In Kachchh, tie and dye craft is known as “Bandhani.” Bandhani dates back to the Bandhani 12th century, and came to Kachchh when members of the Khatri community migrated from Sindh. Bandhani tie and dye became a staple local source of income with the export of bandhani bandannas to Europe via the English East India Company in the 18th century. Much like the local block printers, bandhani artisans used local, natural resources like madder and pomegranate to dye their cloth in a brilliant range of hues. The technique of tightly winding a thread around a section of cloth, dyeing it, and then removing the thread to reveal a circular resist motif has remained the same since bandhani was first practiced.
Tie and dye woollen shawls
After the 1956 earthquake of Kachchh, the introduction of chemical dyes drastically altered the craft. Chemical dyes were cheap and affordable in a time of economic crisis, and the upsurge in their popularity all but erased the original knowledge of using vegetable dyes.
Dyeing at a workshop in Nakatrana, West Kachchh | Bandhani shawls dyed in chemical colors
Bandhani has long been culturally important to Kachchhi communities.The most revered type of bandhani is the gharcholu, which is the traditional wedding odhani of Gujarati Hindu and Jain brides. The chandrokhani is worn by Muslim brides.
Today, the Khatri community is the main producer of Bandhani in Gujarat, maintaining a mastery of the craft that has lasted for generations. Khatris in Kachchh are usually Hindu or Muslim. The demand for intricate designs featuring Bandhani is high, and the newest patterns can feature as many as one lakh ties (dots). Bandhani is used for daily attire and for auspicious occasions, like births, weddings, and goddess temple pilgrimage.
Khatris are making new versions of Bandhani to fit the demands of modern and more international clientele. They experiment with the size, shape, and placement of each dot on the cloth to offer a whole new range of products. Their patterns reflect an artistic sentiment to explore and play, creating new motifs with an innovative spirit.
Sustaining Tie and Dye
Seeing the need to control the use of chemical dyes in Kachchh so that lasting ecological damage was not done to the environment, water, and people of local communities, Khamir began initiatives to popularize and teach the value of natural dyes, making natural dyestuffs more accessible to modern artisans. Khamir has conducted workshops and trainings with Bandhani artisans in order to expose them to more sustainable practices.