BANDHEJ AN IMMORTAL ART

by Shatika, February 5, 2016

The finest Bandhej 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. Bandhej is a technique of tie and dye. As the name suggests, the technique of Tie and Dye involves two stages: tying sections of a length of cloth (silk or cotton) and then they are immersed in the required colour. The rainbow-tinged turbans of the Rajputs and the odhnis of their women are shaded by this method of resist dyeing.

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The term “bandhej” derives its name from the Hindi word Bandhan which means relationship. Bandhej is an ancient art practiced by people mainly of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Jaipur, Udaipur, Bikaner and Ajmer and Jamnagar are among the important centres producing odhnis, saris and turbans in bandhej. The wide variety was evolved over the centuries because of its close links with the religious and social customs of different people. Bandhej work involves tying and dyeing of pieces of cotton, chiffon or silk cloth. The main colours used in Bandhej are yellow, red, green and black. Bandhej work, after the processing is over, results into a variety of symbols including, dots, squares, waves and strips. The main colours used in Bandhej are natural. In fact all colours in bandhej are dark, Rajasthan is one of the most important centers of the tie and dye textile. Each area, each caste and each tribe has its special designs.

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Dyeing is accomplished by the tie – resist method where the patterns are made up of innumerable dots and waves respectively. Usually men do the dyeing while women do the tying, which is most painstaking with each dot being as tiny as a pin-head. The cloth is first washed and bleached to prepare it for absorbing the dyes. After this, it is then sent to the bandhani, the women who do the tying, lift small portions of the fabric and tightly tie a thread around it. The more minuscule the raised Bandhani – tied textile fabric, the finer the bandhana. The tied textile is then dipped in a light colour first while the tied areas retain the original ground colour. If a second dye is required, the areas to be retained in the first dye are tied for resist and the cloth dipped in a darker dye. This process is repeated, if several colours are to be combined.

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Laheria refers to the wavy pattern of a fabric processed in the tie dye technique. The material is rolled diagonally and certain portions resisted by lightly binding threads at a short distance from one another before the cloth is dyed. If the distance is shorter, the skill required in preventing one colour from spilling into the other. The process of dyeing is repeated until the required colour is obtained.

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For a checkered pattern the fabric is opened and diagonally rolled again from the opposite corners, the rest of the process remains the same. The printing of residue on cloth with coloured powder, gold or silver dust is known as khari or tinsel work. Which gives the finished saree a golden/silver look.

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The main colours used in Bandhani are yellow, green, red, pink, and black. The colors commonly used signify different things like – red, a symbol of marriage, saffron, a color worn by yogi who has renounced the world, yellow, which stands for spring and black is used for mourning.

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An intricate design in a sari would have approximately 75000 dots. What is essential in bandhej is the minute and skillful manipulation of the fingers for tying, extensive designs in myriad colour schemes and skill in dyeing materials. It takes several years for a craftsman to perfect his skill. Bandhej sarees should always be dry cleaned. The bandhej sarees are delightful and fill the hot summer months with gaiety and colour.

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