Our Bagru block printing workshop takes you to the small village of Bagru near Jaipur in Rajasthan, India, where the area is known for its textiles. Here, the Chhippa community creates vibrant designs with a traditional technique known as block printing. Almost everyone in the village is involved in all parts of the process – from dyeing, to printing, to washing, to drying – and they’ve been doing it for over 350 years.
Vijendra Chhippa is the host of our Bagru block printing workshop. He comes from a long line of dyers and printers – five generations, in fact. Though he loves colour and textiles and has been block printing for as long as he can remember, it’s not a trade he dreamed of pursuing as a child. Whilst it was once prosperous, the introduction of modern technologies elsewhere – such as digital printing and chemical dyes – played a significant role in Bagru’s economic decline. This traditional practice is now in danger of dying out as the community of dyers and printers in Bagru seek more profitable work elsewhere.
After having inherited his father’s small dyeing and printing business in 2007, Vijendra has been on a mission to turn things around for Bagru. Through his initiative Bagru Textiles, Vijendra employees a number of local families – from printers to block-carvers, to designers – who together create pieces to be sold on their webpage to customers from across the world. A sizeable chunk of the proceeds is pumped back into the community which, for Vijendra, is what it’s all about. Another of his feats was in arranging a Geographical Index tag for pieces made in Bagru, ensuring middlemen and copycats are not able to take credit for the craft. He also offers a Bagru block printing workshop, which is an experience our guests at Indian Excursions continue to enjoy, allowing you a fascinating first-hand insight into the process and offering the opportunity to block print your own piece to take home.
During our visit, Vijendra shows us around the village and explains the process in full.
In traditional Bagru block printing, there are two main styles. The first is to use dark patterns on a light background; the second, known as dabu, creates light-coloured designs on a dark background using mud-resist printing. Dabu is a mixture made from local black clay, wheat powder, guar gum and lime water. The printer uses the mixture to apply a pattern to the fabric, and whilst being dyed the parts covered in the mud resist remain uncoloured whilst the rest of the fabric is dyed. Sometimes, this process is repeated to create a gradient.
Before dyeing the fabric, however, it is soaked in a natural substance made from myrobalan fruit. This binds the colour to the fabric and gives it a distinct yellowish hue. In Bagru, all colours used are natural: blues are prepared from indigo; reds from alum, madder and acacia arabica; greys from alum; blacks from waste iron.
Between dips, the cloth is laid out to dry. If visiting Bagru in the hot and dry months, you’ll see the ground covered in a colourful rainbow of fabrics. The monsoon – from July to September – brings production to a halt. Vijendra explains that much like the colours themselves, the entire process is dependent on nature; from the sun to dry the cloth to the water to wash it and the wood in the block.
If you’d like to experience a Bagru block printing workshop on your upcoming trip to Rajasthan, please do get in touch. The workshop is best included when in Jaipur as a morning day-trip. It takes about an hour to reach Bagru and you’d be back in Jaipur by lunchtime. The Bagru block printing workshop starts from approximately ₹2000 ($30) per person and includes the piece you’ve made to take home. The Bagru block printing workshop is just one of many unique experiences we can assist you with. All our tours are tailor-made and we’d be delighted to create an itinerary to best suit your tastes, interests and budget.0