Krafts of India

Art of Tie-and-Dye with Bandhani

posted by Radhika Chugh August 30, 2016 0 comments

Don’t you feel an immense amount of pride when you realize that something which is known to have originated some 5000 years ago, is still being used and acknowledged? One of such arts is Bandhani. While searching for artwork that is connected to the very roots of us Indians under Kraftly’s Krafts of India, I came across Bandhani and was rather surprised to see how much hyped it is till date. And as I tried to learn more about it, I got more and more engrossed in how Bandhani evolved as an art in the past thousands of years.

What Is Bandhani?

Bandhani is derived from a word Bandhan, which means ‘to tie’, and is a marvelous type of tie-and-die, where parts of a particular fabric (silk or cotton) are tied tightly using a wax thread, and then the cloth is dipped in a drum of dye. The parts which have been tied will be left uncoloured, while the other bit is dyed full of vibrant colours leaving us with a plethora of possible patterns, alluring combinations, and beautiful swirls and twirls.

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Bandhani’s History

It dates way back in time, somewhere around the Indus Valley Civilization. Dyeing set base around 4000 BC. Not only that, Bandhani evolved in China during the T’and dynasty (Historical period 618 AD to 906 AD), and in Japan as well between 552 AD to 794 AD (Nara Period). The earliest instances of Bandhani can be seen till date in the painting found on the walls of Ajanta caves, depicting the life of Buddha.

Also, as per certain evidence collected during historical times, Bana Bhatt’s Harshacharitra was the time the first Bandhani saree was worn in a royal marriage. As per what I have researched, it is difficult to trace back to this art’s history to the origin, or to any particular area. Every source seems to have their own knowledge of its origin.

Some believe that Bandhani was first developed in Jaipur (as Leheriya), but it is also said that Bandhani came from Sindh by Muslim Khatris, and was brought to Kutch. Some vouch for the fact that Bandhani was founded in Jamnagar about 400 years back. It is incredibly difficult to go back to the factual history of Bandhani, but there is most certainly a science of how this type of tie and dye works.

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Ancient artists realized that when some dyes were dissolved, they gave their colour to the water. instantly forming a solution which gets easily absorbed by the fabric used. In fact, turmeric and indigo (and more plants alike) used to be crushed until fine and dissolved in water, so that the fabric could be dyed in deep colours. And this was just the beginning of the evolution of Bandhani.

The Art of Tie and Dye with Bandhani

Bandhani is a highly skilled process of tie and dye, and having long fingernails is a must to be able to handle the fabric. It takes years to master the skill, and it has two basic stages.

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  1. Tying various sections of a cloth (Silk or cotton) with wax threads, which is incredibly difficult as these sections are as tiny as pin-heads; and
  2. Dunking the fabric into the dye.

Normally, men do all the dying and women do the tying. First and foremost, the fabric/cloth is washed and bleached to make it possible for it to absorb the dyes. Then, it is sent for tying to the women, who lift tiny sections and tie the threads around it.

Fun Fact: An incredibly intricate design of a Bandhani saree would have about 75,000 dots. YES, that’s definitely a lot of tying and dyeing. 

Later, the tied fabric is dipped into a light colour at first. The tied areas will stick to their original fabric colour, while the rest of the areas will get dyed. If you want a second colour, areas which need to be left clean of this need to be tied, and then dipped in the same. And the process goes on for as many colours as you wish.

All the colours used are natural, and the main colours are – Blue, Red, Yellow, Green, Black and more. All these colours have their own meanings, which we will get to later. The making of the border has its own special process called ‘Sevo Bandhavo’. The border is tied according to the pattern you desire by passing the thread through the ends in a loose stitch. When the entire portion is pulled together by the thread, and the dyeing is continued with.

It is essential to have the skill to be able to manipulate fingers for tying, and even more imperative to have an extensive knowledge about color schemes and dying material. Tie-and-Dye is not expensive, but the colors do run, so maintenance is of utmost important. So, probably don’t wash a Bandhani product, just get it dry cleaned. Also, the strength of Bandhani is destroyed if it’s ironed on high heat, so try ironing with a low heat setting.

The Colors of Bandhani

Bandhani products have their own meanings to the people of India. It is actually the oldest form of creating designs and patterns on a piece of fabric, and every colour has its own importance.

RED is a symbol of marriage. It is believed that a bridal Bandhani saree can bring a good future and fortune to the bride.
SAFFRON is the colour of a yogi.
YELLOW stands for the beginning of spring.
BLACK & MAROON is the colour used for mourning.

Bandhani work can be seen on all sort of apparel – Sarees, Salwar Kameez, Kurtas, and Chaniya Cholis. And so many designs – Trikunti (Triple knots), Ekdali (Single knot), Dungar Shahi (mountain pattern), Chaubandi (with four knots), Boond (a small dot with a dark centre), Kodi (shape of a teardrop), and many more. So many variations, and so many patterns, it is just a colourful delight.

Bandhani in India

Bandhani is known to be made the most in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Tamil Nadu. In fact, it is popularly known as Sungudi, Bandhej, Bandhni, Piliya and Chungidi in Tamil and other regional dialects. The process of Bandhani is different in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Not just the process, but even the patterns, designs, and craftsmanship are different.

In Rajasthan, the finest work comes from Udaipur, Pali, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Bikaner and Nathdwara. Turbans of Rajputs are of a rainbow tinge, and the odhnis of their women are shaded by resist-dyeing. Bandhani has so many varieties because all the varieties have evolved over various centuries, and have set close links with religious customs and social norms of different people.

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Bandhani has been here for centuries and is here to stay for many more years to come. The variations will continue to increase, and the art form will continue to flourish. We salute to the craftsmen who have been diligently and deftly working with fabric for all these years. Here is our very own handpicked collection of Bandhani for you guys. Go, have a look!

Source – Pinterest
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