Gujarat has been one of the India’s major textile producers since very early times. The technique of Bandhani have been brought to Gujarat by craftsmen from Sind, perhaps in 16th century. Nowhere in India has Bandhani reached such heights of technique and designs in Gujarat. The satin weave known as Gajji which was used for the expensive Bandhani textiles up to the 20th century gives a richness to the finely worked designs which is characteristic of Gujarati tie-dyed skills.
GHARCHOLU CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE-
There are various Bandhani textiles from Gujarat. One of them is Gharcholu. Gharcholu is a traditional odhani for Gujarati Hindu brides, which is nowadays available as a Sari worn on auspicious occasions. The Gharcholu is given to a girl by her husband to be at the time of their marriage which she drapes over her head and is entirely covered by it during the ceremony. As the couple performs the ritual walk around the sacred fire, the Gharcholu is tied to the man’s shoulder cloth, symbolically linking them for life. The Gharcholu fabric is always in the auspicious red color associated with weddings and marital happiness with tie-dyed design in white and yellow dots. It is also called Kasumbo, a term derived from kasum, or red dye.
The Gajji silk saris would be worn by middle class ladies and well off ladies of the Mahajan commercial communities on special occasions and cotton ones for day to day use. Both of them usually had similar designs.
Parsi population of Bombay also used tie dyed products mostly made in Surat, with women favoring very dark silk saris with Bandhani designs. The Parsis originally came from the province of Fars in Iran, where Zoroastrians in the city of Yazd also used tie dyed cloths.
A type of silk Bandhani that does carry a traditional significance in Hindu society is the veera bhet bhat (brother gift pattern) which was given by a brother to his sister at the festival of raksha bandhan, at the full moon of the month of Sravan (July/August). This pattern of red trellis on a green ground combines the auspicious color red with the green usually associated with textiles that are gifts rather than those used in ritual.
Today Jamnagar Is most renowned as a dyeing center of but only a small number of people are now skilled in tying the cloth. Much more tying, especially of the more intricate designs is done in Kutch, and then sent to Jamnagar for marketing. Villages all over Kutch are involved in tying fabrics, a poorly paid and laborious job usually done by women.
The Khatri community
The main protagonists of the Bandhani industry in Gujarat are the Khatri Community, who have maintained a virtual monopoly on textile production since medieval times. Khatri’s may either be Muslim or Hindu, although the latter have adopted the name ‘Brahmakshatriya’, as they claim the higher status of the warrior caste. They maintain a tradition that they took up lowly occupation such as weaving only to escape the vengeance of Parashurama, the sixth avatar of Vishnu the defender of Brahmas against the Kshatriya.
They have a traditional connection with the Khatris of Punjab, and their folk history maintains that they came to Gujarat from the Punjab in 15th century. The Khatri muslims live all over Kutch, and are traditionally believed to be migrated from Sind; they also settled in Jamnagar to facilitate their Bandhani trade. These two Khatri communities had so fast a hold on the tie-dying industry that fine could be imposed on any outsider who attempted to set up in competition.
The tie-dyed silk textiles worn by the Khatri muslims themselves are distinctive and different in several ways from those worn by other communities. One amongst them is Chandrokhani.
The Chandrokhani is worn by the bridegroom when he comes to his bride’s house prior to the wedding. The bride wears it as a part of her wedding outfit, especially when she first goes to her new home. She continues to wear it until the ceremony called satara takes place 7 days post wedding.
The HARIJANS (formerly Untouchables) of northern Kutch have had considerable contact with the Muslim Communities, who do not regard them as inferiors as the Hindu do. So they have adopted several types of textiles used by muslims, including tie-dyed Bandhani skirts and odhanis.