‘According to legend, at the peacemaking of royal families at Bagru, the artist community of Chhipa, belonging to Sawai Madhopur was called upon. They were asked to print fabrics exclusively for them. With close appreciation from the vicinity of the Sanjaria river, the nomads agreed to settle down and began to create the most beautiful pieces of fabric through their simple block printing technique.’ Thus, the art of Bagru was born.
Perhaps, no other story defines the notion of ‘Union breathing life into art’, better. Like many others, the art of Bagru printing also dates back to the ancient times during the twentieth century; inspired by cultures and ethnicities that kept transforming it into what it is today. However, unfazed by the emergence of newer techniques and styles, the popularity of the Bagru prints has withstood the test of time, both in India and overseas trade.
The Bagru Way
The art can be classified as the most traditional way of block printing to date; the artisans who have been practicing it the old way refuse to give up the hand craft and adapt machines. The demand for block prints dropped significantly due to the introduction of cheaper fabrics that could also be procured easily. However, owing to its ability to mold itself, it rose to fame again when block print textiles began to be used primarily to create contemporary, ‘hippie’ clothes.
The art lives on in its true essence in ‘Anookhe’, a small factory city 20 kms of Bagru. Of the 50,000 people in the surrounding village, nearly 5,000 are directly involved in printing while 10,000 are involved in supplying and dyeing. During summers, farmers also turn to printing for livelihood. The printing is the yearlong source of income, with the exception of monsoon that stops the process.
Indians, being the pioneers in the art of dyeing and printing with natural colour have often attracted the attention of foreign travelers with the traditional Bagru motifs. The customary designs including flowers, leaves, geometrical shapes and patterns have also acted as an immortal reservoir of inspiration for various other fabricated designs.
The Bagru print blocks are also carefully designed- known as the Sagwan (teak) and Sheesham (Indian Rosewood) blocks. The two are differentiated by the fabric patterns and their intricacy, but are equally dominating in the dyeing and printing industry. Sagwan is the more expensive, soft and durable. Because it is hard, intricate and detailed motifs are carved in Sheesham. Depending on the intricacy of the design, the carvers take one or two days to prepare.
Bagru prints are also well-defined paradigms of eco-friendly materials and printing traditions. The process, though complex to perform ceases to involve the use of chemical. The base is treated with fuller’s earth, soaked in turmeric and then stamped into the needed fabric with blocks of wood with beautiful and detailed patterns carved on them. Natural colouring agents such as alum, turmeric, pomegranate, dried flowers and indigo are used to add colourful designs and motifs to the fabric.
Tjori aims to revive the lost art of Bagru printing by curating an eye-catching collection of the most beloved products of the enchanting skill.