But it is widely believed that it was brought to Kutch from Sindh by Muslim Khatris who are still the largest community involved in the craft.
Bandhni was introduced in Jamnagar when the city was founded 400 years ago. This city has now become one of the principal centers of bandhni, creating new pattern and experimenting with modern colors.
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 which 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.
Tie And Dye Today
Today women and girls can be seen sitting in their homes with pieces of malmal (fine muslin), handloom or silk cloth. This cloth is first bleached and then folded into two or four layers depending on the thickness of the cloth. A rangara or designer marks the layout of the pattern on the material using wooden blocks dipped in geru, a burnt sienna color mixed with water. The craftsmen then begin to tie the cloth, which is not to be dyed. The folds of the material within the small motif are lifted and tied together. The material with the first set of ties is dyed yellow. There is also a process, mostly followed in Rajasthan of dyeing parts of the material by hand - lipai technique. The material is again tied and dyed into red or green. If the border has to be darker all the lighter parts are tied and covered with plastics foil and the edges are dyed with the required colors. Repeated tying and dyeing produces elaborate designs.
Raw Materials Needed
The raw materials required for bandhni are - muslin, handloom or silk cloth, ordinary thread for tying, starch and colors for dyeing. Traditionally vegetable dyes were used but today chemical dyes are becoming very popular. The tools required are also very basic - wooden blocks for marking designs and the simple implements for dyeing.
Major Centers Of Tie And Dye
The centers of tie and dye fabrics, especially in Gujarat are Jamnagar in Saurashtra (the water in this area brings out the brightest red while dying), and Ahmedabad. The finest bandhni work of Rajasthan comes from Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Barmer, Pali, Udaipur and Nathdwara. Rajasthan is well known for its leheriya pattern - literally meaning waves. These are harmoniously arranged diagonal stripes, which were originally, dyed in the auspicious colors of yellow and red. Pochampalli is also one of the three main traditional yarn-dyeing centers in the country. The process of making bandhni (tie and dye) varies in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Even the patterns, designs and craftsmanship vary in both the regions. The craftsmen from Rajasthan are easily recognized because they grow a nail on their little finger to facilitate the lifting of cloth for tying or wear a small metal ring with a point. The Gujarati craftsmen prefer to work without these aids. The flow is much better when one works with one's bare hands as it assures no damage to the cloth. The dyeing and printing of textiles has become a highly developed craft in Gujarat. Bandhni, a form of tie-resist dyeing and patola are two outstanding examples of the Indian dyer's art.
The colors commonly used in bandhni are - red, a symbol of marriage, saffron, a color worn by yogi who has renounced the world, yellow, which stands for spring and black and maroon, used for mourning. Bandhni material is sold folded and with the knots tied. One has to pull the folds apart for the knots to open. The payment is made according to the number of dots in the pattern. An intricate design in a sari would have approximately 75000 dots. What is essential in bandhni is the minute and skilful manipulation of the fingers for tying, extensive knowledge of color schemes and skill in dyeing materials. It takes several years for a craftsman to perfect his skill. Bandhni saris and dupattas are available at most shops all over India but to get the authentic material, it is advisable to buy it from Rajasthan or Gujarat emporia which have outlets in all major cities or from CraftsInIndia.
Preparation And Process Involved in Tie And Dye Weaving
The process of tie and dye weaving starts with preparing the warp and weft from the bleached silk yarn by spinning it. Squatted on the floor, women reel threads from primitive spinning wheels to load bobbins. Giant spinning wheels are employed to prepare the warp, which forms the length of the fabric. The warp is fastened between two poles set apart and marked according to the design. For preparing the weft (which forms the width), a fan-shaped, spiked wooden frame is used. Strand upon strand of yarn is deftly wound between the spikes and the converging rod at the other end of the frame. The yarn is tied with threads and strips of rubber, in line with the predetermined pattern marked on it. The warp and weft yarns are individually knotted and wrapped tight enough to prevent the dye from penetrating into it when dipped in different colors. This is called double-tie-dye method. The process of tying and dyeing is repeated several times depending on the number of colors required by the design. When the yarn has dried, the wrappings are carefully removed. The yarn, which is to become the length of the fabric to be woven, is stretched on the loom while the weft yarn is once again transferred to the fan-shaped wooden frame. At this stage one can see the patterns emerging, ready to be woven together. The craft of tie-dyed weaving is known as Chitki in Telugu. But its popular name, however, is Ikat. The technique involves great skill and precise calculations by the textile artisans. The design is very colorful, intricate and attractive but at the same time very complicated. It takes nearly 15-20 days to weave a cloth of 20 meters - the maximum length a loom can take. The woven fabric is taken out of the loom and given a starch-polish before sending it to the showroom.