Carried out by a huge skilled workforce in the town of Bagh in Madhya Pradesh, Bagh printing is an art wholly done manually, involving several meticulous processes of repeated washing, dyeing, and printing.
Deriving its name from a far-flung village Bagh in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, Bagh prints are one of the most perennial crafts of our country.
The early traces of Bagh Print were found by the Ajrak Printers on their expedition from Sindh to Manawar, where they discovered the river ‘Baghini, streaming through the lands of Manavar that was rich in copper content. This copper content was an unidentified reserve that could be massively used for achieving superior colour quality for naturally dying fabric. Hence originally the Bagh Print was either red or black in colour.
The printers laid the foundation of Bagh in 1962 and since then the journey has magnificently evolved. A craft that was started as an experiment, today holds great importance in the fashion realm.
Bagh printing is attained by wooden blocks that are carved into motifs that represent flora such as Jasmine, Mango, Mushroom and other crafts as well. Some prints are also inspired by ‘Jaali’ (net) work inspired from the embellishments in Taj Mahal and other Indian forts. Some designs are also drawn from the landscapes and geometrical figures. The motifs used evoke various emotions in the serenity of the prints and that is the best element of Bagh prints. These are the local names of some of the motifs used in Bagh Printings- Nandana-Mango, Tendu–a specific plant, Mung ki Phali– Bean, Leheria, Jowaria, Phool, Boota, etc.
The process of Bagh printing and fabric treatment is a multi-layered process that includes various steps like colour treatment, fabric soaking, boiling, drying, washing and printing. And these steps are repeated depending on the number of colours to be used on the fabric.
The process starts off with soaking the fabric in raw salt, hot water and goat dung. The slight yellow colour is derived in this stage. After this, the fabric is washed, spread out, and dried in the open. The typical Bagh red colour is extracted by soaking and boiling tamarind seeds and alum (Phitkari) in a huge copper vessel. The immediate colour obtained is rich fuchsia pink. Like these various other methods can also be adopted for getting different shades and colours.
Once the fabric is washed thoroughly for removing the impurities from the preliminary treatment, then the meticulous and symmetric process of printing the fabric begins. The blocks used by artists for printing are obtained majorly from Pethapur in Gujarat, thus underscoring the relevance of regional trade that forms the basis of livelihoods to this native industry.
There is a high demand for Bagh print fabrics in urban markets and among tourists. Thus, advancement of indigenous skills and talents of artists is therefore important. The district and government administrations have extended support to groups native to Bagh under various schemes such as Swarnajayanti Grameen Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY).
Also, an initiative is taken by the Ministry of MSME for Regeneration of Traditional Industries. The scheme aims at organizing the traditional industries and artisans into clusters so that they can be provided with adequate support which will eventually help them in achieving sustainability for a longer period. And for being sustainable they are taught to be more competitive. Technical and Development programmes are organised for professional grooming of the artisans. The training is not just for the production phase, rather clusters get training for enhancing the marketability of products also.