How did this name Bagh printing come into being one may ask? Well like most handloom works that get their name from the place they are made in, so does the print Bagh. And how did the town came to be called so? The name of the town stems from the renowned Bagh caves – according to local legend there were living tigers referred to as bagh in several languages of India, in these abandoned Buddhist caves and hence the name.
Bagh caves are a group of nine rock-cut monuments, situated among the southern slopes of the Vindhyas. These are renowned for mural paintings by master painters of ancient India. Though they are referred to as caves these are not natural caves but manmade and are a great example of Indian rock-cut architecture. Like the renowned Ajanta caves, the Bagh caves too were excavated by master craftmen on perpendicular sandstone rock face of a hill on the far bank of a seasonal stream, the Baghani. Buddhist in inspiration, out of the nine caves, only five have survived all of them being ‘viharas’ or monasteries with quadrangular plan. There are beautiful paintings engraved on the walls and ceilings of these viharas. The ground prepared for these paintings was a reddish-brown gritty and thick mud plaster laid out on the walls and ceilings. Over the plaster, lime-priming was done, on which the paintings were executed! The importance given to art in ancient times can be seen in these caves where the most significant of the caves is the Rang Mahal which means Palace of Colors. Displayed in Archaeological Museum of Gwalior are some of the paintings that were carefully removed in 1982 to prevent loss of the values of Indian classical art.
A village with rich history of art, Bagh Print in its current form started in Bagh in 1962 when a group of Muslim Khatri artisan migrated from the nearby Manawar to Bagh. They were originally from Sindh which is now in Pakistan and had since migrated to Marwad in Rajasthan and then to Manawar. With them they got 200 and 300-year-old blocks based on traditional motifs inspired by the 1,500-years-old paintings found in the caves in that region. The motifs included Nariyal Zaal, Ghevar Zaal, Saj, Dakmandwa, chameli, maithir, leheriya and jurvaria. They also made blocks which were based on the jaali work found in the Taj Mahal and local forts. They streamlined the processing of the two important colours – Red from Alum and Black from Corrosion of Iron and discovered new vegetable dyes such as yellow and green. But their biggest contribution was imprinting the Bagh Print on fabrics. And thus began the spectacular journey of the Bagh Prints on sarees!
At Shatika we feel that while the old paintings can be restored and protected to prevent loss of the values of Indian classical art, the only way to ensure no further loss to a heritage but diminishing art of Bagh printing is by promoting it and encouraging the weavers to not give up this great art. And we cannot do this alone; we need your full-fledged help and support.
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