My trip to Bagru, village famous for its indigo dyeing will be memorable not only because of the creative stint in Dabu and Bagru printing, but also because of the colorful impressions Bagru made on me.
‘Chiponka -Bagicha’ i.e. the lane of printers is the place you should be at if you want to see Dabu and Bagru printing first hand. Almost all households here are into this trade. On sunny mornings and afternoons, seeing several meters of indigo cloth hanging over the terrace walls is a common sight.
From sunrise to sunset, the community ground is abuzz with busy men and women drying lengths of fabrics in batches. Just couple of years back, around 40 families were involved in the trade, but at the time of my visit in 2016, the number had gone up to 200, thanks to the rising demand from local and international markets. We could just hope that, unlike any other fashion trend, which is short lived, natural and handmade becomes our way of life.
Around Chipa Bagicha, one can find an entire eco-system of washers, dyers and wooden block makers who are inevitable part of the whole process. Sight and sounds of fabrics being washed in open-air wash pens, and wooden logs being chiseled out into small blocks connect us with the human element of the handicrafts industry. Perhaps this human element adds the soul, turning a thing into a creation.
While traditionally natural dyes are used in Dabu and Bagru printing, chemical based bright red, yellow and blue fabrics being dried in the balconies are hard to miss. It's not just onto the fabrics but also in the water running open sewage lines highlighting the cost nature is paying for meeting the demand of cheap look alike versions of this rich art.
Markets full of synthetic clothes and Dabu and Bagru fabrics for sale for visitors made me sad and wonder if I was in a village that has made its mark on world map for its hand dyed fabrics. Perhaps it's well said, 'Kaalay Tasmai NamaH' i.e. time is the master of all!