Bandhani Dupattas And Sarees of Gujarat: Art Of Tying Knots & Dyeing Fabric.

Updated: Jul 11, 2021

By Himakshi Phukan

‘Bandhan’, the word itself is precious for its meaning of connection, a connection between mind and heart, body and soul, and so on. As the name and its meaning carry specific significance, so does its art. Carrying this art form in any way gives you a chance to honour and idealize your diverse culture, reflected through the multi-coloured patches scattering all over the Bandhani fabric. This flamboyant art of Bandhani connects the mind of artisans and the hearts of people, elevating it to a higher level.

India, enriched with varied art forms and indigenous craft techniques won’t disappoint you ever while loitering in the streets of Indian markets. From stalls to stalls, from handicrafts to artefacts, you can’t take your eyes off the extravagant beauty of authentic Indian products. Looking at them makes you wonder about the little joys and miseries hidden behind the hard work of the artisans. Makes you ponder upon the ancient history of India formed with a series of age-old stories which is glorifying the past. Immersed in beauty and glamour, gaining the attention of every passer-by, there lie Bandhani print fabrics with a splash of varied colours. The essence of Indianness is found in the mixture and combination of colours which spontaneously fills your mind with the idea of festivity. As the colours are symbols of love, gaiety, hope, and positivity in one’s life, Bandhani art, and its products are incessantly spreading the same.

History Of The Craft

Emerged in the times of Indus Valley Civilization, Bandhani art also known as ‘Bandhej’ is still prevalent in the 21st century, manifested on woven fabrics. It found its roots in the paintings of 6th century B.C representing the life of Buddha on the walls of Ajanta Cave paintings. This art form has its evidence in texts popular during the time of Greek King Alexander the Great where the grace and comfort of Indian printed cotton have been mentioned. Moreover, it is believed that the Bandhani saree was first worn in the time of Bana Bhatt’s Harchacharita in a royal marriage ceremony. Earlier Bandhani sarees were worn by the bride at the time of her marriage as it marked the good fortune for her upcoming life.

Artists experimented with natural dyes and different tying methods. This gave rise to a wide range of designs and patterns. This art of tie & dye technique was widely practised in different ways in countries like India, Africa, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. Bandhani art was known as Plangi in Malaysia and Indonesia. The journey of Bandhani has undergone many changes and transformations, resulting in a new form of art by using textiles as its canvas. The Khatri community of Kutch in Gujarat started this art form in India, but it can be seen in the state of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab. Places like Mandavi, Bhuj, Anjar, Jamnagar, Morbi, Rajkot, Deesa, etc. of Gujarat are popular for their extensive production of Bandhani textiles. Moreover, Jaipur, Sikar, Bhilwara, Udaipur, Bikaner, Ajmer of Rajasthan are also famous for Bandhani dupatta, sarees, and headgears. This old tradition of Bandhani art for its brilliant colours and patterns sets an outstanding remark in today’s fashion trends.

Crafted with Care, Love And Unrivalled Expertise

The artists practising Bandhani Art have gained mastery over the art form. Some skills are innate, some skills are developed based on one’s interest and choice, but it is about brushing up those skills by the means of practice. This art form has transformed into a passion and profession for most of the families living in different parts of Gujarat. From preparing natural dye to drying the coloured fabric in the scorching sun, both men and women are equally engaged in this highly skilled process. Silk, Cotton, Rayon, Georgette, Silk-Cotton blend, Viscose, etc. are the textiles used to practice Bandhani in contemporary times. Earlier, silk and cotton were mostly used for their availability and ability to resist the technique. Colours were extracted from roots,leaves, fruits, and vegetables like raw berries, indigo, onion, etc. These naturally processed colours were in great use, but the synthetic dyes have taken over the natural colours due to their convenience and safety. By taking some accurate measures, knots are tied with a thread at different points of the fabric. Bandhej knots also differ from one another like Lehriya, Mothra, Ekdali, etc. A single knot is called Ekdaali, triple knots are called Trikunti, four knots are called Chaubundi, seven knots are called Satbundi, a tiny dot with a dark center is called Boond. As the way the knots are tied, they give rise to various motifs and designs like Chandrakala, Bvan, Baug, Shikari, etc. Mostly the colors used in this art are bright like yellow, saffron, maroon,red, blue, green, and black which enlivens the history of this 3000-year-old art form.

