Origin: The roots of Bagh craft are buried in Larkana in Sindh (now a part of Pakistan). From here the Muslim Khatri community of Bagh artisans migrated to Marwad (Rajasthan and later to Manawar (Madhya Pradesh). In 1962, they shifted from Manawar to Bagh.
An eminent artists Ismail Khatri migrated with his cluster to Bagh Village in 1960. The caravan of this artistic community included the treasured historic art form of the block printing. Here they innovated their designs to be in sync with local trends and regional practices. These talented block printers settled on the banks of Bagh River giving their technique the title Bagh printing.
Bagh print fabric is adorned with geometric and floral designs made with vegetable hues of red and black over a white background.
Ismail Khatri, prominent craftsman, is the man behind the metamorphosis of Bagh printing. 80% of the tribal people of this region were using technique in its most basic form. Unfortunately, during this time a large percentage of Bagh printers adopted synthetic fabrics. Only few such as Ismail Khatri refused to do so. He continued to use traditional 200 to 300 years old blocks. These blocks lend designs that were a reflection of 1,500 year old cave paintings.
Initially artisans used this technique to make clothes for caste groups residing in the tribal region. As different castes had different dresses. Their clothes also had an identification tag such for the tribal Bhil and Bhilala community.
The earliest evidence of block printing dates back to Alexander the Great, where India’s ‘beautiful printed cotton is mentioned.
Present Day: The legacy of this craft has been kept alive by the award winning family of Ismail Suleimanji Khatri. The talented Sulemanji Khatri instilled life back into the rustic Bagh craft by transforming it into different prints. Ismail Suleimanji Khatri and his wife Hajjanni Jetun Bi are both won National Awardee. Hajjanni Jetun Bi tutors many women in Bagh printing.
Bagh Prints is listed as a geographically tagged and is protected under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act (GI Act) 1999 of the Government of India.
In 2011, this craft reached pinnacle when it was used in a tableau theme of the Madhya Pradesh state at the Republic Day parade. An 11th century, Shal Bhanjika was fixed on the tableau.
Today, these designs find expression in Shalwar kameez, covers for cushion and tables, block printed silk saree, tusser silk, silk stoll, scarf etc.
Procedure: This technique works its magic only on cotton and silk cloth. This material is then treated with a cocktail of corroded iron fillings, alum and Alizarin. Skilled artisans sketch designs. Once the printing process wraps up, the fabric is washed repeatedly in river and then it’s soaked in the sun.
These days a large number of fabric such as cotton, Maheshwari, Kosa silk, bamboo chicks, cotton rugs, chiffon, crepe, georgette tissue, and mulberry silk etc are decorated using Bagh printing.
The blocks are purchased from Pethapur, Gandhinagar and Jaipur. Other raw materials required are raw salt, castor oil, grounded excreta of goat, alum, iron sulphate, jaggery, pomegranate skin, and indigo leaves, lime, Sajji, leaves of Dhavdi, mengni, iron sulphate, tamarind seed powder, dhavdakaphool (flower) for polishing and fixing, and alizarine (non-red dyes) to fix colours.
Bring Home Bagh Printing of Madhya Pradesh: Most of the craft shops in Madhya Pradesh are sparkling with these products.