fibers. Subsequent oxidation or exposure to air restores the dye to its insoluble form. Indigo is the original vat dye. These dyes are the fastest dyes for cotton, linen and rayon. They are used with mordants to dye other fabrics such as wool, nylon, polyesters, acrylics and mod-acrylics.
7) Reactive Dyes Reactive dyes react with fiber molecules to form a chemical compound. These dyes, they are either applied from alkaline solution or from neutral solutions which are then alkalized in a separate process. Sometimes heat treatment is also used for developing different shades. After dyeing, the fabric is washed well with soap so as to remove any unfixed dye. Reactive dyes were originally used for cellulose fibers only but now their various types are used for wool, silk, nylon, acrylics and their blends as well.
8) Disperse Dyes Disperse dyes are water insoluble. These dyes are finely ground and are available as a paste or a powder that gets dispersed in water. These particles dissolve in the fibers and impart color to them. These dyes were originally developed for the dyeing of cellulose acetate but now they are used to dye nylon, cellulose triacetate, and acrylic fibers too.
9) Sulfur Dyes Sulfur Dyes are insoluble and made soluble by the help of caustic soda and sodium sulfide. Dyeing is done at high temperature with large quantities of salt so that the color penetrates into the fiber. After dyeing the fabric is oxidized for getting desired shades by exposure to air or by using chemicals. Excess dyes and chemicals are removed by thorough washing. These dyes are fast to light, washing and perspiration and are mostly used for cotton and linen.
10) Pigment Dyes Although pigments are not dyes in a true sense, they are extensively used for coloring fabrics like cotton, wool and other manmade fibers due to their excellent light fastness. They do not have any affinity to the fibers and are affixed to the fabric with the help of resins. After dyeing, the fabrics are subjected to high temperatures.
There is a lot of wastage of water and color from the dyes prepared for dyeing. Most of this being synthetic dyestuffs, makes the water unusable again, leading to permanent wastage and pollution of groundwater.
Measuring Equipment: To measure the dyestuffs is very important depending on the amount of fabric that needs to be dyed. To have accurate measurement for the same, different kinds of scales, weights, beakers and spoons are required.
Tongs: Tongs are required to lift the dyed fabric from the hot dye and dip it again and continue the same process till it is done.
Containers: Large containers are required to prepare the dyestuff in and also dye the fabric.
Stove: This is required to heat water and prepare the various synthetic dyes.
Drying wires: Drying wires are required to hang the dyed fabric for it to dry and fix the colours.
One of the oldest colouring techniques on fabric, tie and dye has a history dating back to 6AD South East Asia. India is one of the premiere hubs of tie and dye and 6th-7th century A.D wall paintings of the Ajanta Caves depicting women clad in tie-dyed fabric are an evidence of its popularity since ancient time.
The process of making tie and dye work is quite simple, but also time-consuming. Over the years, the process of tie and dye has evolved and become more convenient. However, in certain parts of Rajasthan and Kutch, the traditional method is still followed. The method involves tightly tying the cloth at both ends. The area to be dyed is outlined with temporary colours. A thin sheet of plastic is then placed over the cloth. The plastic sheet has holes, and then using colours, an imprint is attained on the cloth. The craftsman then pulls every area where the holes were placed, to tie a knot. The thread used for tying the knot is usually nylon. After the knots are tied, the cloth is washed properly to remove any extra imprints, and then dipped in napthol for five minutes. The cloth is again dyed in a light colour for two minutes. Next, it is rinsed and dried, and again tied and dipped in a dark colour. The cloth is kept in the dark colour for three to four hours to form the background colour of the cloth. After this, the cloth is finally washed and dried and sometimes starched for the final finishing. After the fabric dries, the folds are pulled apart in a gentle manner to get rid of the knots, and reveal the final pattern. The final result is a dark coloured cloth, with contrasting light coloured dots in different patterns.
List of craftsmen.