The technique of 'Bandhani' or 'tie and dye' is one of the oldest form of creating patterns on a piece of cloth. The apparently simple looking process actually requires a high level of mastery as well as time to tie these enumerable tiny knots at well-meditated distances and then dye the fabric. More complex designs require the steps to be repeated several times. It needs much care and forethought in 'Resist-Dyeing' the fabric not just in several colors but also for single time dyeing. The craftsmen engaged in the process are known as 'Bandhej'. These complete patterns are only revealed once the knots are unraveled, which in most cases is preferred to be done by the end customer. This instant element of surprise leaves everyone awestruck.

Raw Materials

Fabrics like cotton, silk, wool, georgette and chiffon are used for the process. These are obtained from the towns/cities of 'Surat', 'Khambhat', 'Mumbai' and 'Ahmedabad'. Fabric materials are obtained in yard lengths, while Saris are brought from Bangalore, Madurai, Kanchipuram and Benares.

Only cotton threads are used for tying knots. The count of yarn used to tie cotton and silk is 120s while for wool it is 2x20s or 2x10s counts.

Dyes and chemicals 
These are purchased from the local markets as well as brought from Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Surat. Different dyes are used for different materials like cotton, silk and wool for preferred results.



Water is an element, which is used extensively in this craft from dyeing, washing to cleaning; making water availability is a crucial factor. However, water once used in any of these steps cannot be re-used and a fresh stock is necessary each time. This leads to large amounts of water wastage. Steps are required to save this precious resource.

Tools & Technology

Wooden boards
The fabric is spread out on a large wooden boards or table for printing the blue print of the design. These are raised wooden boards and are about 5ft by 3ft in dimension. Bricks or wooden blocks are used to uniformly raise this platform by 9 inches. 

Wooden blocks (1)
The patterns are printed on fabric using wooden blocks and nowadays, perforated polythene sheets are also being used. Patterns made with tiny holes on these sheets get transferred onto the fabric when dabbed with dye.

Thread or 'Dori' is generally used to mark straight lines, borders and 'Pallavs' by dipping the thread in 'Geru', an earthy red color or 'Robin blue' (Neel) and then placed on the fabric. 

An artificial nail made of plastic or metal called 'Nakh' is worn on the ring finger while tying the knots.

A small, thin funnel-like pipe is used to provide a better grip while tying the knots on the fabric and is generally made of plastic.

Needles are used to make stitch resist patterns like the 'Kodi'.

Vessels (3)
For each and every process like measuring, paste-mixing and fabric dying; a different type of vessel is used. These vessels come in various shapes, sizes and are made of copper, steel, and plastic. 

Stirring sticks (5)
Circular wooden sticks are used for turning the fabric in the dye bath to achieve an even dyeing.

Gloves (6)
A precautionary measure, worn to protect the hands from catching stains during dyeing process. 

Stove (7)
It is used for heating large amounts of water for the dyeing process.

Thick strips of rubber cut from tyre tubes are used to fasten the polythene sheets to prevent the dye penetration in the resisted area.

Roll press
This is used to press and finish the tie-dyed fabrics. A domestic iron is also sometimes used.



The silk sarees and odhanis ornamented with bandhani peacocks, flowers, dancers or a Rasamandala design are used as dresses for festivals. Gharcholu, a cotton house dress is the most crucial type of Bandhani of Gujarat, it is a major constituent to traditional wedding attire for Gujarati hindu brides, the custom is now also adopted by Jain ladies. 

The Gharcholu is given as a present to girl by her fiancé during their wedding. The bride drapes it over her head and throughout the ceremony she is covered by it. The bride also wears a white silk panetar wedding saree with a red border. As the couple starts walking around the sacred fire, the Gharcholu is tied to the groom's shoulder cloth, symbolically linking them for life. 

The Gharcholu fabric is always dyed in auspicious red color associated with wedding and martial happiness. It has bandhani dots in white and yellow along with localized dye painted green in some areas. The fabric is also called as Kasumbo (Kasum meaning red). The motifs usually contain elephants, peacocks, grometrical forms, dancing ladies or ladies playing musical instruments. 

