Soaking, boiling, dyeing, washing…the creation of Madhya Pradesh’s Bagh print in pictures

soaking boiling printing bagh print bagh river madhya pradesh bilal khatri natural dyes and colours pomegranate 30 stades

Bagh print is a traditional Indian handicraft where wooden hand blocks are used to print geometric, paisley or floral compositions on silk and cotton fabrics. The dyes are organic, made using naturally available products. The craft is practiced in the Bagh region of Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar district but traces its roots to Larkana in Sindh, Pakistan.

Khatri community, the traditional practitioners of the art, migrated to India over 500 years ago and settled in what are present day Gujarat and Rajasthan, says Mohammed Bilal Khatri, a Bagh craftsman who received an excellence award from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2016 for reviving Bagh prints.

Bilal’s grand father was among those who moved to Madhya Pradesh, where the craft has become synonymous with the name of the region. Banks of a river by the same name, Bagh, are the hub of this craft.

Bagh prints received the Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2008. 30 Stades brings in pictures the labour-intensive process that results in the beautiful Bagh Print fabrics which have become world-famous now:

Plain cloth is soaked and then washed in the Bagh river, which has high levels of calcium and zinc. This improves the quality and colour of prints. Pic: Bagh Print
Bilal Khatri filtering paste of ‘harad’ (terminalia chebula, a component of triphala). Harad is found in the nearby jungles. Pic: Bagh Print

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The cloth is left in ‘harad’ solution. It is then dried in sun and is ready for printing. Pic: Bagh Print
Natural colours are made using flowers, peels, iron etc. Blue colour is made using indigo leaves, pomegranate peels give mustard colour and the two are combined to get green colour. In the pic, pomegranate peels are being boiled on wood fire. Once the water is evaporated, fresh water is added for boiling again. Pic: Bagh Print
Blocks made from Indian teak or sagwan wood are soaking in oil to make them durable and long-lasting. One block can be used to print about 5,000 metres of cloth. Pic: Bagh Print

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Wooden blocks are dipped in colours and printed on cotton or silk fabrics. Pic: Bagh Print
Gad hand block printing using natural colours. After this, the cloth is dried and kept away for 15 days for the colours to get fully absorbed. Pic: Bagh Print
Bilal Khatri using hand blocks for printing. Pic: Bagh Print

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The cloth is again washed in Bagh river and then dried. After drying, the fabric is ready for the process of colouring. Khatris have trained local tribals in the Bagh print technqiue. Pic: Bagh Print
Madder root and dhavdi flowers are boiled in copper vessels along with the printed clothes for at least four hours. As the clothes absorb the colours, the water becomes clear. Dhavdi flower works as a bleach on the un-printed cloth. The red block print takes the colour from madder while black colour remains unchanged. Pic: Bagh Print
Bilal’s father Yusuf Khatri, winner of many national and international awards, at the bhatti. Pic: Bagh Print

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The cloth is then dried on pebbles. Khatris have been training tribals in the process since the 1990s. Some of these tribals have set up their own units now. Pic: Bagh Print
Bilal Khatri drying fabrics. These printed fabrics are used for suits, dupattas, sarees, bed sheets and even masks now. Pic: Bagh Print
Bilal Khatri with architect & artist Nicola Strippoli at an exhibition. Pic: Bagh Print

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