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A Prelude to Indian Batik

The word ‘batik’ is derived from the Indonesian word ambatik, which can be translated to ‘wax writing’. Batik is a 2000 year old art form predominantly practised in Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan and India. Batik is an ancient form of handloom and fabric painting in which the fabric is printed with wax resist before being dyed. Batik was once considered a sign of sophistication and cultivation, owing to its striking yet delicate motifs that include flowers and birds. Batik print encompasses a three dimensional feature with depth and texture.

Traditional Indian batik art
Traditional Indian batik art

Batik is a time consuming and meticulous technique of decorating fabric by hand. The fabric first goes through a wax resist application process before being dyed. The fabric then undergoes a de-waxing process wherein the wax is carefully cracked to reveal the contrasting colours of the design. Batik’s signature characteristic is the effect created by the wax cracking on the fabric. There are three methods of batik printing: the splash method, screen printing method and hand painting method with the use of a Tjanting pen or Kalamkari pen.

As designs are drawn on the fabric rather than being woven with thread, batik allows for artistic freedom. This ensures each and every product of batik is truly one of a kind, ingrained with the unique artistic style of the artisan. Batik printed fabric is known for its longevity and is often passed down as a family heirloom.

Indian batik produced by means of the splash method   Indian batik produced using the screen printing method
L: Indian batik produced by means of the splash method
R: Indian batik produced using the screen printing method

Traditional Indian hand painted batik produced with the use of a Kalamkari pen
Traditional Indian hand painted batik produced with the use of a Kalamkari pen

Today, traditional and contemporary batik are equally adored by both the East and the West. Batik prints can be found on traditional items such as sarees, dupattas and wall hangings, and on contemporary products, including dresses, bags, accessories and home furnishing.

Modern-day batik printed dupatta produced using the traditional techniques of batik   Contemporary batik prints and colours adorn a modern-day women's bag
L: Modern-day batik printed dupatta produced using the traditional techniques of batik
R: Contemporary batik prints and colours adorn a modern-day women's bag

Today, Mundra and Mandvi in Gujarat’s Kutch district are the main centres of batik production. Shantiniketan in West Bengal is the art hub for batik. The ancient craft of batik is preserved at Visva-Bharati University in West Bengal, an institution founded by the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Two-year certificate courses in batik impart students with an in-depth comprehension of the production and history of Indian batik. Cholamandal Artists’ Village, which was established in 1966, is India’s largest artists’ commune and another centre for batik, situated in Injambakkam, Tamil Nadu. Batik is also prominent in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.

The administrative of Visva-Bharati University in West Bengal, one of Rabindranath Tagore's main creations
The administrative of Visva-Bharati University in West Bengal, one of Rabindranath Tagore's main creations

 

Images: Charan Creations, Gangasagar, Artfire, My Indian Culture, Craftsvilla, Pinterest, Panaramio