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Tracing the trajectory of Bandhani tie and dye

Origin of Bandhani tie and dye

Tie dye art began during the sixth century in East Asia, in countries such as Japan and China. People would use natural pigments from flowers and fruits to get colour on clothing. In India too, the tie and dye style came to be known as Bandhani, which in Sanskrit translates to “to bind”. The result is a textural pattern obtained from binding the cloth in different manners to achieve a design. 

The earliest trace of Bandhani tie and dye is found during the Indus Valley Civilisation, but it is still popular and practised by many communities in Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. 

Image source: The Crafts Atlas 

It is well known in Ahmedabad, Kutch and Saurashtra states of Gujarat, where numerous types and styles of Bandhani tie and dye art are created. In these regions, it is often a family business where the women of these households experiment with new patterns. 

Several caves at Ajanta depict the life of Buddha using Bandhani dots made during the sixth century. Bandhani designs are also described in the written texts from the time of Alexander the Great. The first Bandhani saree was worn at the royal marriage ceremony of Bana Bhatt. 

Colours used in Bandhani tie and dye  

Image source: Colour Magazine

Bandhani designs were originally made with natural colours obtained from fruit and flower extracts. Nowadays, the commercialisation of tie dye art has led artists to incorporate artificially curated and store bought colours as well. Primarily, red, maroon, yellow, blue, green and black colours are used. 

Traditionally, Bandhani tie and dye demands dyeing the cloth by hand and creating unique colour schemes and patterns. Water plays an integral role in how the colour sticks to the cloth and how bright the final product looks. 

The utilisation of different colours in Bandhani art symbolises different occasions. For instance, major use of red brings good luck to a newlywed couple’s life, and light yellow conveys the recent delivery of a child in the family. 


Image source: Flextiles

What makes a Bandhani tie and dye creation unique is that no two cloths will look the same, each product is a new rendition of colour blending.

To start the process, the fabric is tied tightly using a strong string in various designs and patterns. Then, depending upon the imagined colour scheme, dyes are applied to the cloth in a random or thought out fashion. The part underneath the string does not absorb colour, it remains the same as that of the original cloth. Depending on the technique of tying the string, Bandhani art can be called Mothra, Shikari or even Ekdali. 

Bandhani tie and dye is based on open air drying, which means that the entire process depends upon seasonal changes. In the summers, the entire process from tying the string to having the fabric dried and ready, takes a total of 3 to 5 hours. Meanwhile, in the winter or monsoon season, it could take even a few days for the cloth to dry up. 

In the olden times, Bandhani sarees were only made with cotton. However, in the modern generation, with the pressing need for newer innovations, Bandhani experiments were done on more and more fabrics such as silk, georgette, viscose and other materials with percentages of cotton. 

Click here to read about Bandhani sarees. 

Modern take on tie and dye

Image source: The Design Cart

With globalisation taking over and giving rise to variations in each stream of art, Bandhani tie and dye too has fallen prey. We observe several adaptations to the original art form and techniques of Bandhani tie and dye. Since a few decades, it has become a fashion statement which continuously goes in and out of trend.   

The sales of Bandhani products increase dramatically during festive or wedding occasions, especially in the state of Gujarat. A majority of the market buying pieces of this artform is domestic, with the bulk still being in Saurashtra and Kutch. 

Try your hand at tie and dye 

Image source: Sarah Maker

Bandhani tie and dye is still prevalent in a lot of places today and has reached the level of a fashion statement. Several small businesses selling tie dye shirts, trousers and tank tops have emerged. The typical process follows a few necessary steps without which Bandhani art cannot be executed. 

Basic supplies include rubber bands, scissors, squirt bottles, buckets for dipping, soda ash and rubber gloves. 

Soak your cloth in a soda ash and warm water solution to ensure the cloth becomes more permeable and easily receptive to the colour dye. Let it soak for around 10 to 15 minutes. 

Remove the cloth from the solution, wring it off all water, twist it into any shape or form and tie it securely with rubber bands. 

Image source: The Design Cart

While dying your cloth, make sure to use the darker colours first, followed by the lighter ones to avoid smudging. Apply colour until it is a shade or two darker than what you imagine the final product, since the dye will run. 

Put it into a plastic bag or ziplock for a few hours to rest and soak in all the colours. After its rest time, cut the rubber bands and run it under warm water, gradually reducing its temperature. 

Rinse the cloth of all excess dye and let it dry up. Finally, wash the cloth one last time with cold water and there is your ready Bandhani product! 

Image source: Stockland 

In conclusion…

Bandhani tie and dye is deeply rooted in Indian artistic culture and heritage. Throughout the years it has witnessed some changes and variations in its techniques and processes, but the essence of the art is never lost! It has withstood the test of time and stands to be one of the biggest trends in the modern generation.  

To learn more about art forms, download the Rooftop app from Google Play or App Store to stay updated on our upcoming art events and workshops. Stay tuned to rooftop blogs and follow us on @rooftop_app

By Freya Bulsara 

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