Bagh Print associated with the community of Muslims Khatri, converts to Islam on the basis of preaching of the Islamic Mystics is a traditional hand block print, which utilizes natural colors. It is an Indian Handicraft named after a village Bagh in the District Dhar of Madhya Pradesh at the banks of the river Bagh. Bagh print fabric with replicated geometric and floral compositions with vegetable colors of red and black over a white background is a popular Textile printing product.
The present form of the Bagh Print was started by the Muslim Khatris in 1962 when they migrated from Manawar to Bagh. Their ancestry is traced to Larkana in Sindh now in Pakistan, from where they moved to Marwar in Rajasthan and then to Manawar, a town also in Dhar. The printing technique prevalent in Sindh which they practiced is known as Ajrak prints. They came with their traditional art form of the block printing process and continued at their new place of settlement but with innovations to meet the local trends and practices in the region, which came to be known as Bagh printing. In this printing technique the cloth used is cotton and silk cloth which are subject to treatment of a blend of corroded iron fillings, alum and Alizarin. The designs are patterned by skilled artisans. On completion of the printing process, the printed fabric is subject to repeated washing in the flowing waters of the river and then dried in the sun for a specific period to obtain the fine luster. Weaving and hand block printing process with the geometric designs, imaginative use of red and black natural colors and taking advantage of the chemical properties of the river and effective use of colors results in Bagh Prints in a unique art form. The process involves pre-printing, printing and post printing.
The materials used to make the printed fabric, depending on the orders received for the finished product, are a wide range of cloth such as cotton Maheshwari dress material, Kosa silk, bamboo chicks, cotton rugs, chiffon, crepe, georgette tissue, and mulberry silk. Printing blocks made of wood with the required patterns to create the prints on the fabric are procured from Pethapur, Gandhinagar and Jaipur. The specification for the cotton fabrics consist of fine cotton (Mulmul) with 100x120s count and 92×80 picks for making saris, dupattas and salwar suits; cotton cambric of 40x40s count and 92×80 picks for dress material; and yardage fabric of 20x20s count for bed sheets or covers. Other materials required are Cenchura or raw salt, aarandikatel or castor oil, grounded excreta of goat, fitkari or alum, hirakasish or iron sulphate, jaggery, outer skin of pomegranate, and leaves of indigo, lime, Sajji, leaves of Dhavdi, mengni, iron sulphate, chiyan or tamarind seed powder, dhavdakaphool (flower) for polishing and fixing, and alizarine (non-red dyes) to fix colours.
Some of the old blocks used for printing are known by particular names as: Aabotchabutta, Ahmedabadisaaj, Attha, Chaukada, Nandana, Khedekabodh, Indoriaddya, Indoribodh, Indorisaaj, Jawareya, Jodhpuri, Laheriya, Makhi, Molya border,Molyabodh, Mungphali, Nandanakabutta, Nandanakimirache, Nareyal, Palliwalizanjira, Teekoni, Thuddi and Zanjiri.
In the pre-printing process the fabric consisting of 100 single sheets is subjected to cleaning with water and by beating on stones in the river to remove all starch. It is then kept soaked in the river water for about 2 hours and then dried.
The washed fabric is particular type of cloth called “Vichliya” is then subject to boiling process in the workshop in a bhatti or open boiler filled with a mixture of Aal (Alizarin), roots of Dhawdi flowers and water. This boiling process is done for 4 hours to ensure that the cloth is adequately dyed. After removing the cloth from the bhatti it is subject to cleaning process with water. Thereafter in the next process, called the Tapai fabrics like cotton, tussar, crepe, and silk are soaked in the bhatti through the night, and then subject to drying after washing in the flowing river water. Then a mixture of excrement of goats, raw salt known locally as sanchura, castor oil and water is prepared in a cement bucket, and the fabric is immersed in it and stomped. In the next process cloth is subject to drying in layers on an inclined ground surface. The dried fabric is rinsed thoroughly in water, and prepared for printing.
The printing process is done in a wooden tray known locally as paliya, which is fabricated with bamboo lattice and coated with paste of black or red color. Then the wet cloth is placed in the tray in layers and allowed to soak. The soaked fabric is taken out and spread over a stone slab covered with seven layers of jute, and then printing is done on the stretched cloth. After completion of printing the fabric, say a sari, is subject to drying for a period of eight days. At the penultimate stage of processing the cloth is rinsed in the flowing water of the Bagh River and dried. In the final process the fabric is immersed in a solution of dhawadi flowers (woodfordia fruticosa) and Ailzarin (root of Morinda Tinctoria). Tapai and drying follow. And finally, the Bagh print textile is ready.
Making of a printed silk fabric needs double the time than a fabric of cotton.
Initially, Mohammed Yusuf Khatri, Mohammed Bilal Khatri, Mohammed Kazeem Khatri and their family made traditional dresses to meet the needs of various caste groups residing in the tribal region of Bagh; these dresses of the people of different castes and families had different dresses with specific identification tags of the tribal Bhil and Bhilala community. Some of the Kahtris, developed designs to meet urban taste in the later part of 1980s; these designs covered sarees, Shalwar kameez, covers for cushion and tables, block printed silk saree, tusser silk, silk stoll, scarf and so forth. Some of the family members also did innovative wooden blocks and colors which were accepted in the National and International market for their long life; these included craft such as block printing on bamboo chik or mats, leather, jute and other material, besides cloth. It is said that Bagh Print on bamboo mats with natural colors was the first successful experiment in the world.
(Reference: Wikipedia and others)