Alizarin, Madder, Parijaat, Natural Dye, Bagh Print, Ajrakh, Puru Print, Hand block print, Dabu

Tuesday 3 May 2022

Lodhra : A Forgotten Ancient Plant Mordant - 01


 "Lodhra" (लोध्र) is a tree mentioned in Atharvved and Ayurved for its high medicinal value and use in dyeing textiles. Indian system of natural dye derived from the Vedas and Ayurved it is obvious that all the natural dyes of Indian origin whether it is extracting from plant, mineral or animal sources having some medicinal value.

With reference to the Atharvved and Kautilya's "Arthshastra" and other available literature; Lodhra was extensively used in natural herbal dyeing to get the light yellow shade and to get the true shade of natural dyes when it is used as "रंगबंधा" (Colour binder) or mordant. 

Lodhra leaves 

Lodhra Bark

Modern chemistry and researches done recently reveal that the lodhra tree has a unique property to absorb the aluminum content naturally from the soil and deposited it in its bark and leaves. 

It is one of the most ancient plant mordant and one of the most essential ingredient to get the deep Indian red and maroon color shade in textile dyeing with manjishtha roots and lac used in the past. Lodhra as natural mordant and manjishtha (Rubia cordifolia) or Indian madder is considered as one of the classic combination in natural dyes. 

In Indian textile tradition use of Lodhra as natural mordant is almost extinct today. Only person we came to across during our search who knows the use of Lodhra as a plant mordant was used in traditional textile is Shri Rahul Salvi. Rahul Salviji is the 28th heir and torch bearer of continuous tradition of Patan Patola weaving in Patan, Gujarat. He shared the information that his late grand father was using Lodhra bark in dyeing threads as a mordant. 

Different Names in Different Languages

Lodhra is a Sanskrit name, in Hindi it is known as "Lodh", in Kannda "Pachettu", in Malyalam "Pachotti", in English "Lodh tree" and in scienece it belongs to the Symplocaceae family and the most common variety of Lodhra is Symplocos Racemosa. In Bali and Indonesia it is known as "Loba" tree.

Lodhra in a Living Textile Dyeing Tradition 

After the discovery of use of alum (Aluminum sulphate) as a mordant in natural dyeing some 2000 years ago use of lodhra started decreasing. Bebali foundation working extensively in Bali & Indonesia with the traditional tribal weavers promoting the only living textile tradition where Lodhra is still used as a natural plant mordant to dye the threads. 

Documentation of Bebali foundation mentioned that weavers of Bali and Indonesia learnt the technique of dyeing and mordanting using plant mordant Lodhra from Indian tradesmen some 2000 years ago when there was a trade link in between the India and Indonesia. Here Lodhra is known as "Loba tree" shows the close cultural connection in between the two. 

In Bali and Indonesia a different species of Lodhra known as "Symplocos Cochinchinensis" is used as a natural plant mordant yarns before dyeing it with different natural dyes.

Revival Step in India 

India was known for use of Lodhra as a mordant in natural herbal dyeing processes. To recreate the ancient magic of Lodhra again; a step has taken to dye threads, plain fabrics and comparatively modern technique of ecoprinting. 

Apart from this an exploration and experimentation is going on to use this ancient mordant in traditional block printing and hand painting techniques. 

Handloom Cotton tie dyed with Manjishtha roots & pomegranate peel using Lodhra Leaves

Handloom Tussar Silk Saree dyed with Manjishtha using Lodhra bark

Mulberry Silk Threads Dyed with Madder TCR using Lodhra Bark

Ecoprint Mulberry Silk Saree Mordanted with Lodhra

Use in Ayurveda

Lodhra or symplocos is one of the most important herb used extensively in Ayurveda system. It is used to stop bleeding, use in purification of blood, use in balancing the problem of "Kapha" & "Pitta" doshas in the body. 
It is good for eyes, used in treating various health related problems of women, bleeding disorders, diarrhea and fever. 
In some tradition equal amount of manjishtha roots powder and symplocos bark powder mix together to use it as a scrub. 


2. Natural dyeing processes of India by B.C. Mohanty et al and published by Calico museum
3. Primary Research

Thursday 24 June 2021

Vrathapani: Tree of Salvation

Essence of Vrathapani & Concept 

Story telling is the true essence of Vrathapani art today known as Kalamkari, Keeping this in mind we have showcased the "Tree of Life" which is a "Tree of Salvation" actually based on Mundaka Upnishad.

Upnishads are the doctrine of immense research and experience about the truth of life & Universe discovered by Rishis of ancient India.

Concept of Tree of Salvation

In Mundaka Upnishad the concept of "Karma" related with Jeev (Both man and woman) and Brahm (Ishvar/Supreme consciousness) depicted as two birds sitting on the tree of life.

The jeev is depicted as bird enjoying eating sweet fruits is experiencing the Karma. He/she is bound with the good and the bad results of the action done. The Brahm is depicted as bird sitting calm and seeing other bird eating I.e. jeeva eating fruits. Brahm is not attached or bound with the Karm or action. Seeing everything as "Sakshibhav" (Silently witnessing) as a supreme being.

When bird eating fruits understand and feel the pure consciousness while deattached itself with all Karma (Fruits of action) lives in pure bliss. He/she not get affected with the sorrow or happiness in the world just feel the pure bliss better known as "Sat chit anand".

Vrathapani: An ancient Indian Temple Art Becomes Wearable Craft

 Vrathapani: A Craft Jewel of India

A temple tradition of having more than 3000 years old history of narrating history and religious stories through hand drawing and painting on clothes become wall hanging in the temples. These wall hangings were created to guide and generate interest about history for the coming generations through visuals.

