3. History

The history of Bandhani or tie and dye can be dated back to pre-historic times, as countless dyers through the ages have experimented with the use of bindings to create patterns on cloth immersed in vats of dye. Different types of tie and dyes have been practiced in India, Japan, and Africa for centuries. Tie-dye became fully developed in China during the T’ang dynasty (618-906 A.D.) and in Japan during the Nara period (552-794 A.D.). The availability of silk and hemp, which are very useful to the resist technique, made these countries’ art outstanding. Some early tribes in Western China, South East Asia, and Central America tied and dyed the threads before weaving their cloth. When it was woven into material, beautiful designs appeared where the white lines of the tie contrasted with the color dyes. This method is known as Ikat (from Orissa).

The name bandhani derives from the Sanskrit words bandhana and bandha meaning ‘to tie’. It is from this word that the English named bandanna for the spotted handkerchief came from when traded to Europe from India.

Bandhani’s presumed origin dates right back to the Indus Valley Civilization. The mordant dyeing equipment found at the famous Indus site of Mohendjodaro suggests these dyeing and printing methods could have been in practice this far back. This is further suggested by the stone statue of a Brahmin priest wearing a patterned scarf, which some believe could have been printed. However, more accurate evidence of the practice of bandhani in ancient times is the Buddhist murals at the Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra depicting female figures wearing bodices with spotted pattern and ikat skirts. Amongst the textile fragments unearthed at the medieval site of Fostat, near Cairo, which included block-printed fabrics from Gujarat, were block-printed patterns imitating tie-dye. Imitated bandhani printed patterns are still widely block printed and screen printed today.

Painting of a lady wearing Bandhani blouse (Ajanta Caves)

It is an ancient art practice that is mainly used in the state of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Places like JaipurUdaipurBikanerAjmer and Jamnagar are the well known centers producing odhnis, sarees and turbans in Bandhani. The craft is practiced by Khatris in Kutch, in Bhuj, Abdasa Taluka, Anjar and Mandvi. Saurashtra in Southern Gujarat has larger bandhani workshops in Jamnagar, Porbandar, Morvi, Rajkot and Wadwhan near Surendranagar.

It has an intimate link with social and religious customs of the different sections of the society and has evolved over the centuries. Some 5000 years ago Indian Bandhani, a traditional form of tie-dyeing was started. The craft was not practised on cotton as it was first used in India almost 3000 years back. Other forms of tie-dye can be found in other countries around the world. The Indian tie-dye technique called Bandhani is also known as Bandhej. Various other styles of tie-dye have emerged in the different nations of Africa and Japan. The Malay-Indonesian name for this technique is Plangi.

In the early days dyes were extracted from roots, flowers, leaves, and berries. The extracts include blackberries, lichen, safflower, marigold, onion, red cabbage, sage, and indigo. In recent times synthetic dyes are being developed that are permanent, quick-setting, safe, easy to use, and are ensured by accurate formulas. Natural fibres are still the best option for tie-dyeing. Silks from China, Cottons from Egypt, and Rayon from Bali are highly prized material for this purpose. Silks Hemp has always been used as a durable and dye able natural fabric.

The art of using bandhani includes using of a meter length of cloth with millions of tiny knots. The final products are known with various names like Khombi, Ghar Chola, Patori and also Chandrokhani etc.


In Japan from 1568 to 1603, Tsujigahana reached its height. This is an art combining tie-dye with ornamental drawing using Chinese ink called Sumi. Tie-dye is the entire design, or it can be used to create large areas where flowers, landscapes, and trees are drawn into the designs. Traditional dye shops developed new methods, such as Shibori for making elegant silk robes. In 1960’s Tie-dye is revived to its original form. Tie-dyed sheets were used as room dividers and wall hangings. Silk and cotton banners were used as backdrops for rock and roll concerts.

During 1980’s the re-emergence of tie-dyeing style required highly skilled, difficult and labour intensive art form. As a result many different colours can be put on a single item to get intricate detailed designs in brilliant colours. The easily removable dyes are now replaced by dyes that are permanent and easier to use. Pastels can be used for conservative designs. The modern technique of simultaneously applying different colours of dye directly to cotton became possible with the development of cold water fibre reactive dyes.


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