Bagh printing which is also known as traditional block printing is a technique which is believed to be practiced for almost 400 years now, with the techniques being handed over from generation to generation. Bagh print was originated in Bagh village of Madhya Pradesh and is practiced by skilled artisans of Madhya Pradesh. This village is located on the banks of the river named “Bagh”. This is from where the technique was named after.
Bagh printing is made with hands by using natural and vegetable-based colours and then applied with a wood block. These wood blocks called Bilals are hand carved from teak or sheesham wood. Bilals (wood blocks) are an important tool used in this entire process. Superior quality of wood blocks is used for good prints. The Bagh printing process includes 3 steps which is Pre-printing, Printing and Post-Printing. Pre-printing includes the washing and pre-dyeing of fabric. Printing includes the application of colours and Post-printing includes fixing the dyes and applying the fabric finish.
Bagh printing has its roots in Sindh, which is now a part of Pakistan. Later it moved to Marawar (Rajasthan), later to Manavar (Madhya Pradesh) and then finally to Bagh village of Madhya Pradesh. The closeness of river Bagh in Madhya Pradesh made it easy for the artisans to wash the fabric and process the colours which is believed to be the major reason for the people practicing this print settle in Bagh. Ismail Sulemanji Khatri, an Indian craftsman, is known for his invention of Bagh Prints. Ismail Sulemanji Khatri was born in Manavar (Madhya Pradesh) in the year 1937. After moving from Manavar to Bagh village, he started Bagh printing in the year 1950.
After a decade; in 1960, introduction to the synthetic fabric had an adverse effect on Bagh printing. It became difficult to satisfy customers as the scope for synthetic fabric increased to a great extent. The scope for traditional organic cotton and print was decreased as the buyers started to seek variety of design and patterns in synthetic fabric. Sulemanji still continued to work on the traditional Bagh printing and tried to bring different designs and patterns in Bagh printing leading to attract more buyers. Sulemanji also received ‘Shilp Guru’ award in 2010 which is the highest award in Indian Craftmanship.
Sulemanji didn’t stop after getting awarded. He continued to bring different patterns and designs in saris and fabrics. With Sulemanji’s continued efforts in Bagh printing, he received lifetime achievement award for handicrafts in the year 2013.
Apart from constructing dress materials, Sulemanji brought many advancements to bedsheets and kept working on it for a long time. Later, he began to work on making an exclusive bedsheet with only geometrical blocks being used. For that, he travelled to Badoda and Dahod including a few other cities in a quest of geometric blocks. He finally collected enough blocks to make his dream-work ensue.
In 1984, Ismail Sulemanji Khatri received a National Award for creating an inimitable bedsheet in which he had used 1284 different geometric blocks with a fixed size of 2 inches by 2 inches. Taking the legacy forward, his five sons have also embraced the same field and gained national awards for their exclusive pieces of work.
Bagh prints are all time favourite in India because of its comfortable fabric. Bagh printing not just adorns cotton but also silk fabric, cotton-silk, tussar, maheshwari, chanderi, jute, chiffon and crepe. One can find a pool of Bagh printed stoles, sarees, dupattas, bed sheets, curtains, pillow covers, cushion covers, mats, table runners and rugs in the market reflecting the class and sophistication.