Indian handlooms offered us the most variety and we were soon engrossed in learning about the myriad ways in which various natural materials were used to create intrinsically beautiful prints.
One such printing process which amazed us was Dabu printing.
Even though Dabu printing has been around in India for decades, heck centuries, the allure of this style is gaining much prominence in this century though. The usage of Dabu printed materials to create stylish indo-western outfits, gorgeous maxi dresses, elegant jumpsuits and chic tops is gaining immense popularity. But did you know that Dabu printing uses mud to create those incredible patterns? Stunned? So were we…
THE ORIGIN OF DABU PRINTING:
This is how the story goes – Once upon a time, a Rangrej (a man who coloured clothes for a living), did not notice some mud clung to his dhoti on his trip back from the river banks. The next day, this dhoti with the mud was introduced to a vat of indigo along with his other clothes. Once the clothes dried, the Rangrej noticed the parts covered with the mud were not coloured indigo. Amazed, the Rangrej decided to experiment some more with this technique and thus discovered the Dabu printing technique.
This practice of Dabu printing is widely prevalent in Rajasthan and its origin can be traced to the 8th century. They were used extensively to create exquisite ghagras, worn by the womenfolk and were locally called Fetiya. Today, this style of printing has gained immense popularity and Dabu printed textiles are used to create a wide variety of western and indo-western clothing, especially to create stunning bohemian looks.
The Dabu mud is usually made from locally sourced black mud, mixed with calcium, limestone, gum and waste wheat chaff. This paste is then sieved through a net to remove any stones or minerals and finally the dhabu or mud paste is ready to use. Various blocks with deep grooves are then immersed into this paste and stamped onto the fabric. The printed fabric is now dried under the sun. Once dried, the fabrics are dipped into vats of indigo, which is the most common colour used, though other colours such as grey, yellow and red are also used. Once the fabric is dyed, they are washed to remove the mud and dried again to reveal the final beauty.
The process is a lengthy and labor-intensive, true, and there is no short-cut to it, but, the beauty of what is created by the hands of these artisans cannot be compared to anything made by a machine and it truly is an epitome of Indian heritage.