Hand Block Printing of Bagh, Madhya Pradesh

Bagh, which lends its name to the Bagh prints is a small tribal town in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. The khatri community, who comprise the 'chhipas' or printers came here about 400 years ago from Larkana is Sind which is famous for its Ajrak prints. Bagh's proximity to the river was an important reason for its choice as flowing river water is vital to the process of printing. The design repertoire of Bagh prints covers geometrical and floral compositions and the blocks used for stamping are intricately and deeply carved by block-makers in Pethapur in Gujarat.

Bagh layouts are dramatic in the use of black and red alternately on a white background. The black colour is prepared with ferrous sulphate mixed with tamarind seed powder and glue which is cooked in water and stored for use. Each sari takes a minimum of three weeks to complete after the design is printed. During his period it is washed at last three times and sent to the bhatti or oven at least twice. Two persons stand knee deep in water to wash the fabric so that superfluous colour is removed. The fabric / sari is boiled in a cauldron of water on a bhatti with regulated heat for the colour to emerge. This is extremely painstaking.

The fabric used originally was cotton, though now saw tassar, crepe, and silk are being used with excellent results. Every process used is manual and though the techniques and designs are age-old they have a contemporary appeal.