Gajji silk sarees and odhanis having motifs of elephants, dancers, lotus flowers and leafy patterns are usually worn in ceremonies and hold a ceremonial importance. 

A silk Bandhani pichwai is made as a hanging for Krishna temple. 


The fabric in its unbleached grey form is procured directly from the mill. It is examined thoroughly before putting it through the process and cut according to end product specifications. These pieces are then treated with a solution of 'Neel' and water. 'Neel' is a fabric whitener and is used to bleach the fabric white.

Marking the designs
Firstly, the fabric is folded in half lengthwise and then folded again breadthwise forming four layers. The top layer is printed according to the layout and this pattern is created using blocks, perforated sheets or stencils, dabbing 'Geru' or 'Robin blue' dyes on it.

Perforated plastic sheets
Patterns are drawn over polythene sheets with a ballpoint pen. With the help of a sewing machine, tiny holes are made along the lines of the pattern. These sheets are placed on the top layer of the fabric kept on the wooden table. A brush or piece of cloth dipped in a solution of 'Geru' and water is smudged over the sheet, thereby imprinting the pattern on the fabric through holes. In this manner, the field of the sari is printed. The border and 'Pallav' are marked using a string dipped in 'Geru'.

Tying process
The tying process is called 'Bhindhi Bandhavu' and is mostly done by Khatri women. With the pattern marked on the topmost layer, dots are tied simultaneously pinching all four layers together. The process requires all fingers to be used in a certain manner and in a certain order. 

- The 'Nakh' or nail of the ring finger on the left hand is used to raise a tiny portion of fabric for tying.

-This tiny portion is held for a short while between the forefinger and thumb of the right hand.

- The thumb or forefinger of the left hand is then used to hold the raised area. This is called 'Chapti'

- Then the forefinger and thumb of the right hand are used to tie the raised area of the fabric with a thread. A small pipe called 'Bhungri' through which the thread is passed is used for a better grip and to ensure a firm tie. This entire process is called 'Adheeko'.

Washing of printed fabric
After the fabric is tied, it is presoaked in water before the dyeing process begins, so that the 'Geru' or 'Robin blue' marks are completely washed away. 

For yellow dots (any light colored) on a white fabric, the fabric is first dyed yellow completely. Then it is treated with Sodium Hydrosulphite also known as 'Hydros' after tying knots on it; this will bleach off the yellow color from the rest of the fabric. The fabric becomes white except the resisted areas when boiled for a few minutes in 'Hydros' and water. A reverse process (dye in dark color first, tie knots over it and then boil in Hydos solution and then dye again in the color you want in the background) is adopted for dark colored dots on a light background.

Dyeing of tied fabric
Dyeing is generally done from the lightest to the darkest shades of color. The original tied cloth is first soaked in cold water for better absorption. It is then dipped in the required dye bath for about 10 to 15minutes.The dye bath with the fabric are stirred well for even color absorption. It is later taken out and rinsed in cold water to remove excess dye. The fabric is then wrapped in a piece of cotton cloth to secure the knots and excess water is squeezed out.

Dyeing of border and pallav
This process is called the 'Sevo Bandhavo' where the entire sari is pleated and wrapped in polythene sheet, then fastened with a rubber strip leaving only the 'Border' portion. This portion is then dipped in the desired color dye and the same is done for the 'Pallav' (the end that falls loosely on the back). 

Washing of tied fabric
After dyeing, the fabric is thoroughly washed in clear water and rinsed to remove any excess dye.

Drying and untying
'Sukhenu' is a drying process where the tie-dyed fabric is allowed to dry in natural sunlight. The knots are kept intact till the Bandhini piece is sold to the customer. This is done to acknowledge the authenticity of a handcrafted Bandhini. The fabric is pulled diagonally by two people in order to open up the tied areas showing different colored patterns. This process is called 'Chode Vajo' and brings a sure shot expression of delight on the viewer's face.