Indian traditional painted, printed & dyed textiles

Indian traditional painted, printed & dyed textiles

India has a diverse and rich textile tradition compared to other countries. A wide range of textiles of varied styles and texture is manufactured through different techniques. The peculiarity of Indian traditional dyed, printed and painted textiles are that each region has its own techniques such as Bagh(MP), Dabu(Rajasthan), Lehariya(Rajasthan).


India is the first to introduce the art of dyeing and printing with natural colors, and it has a long history. This is profoundly intertwined with the Indian socio-culture. The whole purpose of painting and printing is to embellish the fabric. This demands manual dexterity and skills to employ the tools. India has many region-specific dyed, printed, and painted textiles, each known for some unique styles, and made by using locally available materials. Mentioned below are some of our Indian traditional dyed, printed, and painted textiles.


Bandhani is also known as Bandhej. It is a type of tie and dye textile practiced mainly in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and some parts of Uttar Pradesh. The word bandhani is derived from a Sanskrit word ‘band’ which means ‘to tie’. The process involves dyeing the fabrics by tightly tied with a thread at several places to produce different patterns. It generally performed on cotton and silk fabrics.

Bandhani is generally made up of natural colors in which the primary colors are yellow, blue, green, and black. Bandhini is a combination of a cluster of patterns with beautiful color combinations. Wearing bandhani is a mark of identity in many communities. Bandhani is the oldest form of tie and dye. The famous Ajanta caves have a visual representation of bandhani.  


Lehariya is a simple tie and dye fashion from the state of Rajasthan. Bright colors and distinctive striped patterns are the peculiarities of lehariya. The craftsmen’s extraordinary skill brings colorful lehariya materials through a particular method of resist dyeing. Lighter color variation fabrics are used for this process. 


Dabu is a mud resist hand block printing technique from Rajasthan. Nowadays, it is practiced in many rural areas of Rajasthan. For many, it has become a family business, with the older generation passing on the craft’s secrets to the next. Dabu printing is very labor-intensive and involves several stages of printing and dyeing.

Designs are hand-printed on to the fabric using blocks that are dipped into fast dyes. Ingredients like mud, gum, lime, and waste wheat chaff are combined to make the ‘dhabu’ (mud resist paste), which is then patted over certain parts of the design. The paste is dried with sprinkled sawdust. This covering essentially protects these parts of the fabric from the dye. This creates a unique and colorful effect. Traditional dabu designs and motifs are very similar to the motifs used in all traditional Rajasthani textiles. They tend to be nature-inspired, designs of plants, birds, flowers, fruits, and artistic ethnic motifs.


It is one of the natural color printing followed by the cippas community in the remote places of Rajasthan. The process of bagru starts with the preparation of the paste by mixing cow-dung, soda ash, and sesame oil, and then washing the cloth with this mixture. It is called ‘Hari Sarana’ (scouring). This process is followed by harda treatment- the most crucial element of printing and dyeing. Harda is a seed that gives a yellow tint to the cloth. Harda has natural tannic acid in it. It therefore acts as a mordant for the iron for printing and results in the formation of bagru black. Direct dye printing and resist printing is used for bagru. Aathkaliyan, Bankadi, Badabunta, Hara dhania are some of the motifs in bagru.


Ajrakh is a block printing that belongs to the Kutch region in Gujarat. The name ajrakh derived from ‘azarak’, blue in Arabic. Ajrakh is said to signify the universe, because of the use of the color palate. The color represent red for the earth, black for darkness, white for clouds, and blue for the universe. Nature plays a vital role in the making of ajrakh.


Batik is a form of textile art in which designs are hand-decorated. There are three methods, namely (i) splash method, (ii)screen printing, (iii) hand painting method. In batik, wax plays the role of resist and the use of it will determine the effect of the design. The wax areas of the fabrics remain in the original colors while the rest of the fabric is dyed with different colors. Fine cracks that appear in the wax allow small amounts of dye to seep into the fabric. This results in batik’s signature characteristic.


Mata ni pachedi is a traditional art of painting the image of goddesses on a piece of cloth. The term mata ni pachedi originates from the Gujarati language, the team mata means ‘goddess’, ni means ‘ belongs to’ and pachedi means ‘ behind’. When people of the nomadic Vaghari community of Gujarat was banned from entering temples, they made their shrines with depictions of the Mother Goddess of different forms on to the cloth. The unique feature of this temple-hanging is the product layout of four to five pieces of Mata-ni-Pachedi erected to form a shrine for the Mother Goddess.

Traditional Mata Ni Pachedi is a rectangular piece of fabric used as a canopy in the place of the ceiling in a nomadic shrine, which houses the main mother goddess image at its center. The rectangular fabric is divided into seven to nine columns followed by a narrative format, which is made easier to interpret and impart the stories within the space created through layout work on the cloth. Maroon, red, black colors used, and the cotton material remains as the third color. Black is mainly used as the outlines for the icons and the motifs meant to repel malevolent spirits and intensify spiritual energy. White considered being the color of purity that contacts ancestral spirits and deities. Maroon (Red) color of blood (rakta) associated with the goddess and believed to possess the healing powers.


Phad painting was originated in the Bhilwara district of Rajasthan. Phad or par is the storytelling tradition of the Rajasthan, which is 400 years old. Phad is possibly derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Patt’. It is a large painting on khadi or canvass. A small version of phad painting is known as ‘phadhye’. These paintings have a particular style of representation filled with figures and pictorial incidents and form a kind of dramatic backdrop to epic storytelling performances. The theme of these paintings is the depiction of local deities and their stories.

The process of making the cloth ready for painting is an essential aspect of Phad painting. The cotton cloth is first stiffened with starch made of boiled flour and gum and then burnished with a special stone device called mohra. Mohrais a heavy stone that makes the fabric surface smooth. Traditionally phads are painted with vegetable colors and waterproof mineral colors. These colors remained fast and fresh for a long duration. Squirrel hairs used as a brush.

These are few of the Indian traditional painted and printed textiles made in different regions of India, and form an important part of our culture.

Leave a Reply