Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bandhani Sari – A Story of Rainbows and Dots

Warm red bandhani sari (Credit: can’t get over the saris that I bought from Jaipur a few weeks ago. One is a bandhini in ruby red, while the other is a leheriya in shades of rich Rajasthani red and warm sunshine yellow. Delicate, vibrant and exquisitely pretty, these bandhani and leheriya saris can be worn for a party, wedding or for just another day.

Bandhani work is a type of dyeing practiced mainly in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. It is also referred to as Bandhani art or Bandhani art work. The term “bandhani” derives its name from a Hindi word Bandhan which means tying up. As the name suggests, this technique involves two stages: tying sections of a length of cloth (silk or cotton) and then dunking it into vats of colour.

Every Bandhani saree goes through a rather difficult and time-consuming process. First the cloth is tied at several places. This is done by holding up a small part of the cloth and tying it up several times with a thread. It is done so that when the saree is dyed, the tied portion stays as before. A Bandhai saree is tied at around a hundred places. The tying up is done keeping in mind a design. The cloth is then dipped into dye for five to ten minutes. It is then taken out and dried. If more colors or an elaborate design is to be made, the saree is then tied again according to the design to be formed and then dipped into a different colored dye.

The main colours used in Bandhani are yellow, green, red, pink, and black. It is essentially a household craft supervised by the head of the family. The fabric is skillfully knotted by the women, while the portfolio of dyeing rests with the men. The women often grow a long nail on the little finger of the left hand, or wear a ring with a little blunt spike on it, with which they push the cloth upwards to form a tiny peak.

The Jaipur dyer rarely works with more than two dye baths while the additional colours are spot dyed, which makes the process much easier. Thereafter, the fabric opens out into amazing designs in kaleidoscopic colours: dots, circles, squares, waves and stripes.

The Bandhani work in Gujarat has been exclusively carried out by the women of the Muslim Khatri community of Kutchh. The Bandhani work in Gujarat has been exclusively carried out by Muslim Khatri Community of Kutchh. A meter long of cloth can have millions of tiny knots known as "Bheendi" in local language ("Kutchhi"). Traditionally, the final products can be classified into "Khombi", "Ghar Chola", "Patori", and "Chandrokhani".

The leheriya or the ripple effect is achieved by a variation of this technique. Lengths of permeable muslin are rolled diagonally from one corner to the opposite, bound tightly at intervals and then dyed. The ties are then undone and the process repeated by diagonally rolling the adjacent corner toward the opposite and repeating the process. Both Jaipur and Jodhpur are major centers of laheriya.

If you’re visiting Gujarat or Rajasthan anytime in the near future, then do pop into the handicraft shops there to pick up a few pieces of rainbow for yourself.

by Chandana Banerjee


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