Block printing is the technique of printing patterns on textiles using a carved wooden block. The blocks are dipped in dyes and stamped onto the surface repetitively to create seamless prints.
A carved wooden block used for printing textiles(Picture credit: Unsplash)
In India block printing is practiced in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.
Bhuj, Gujarat - The most famous block printing technique in Gujarat is called Ajrakh.
Portrait of a Khatri noble wearing an Ajrakh printed shawl.(18th century)
According to most sources the name Ajrakh is derived from the Arabic term Azrak meaning blue. But there is also an alternative meaning which is just as popular - the term may have been derived from the colloquial Hindi phrase “Aaj Rakh” which means keep it today.
Ajrakh printing is a complex process and involves at least 14 steps. The process involves repeated washing and dyeing of the fabric. Various natural dyes and mordants are used for printing.
Bagh, Madhya Pradesh - This print derives its name from the village of Bagh located on the banks of Bagh river. Block printers from Rajasthan migrated to this village due to the high copper content of the river, which helps with deeper absorption of the dyes.
A Bagh printer giving a live demonstration of the printing process during the Republic Day parade.
The process of Bagh printing can be broadly categorised into three parts: pre-printing, printing and post-printing.
The fabric is washed and treated with pre-dye to give it an off-white colour.
After this the actual printing of the fabric begins. Once, the fabric is printed it is allowed to rest for 7-14 days for the dyes to fully absorb into the fabric. After the fabric has rested, it is washed and beaten to remove excess dyes. It is then boiled in a mixture of water, alizarin, and Dhavda flowers. Finally it is bleached and washed three more times before it is ready for use.