The use of colors has great symbolic meanings like Red symbolizes marriage; Saffron symbolizes the color of a yogi; Yellow represents motherhood and joy; Green depicts fertility; Black and Marroon stands for mourning. The fabric with tied knots is soaked in water composed of natural dyes and the dyed fabric is kept for drying in the sun before opening the knots. It usually takes 4 to 5 hours to dry in the heat of summers, 6-7 hours in winters, but it takes almost 2 to 3 days to dry in the monsoons. The final furnished output based on vivid patterns is classified into Kombhi, Ghar Chola, Shikari, Chandrakhani, Chowkidaar, Ambadaal, etc. Dyes spread out on the knotted fabric bring a unique color combination with beautiful motifs on it which is the best part of Bandhani Art.

Bandhani was practised as an art form to preserve the tradition and culture of a community for which it was very specific with its products in the early times. As it has gained recognition and importance in the commercial sector, the range of variety in the products has increased. Bandhani silk sarees; Bandhani silk dupattas; Bandhani cotton fabrics including sarees, turbans, dupattas, bedsheets, pillow covers; Banarasi Bandhej; Bandhani Georgette dupattas with Banarasi brocade borders; etc. have flourished all over the Indian and global markets. The modern artisans have also shown interest in collecting the designs and motifs of traditional Bandhani to sustain this art form. Moreover, new colour palettes consisting of purple, mustard yellow, pink,beige, etc. are also used by the artists to enhance the ‘desi’ look. Bandhani motifs also found their place in men’s clothing like the prints on turbans, kurtas, shirts, sherwani sets, etc. Based on the usage of colours and motifs, Bandhani sarees are classified into various types. Known for the use of blazing hues all over the fabric and fine patterns, Jhankar Bandhani stands out for its typical green jhankar bandhani with maroon or red dots. Borjaal, the name itself represents ‘jaal’ meaning ‘web’ which creates a unique design of maze. This maze is an extensive detailed artwork done on Bandhani wedding sarees that specifies the bridal look. According to the traditional Bandhani art process, dark colours are visible over the light colours but the light colours become distinct over the darker colours in Color Discharge Bandhani which sets a contrast with that of the traditional Bandhani design.

Though pure silk Bandhani is in great demand, they are expensive and rare to find. Nowadays, the mixing of cotton and poly fibres is leading to an alternative or new form of fabric i.e poly silk blend called Gaji Silk to make Bridal Lehengas and Sarees. Gaji Silk Sarees are known for extreme ornamentation on the thick fabric with added Zari borders and exquisite embroideries. Banarasi Bandhani Sarees are equally famous for Banarasi brocade borders on pure georgette fabric. The huge collective effort of Bandhani artists and their dedication to this art has resulted in the achievement of the milestone(gaining international recognition).

Flaunting colourful Bandhanis with triggered emotions will not let you forget the lively scenes of Bollywood Blockbuster movies. Sonam Kapoor in ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ with her pink Bandhani lehenga lightened up the environment. Wearing a Bandhani saree by Amrita Rao in 'Vivah' highlights her simplicity evoked by a traditional touch. While attending Isha Ambani’s pre-wedding rituals, Janvi Kapoor in her green Bandhani attire designed by Manish Malhotra took all the praises. - Seems like Bandhani has won the hearts of our Indian celebrities and renowned fashion designers.

"Amalgamation of vivid colours and patterns have filled our wardrobes with abundant hopes and inspiration to look up to in the distressing moments of our lives."Add a splash of colours to your life and create your sunshine by diving into the adventure of collecting handwoven products like Bandhani Dupatta and Bandhani saree online at Some Hands With Hearts(SHWH).

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