Vrathapani literally means writing work becomes Kalamkari when influenced by the Persian King reign, when they usurped the Golkunda region during 14th - 15h century. Kalamkari is a Persian word, kalam means "Pen" and Kari means "Artwork".
This beautiful hand work is a classic example of richness of living Indian handcrafted textile continued by traditional craftsman and artists.


This craft cum art goes through a tedious process of 18 steps to get final product ready. (Detailed process will discuss in another blog.


Motif or design used in Vrathapani are inspired from epic like "Mahabharat" & :"Ramayan" and other ancient scriptures of India. So various stories inspired from the life of God and Rishis are drawn in this art.

Few of the concepts like "Ardhanarishwar", "Rampattabhishekam", "ShivDarbar", "KrishnLeela" and many others used in wall hanging and Saree pallu mainly. Today motif inspired from nature, birds and rural life also used.

Ram Darbar (Court of king ShriRam)

Floral Design

Past & Present

It's a complete hand drawn and hand painted work. A bamboo pen is used to draw outline and Hand painted using brush with different colors. In past 100% Natural dyed were used today it's a combination of both natural and synthetic dyes are used in the process.

In past mainly incidents related to epic, history and religious texts were drawn. Today various new concepts are used to draw by the artists. In past it was a temple art but today it is converted into wearable craft.

In last but not the least when temple patronized art was on the verge of extinction due to lack of funds with temples unable to support these artists, late Smt. Kamladevi Chatopadhyay came to rescue this temple art. She explored the possibility of this dying temple art to convert it into wearable craft to sustain and reach to the more people. With her efforts we see today Vrathapani is a living textile with few changes in its process and target audience.

Thursday 3 October 2019

Bagh & Bagru Print: Similar process but different traditions

Traditional Process of Syahi -Begar (Alizarin) Printing 

1. Purchase of kora/unbleached fabric

2. Scouring (Cleaning of fabrics locally known as “HariTarana” and soak for 24 hours)

3. Yellow dying in Harda(fruit of myrobalan plant) solutionto make fabric off-white. (Prepare fabric for printing locally called “PeelaKarna” or HardaRangai)

4. Printing (Block printed with alum and iron rust mixed with tamarind seed powder paste which is locally called “Chapai”)

5. Drying of printed fabric locally called “Sukhai

6. Washing to remove the excess color locally called “Khulai” or "Vichalai"

7. Dyeing or fixing of colors after washing, locally known as “GhanRangai”. In this process printed fabric is dyed with synthetic alizarin to get red color in place of alum printing and black color get fixed. Previously madder roots or al (morinda tinctoria) roots were used in dyeing. 

8. Bleaching of fabric locally known as "Tapai". Previously it was done near river by pouring water on the fabric under sunlight but now a days ready made bleaching powder is used to remove the stains on the dyed fabric.

9. Fabric ready. If required it is again dyed with different synthetic dyes or natural dyes to get different color backgrounds. 

 Difference between Bagh & Bagru Print

Whenever we think of red and black block printing people think about either Bagh or Bagru print but unable to differentiate in between the two. Most of the times craft lovers even consider both are same but in actual both are different and having its own specialty, tradition and beauty. It is very important to keep the differentiation in mind to keep the sanctity of craft tradition.

Apart from similar red and black printing there are few similarities and many simple and technical differences in craft approach, community and motif. Before sharing differences there are few similarities in between two craft are:

Similarities in Bagh & Bagru Print

Printing style
Both are alizarin block printing technique (Combination of red & black printing).
Both the techniques protected under Geographical Indication act.
Almost similar process of washing, printing and dyeing.

These are the similarities in between Bagh and Bagru print then what are differences?

Differences in between Bagh print and Bagru print

Points of difference
Bagh print
Bagru print
Traditional Motif/Pattern
Buta and jaal pattern
Very small buti pattern
Madhya Pradesh
Printing colors (Traditional)
Red, black, Further developed 2 more colors shades by printing black on white background i.e. Ochre & Golden yellow
Red & black. Now a days pigment colors also used in printing.
Generally bleached white background after printing and dyeing. Sometimes over dye with synthetic dyes.
Off white or cream background.
Muslim Khatri
Hindu Namdev Chippa
All the washing done in flowing river
Washing done in pond
Red color
Vibrant red maroon color comes out with alizarin due to rich copper content in the river.
Orangish red shade is the identity of Bagru.

Present Scenario

Today there is no difference of motif and pattern left due to continuous interaction between the two places. Same block makers are making wooden blocks for the printers of both places. But both the traditions are protected by geographical indication need to be identified and marketed in their respective names. 

Whatever printed in Bagh following the traditional process known as Bagh print and whatever printed in Bagru following the traditional process known as Bagru print. 

Peela karna (Myrobalan dyeing process) in Bagh Village

Black Kachuka (Ferrous sulphate +jaggery mixed with tamarind seed paste)

Red Kachuka (Alum mixed with Tamarind seed powder paste)

Vichalai process in Bagh (Post printing washing) 

 Usman Khati (Bagh Print)

Traditional Bagh Print Saree

 Traditional Small Buti  (Bagru Print)

A printer in Bagru 

Traditional Pharad Print 1st printing is done 

Bagru Print Saree

Lodhra : A Forgotten Ancient Plant Mordant - 01

Introduction  " Lodhra " (लोध्र) is a tree mentioned in Atharvved and Ayurved for its high medicinal value and use in dyeing texti...