There are different styles of art used on bedsheets. In this article we shed some light on the core differences between Block Printing and Ajrakh Art.
The beautiful process of block printing is largely associated with chiselling out fine designs on a piece of wooden block and printing them on fabric. Multiple blocks can be used to print a single fabric. Some popular products include block print bed sheets, Sarees, Dupattas, etc.
In India, the expertise with natural plant dyes and metallic salts helped in creating and printing beautiful motifs on bed sheets. The dyes used for printing are oil-based. They are prepared from naturally available resources such as, pomegranate peels for green colour, annatto seeds or turmeric for yellow colour, beetroot for red colour, etc. Block print art is influenced by nature, beliefs, customs, plants and animals.
Evolution of different styles of block print designs has taken place in different parts of the country having its own particular local aesthetic. Block Printing is mainly practiced in the following places:
Andhra Pradesh: One of the earliest and complex techniques of block printing is Kalamkari. It was developed in Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh. It uses vegetable dyes for printing.
Gujarat: Hand printing has been practiced in Gujarat by the Paithapur families. They use the mud resist – printing method to print their textile and make intricate blocks. These prints are called Sodagiri (trader) prints. The popular patterns in Kutch are black and red designs of dancing girls, birds and animals. Other popular designs include large mango patterns against a red or blue background.
Ajrakh art is found mainly in Anjar and Dhamadka in Kutch which is practiced by the Khatris Community. It is mostly done on 250 thread cotton bed sheets which is washed several times to attain the softness.The fabric is then treated with harda, lime, alizarin or indigo, all of which are natural vegetable dyes.
In order to create varied designs and patterns with different colours, a process called Resist Technique ( that allows only a desired portion of the fabric to be dyed while the rest remains uncoloured) is used. The blocks used for printing patterns are intricately hand-carved and have complex geometric designs and floral motifs. In several patterns, the painted Ajrakh cloth has various colours like red, blue, black and white.
Rajasthan: In Rajasthan, colourful Block Prints of birds, human figures, animals, gods and goddesses are famous. The main centers for this type of Hand Block Printing are Jaipur, Pali, Bagru, Barmer and Sanganer.
Barmer is well - known for its prints of red chillies with blue-black outlines, surrounded by flower-laden trees. The Sindh region is the source of inspiration of these prints. The other famous prints are of horses, lions, peacocks and camels, called Sikar and Shekhawat prints.
Villages of Jahota in Jaipur are famous for the jahota hand block printing.
Sanganer and Bagru are the places where most of the Block Printing is done in Rajasthan.
The block print in Bagru is done mainly in black, red and beige. Shades of blue with more use of indigo blue dyeing processes are a characteristic of this centre.
Sanganer, near Jaipur, is famous for its fine hand block printing in subdued colors. The printing is usually done on off-white or white background fabric.The motifs and designs imprinted are based on nature, mostly floral prints which are inspired by the flora and fauna of Sanganer.
Madhya Pradesh: Printed textiles are created by a community of printers called Chheepa in Madhya Pradesh. The printers of Bagh (a small tribal town in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh) use vegetable and Natural Dyes, in bright shades of red and black and also occasional indigo.
These prints have a tonal and a 3D-effect which is impossible to replicate. The blocks are made of intricately stylized motifs, which have evolved over hundreds of years. Other places in Madhya Pradesh besides Bagh are Behrongarh, Indore, Mandsar, Burhanpur.
Uttar Pradesh: Uttar Pradesh is an important centre for hand-block printing with the paisley designs, classical butis and the tree of life as the main traditional motifs used in a range of shapes and in bold colors. In Uttar Pradesh Benares, Farrukabad, Pilakhuan are the place where the blocks are made.
West Bengal: Kolkata & Serampu, each of these regions traditionally had distinct design elements with unique color schemes and motifs block printed fabric by expert craftworkers.
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