Updated: Apr 2, 2019
60 kms from Jodhpur , a small village buzzing with everyday life - Pipar is a goldmine for anyone in love with textiles, art , handicraft or mere colors. This little town of Pipar and family owned units, has become the focal point of textile majors. It would'nt be incorrect to call Pipar as one of the pillars of India's textile and handicraft. This is where I have come to discover Daboo mud resist printing .
What is often mistaken as block printing or even 'Bagru' is actually this hand art called ' Dabu'. Pipar, a little town tucked away in the state of Rajasthan is popular for the Dabu art. Daboo or mud resist printing is practiced by the traditional Chippa Khatri muslim community who have been actively participating and protecting this unique art form for the past 5 generations. Only a few families continue to devote themselves to this laborious, unique yet beautiful process.
My journey to this town began unescorted but not uninformed. A visit to a unit involved in the Daboo mud resist printing process can be overwhelming. Daboo manufacturing is Laborious , and requires tremendous patience and persistent hard work. No wonder any trip to the now famous Fabindia , Anokhi or a virtual trip to Thesecretlabel is not complete, without a contemporary take on this traditional art form.
I was escorted around the unit by its head . The business has prospered over the past few years with major orders and demands flowing in from national and international markets. He takes me through the process of Daboo/Dabu printing , that is not only interesting but also a visually breathtaking!
Dabu Mud resist printing or 'Dabu' printing is unique form of hand craft which involves hand block printing with a resist paste. This printing is done mostly on fabrics that are cotton, cotton with silk or pure silk. many new fabrics have made inroads as fashion grows and pushes the boundary on imagination, fabric tenacity and experimentation!
Block printing using natural dyes is time consuming and labour intensive. Tedious extraction of coloring components from raw material , low color value , long dyeing time pushes up the cost of dyeing .
Pre-Processing of the Fabric : The fabric is first dipped into water containing mixture of cow dung/ sheep dung for 24 hours to remove impurities. The fabric is then dried to make it more permeable. The second pre processing is treatment with Harad powder, which comes from a fruit of a tree . The tannin present in Harad reacts with metal salts of iron, aluminium etc to form colored metal tannate.
Blocks to print Dabu are distinctly different from other types of printing method. These have deeper grooves to enable for mud and wider lines. Blocks seen around this unit are manufactured in Ahmedabad. Some blocks are about 150 years old. Motifs on the block are traditional designs inspired by nature, animals , leaves or geometrical patterns. Many units have also started experimenting on new designs , patterns and motifs catering to the market demand.
Resist printing : The special resist paste is made by a mixture of clay, lime and gum. Dabu acts as a mechanical resist and prevents penetration of dye. The dug out mud from a pond is soaked in water overnight and mud resist is freshly prepared before every printing. Since this paste is thick and sticky, it is applied with wooden blocks on fabrics.
The mud is spread evenly when the block is dipped in a tray to make an even impression on fabric.
Saw dust in sprinkled on fabric once the block makes its impression. this avoids smudging and absorbs extra mud and water. this fabric is left to dry before soaking in indigo tanks.
The recipe of resist paste is a guarded secret and families have been following it for generations. Correct consistency with the right components is the key!
If the mud is runny , it will not hold on to the fabric till the final dyeing process is complete. This process is one of the central pieces of Dabu mud resist printing.
Preparation of Dye baths
Since the dyes used in Dabu are all natural and extracted from raw material, the extraction is a cumbersome process. It is wonderful to see how natural occurring materials are skillfully used to give colors. Here are few examples of elements used to color but not limited to the list
The color black : Black is formed from fermenting together rusted iron, horse shoe nails and jaggery and the mixture kept in earthen pots for 15-25 days . This process gives out black color bath which is used to color the cloth.
The color Red : The alum is dipped in water along with kattcha rang and tamarind seed powder.
The color Yellow : To achieve yellow , some flowers like Kesula or turmeric are used . Many other colors are extracted using naturally occurring substances such as flowers such as 'Dhavri' flowers
The extraction process and then making dye baths for several days is what sets daboo work apart from other types of dyeing technique practiced in India.
The Extraction and dyeing process
Indigo Dyeing : 'Indigofera tinctoria' gives blue color. 35-50 years old indigo pits were found in Pipad and that makes this city beyond just unique. it is the melting pot of creativity and hand craft!
According to the depth of color desired, specific Indigo vats are used. Making of indigo vats is a balance between Indigo, lime and jaggery. The printed cloth is folded with pleats and lowered gently into indigo tank.
The dyer gently opens up and ensures the dyeing is evenly spread out in the cloth with no patchy dyeing.
The fabric is then taken out of tank, squeezed and opened to react with oxygen for oxidation of colors. This gives indigo color. If the color needs to be darker, the cloth stays in the vats longer
The fabric is finally dried flat on the ground and care is taken that while the process is on, Dabu does not get broken or cracked.
Final washing : One last washing removes the dabu and dye superficially stuck on the fabric. This fabric is beaten on smooth surface under a flow of water to remove all the excess paste and dye. The fabric is then dried, ironed and folded for its final journey to a happy consumer.
Dabu mud resist printing is a much sought after hand art now. Since most printing is unique and units offer customization , designers love what they can produce through a mix of traditional and contemporary.
Two weeks after visiting Pipad, I am back to Delhi where the head of this unit is putting up a show in Aga Khan Hall of his fineries and many colors of this art.
Needless to say, the pricing in the market is at a premium - but let me just say, with an insight of the labor behind this art- its worth it! Pipar is conserving one of the most intricate and exquisite style of textile dyeing and printing .
To see more photographs from this textile tour visit here
As narrated by Navtej Singh