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Meet the Dyers of Tie and Dye

The Khatri community, found in Jamnagar, Wadhwan and Ahmedabad, remains the chief producer of tie and dye in the state of Gujarat. There is historical association between these producers and their consumers, both of whom are distinct social groups. The tradition of the Khatri's bandhani productions being largely purchased and worn by the Hindu Khumbar caste and the Sindhi Muslim community is ongoing. However, this tradition of craftsmanship is threatened by the inexpensive modern day technique of screen-printed tie and dye textiles. Though these products are of lesser quality in terms of fabric and the dyeing process, they are an affordable substitute for families without financial stability. The purchase of these substitute products is on the rise in Rajasthan, particularly in the Barmer district.

Fabric with ties in place draped over the shoulders of a craftsman of the Khatri community
Fabric with ties in place draped over the shoulders of a craftsman of the Khatri community

In 1965 the Indian government established the Kandla Special Economic Zone (KASEZ) in the Kutch region of Gujarat which supports and sustains craft traditions and its producers, including tie and dye. KASEZ is one of three Special Economic Zones (SEZs) established in Gujarat. The Indian tie and dye industry is slowly but surely re-gaining recognition for its traditional production methods.

The port in Kandla, Kutch region, Gujarat, now a globally dominant Special Economic Zone (SEZ)
The port in Kandla, Kutch region, Gujarat, now a globally dominant Special Economic Zone (SEZ)

Local markets frequented by tourists are shifting from the sale of traditional bandhani textiles to contemporary items that befit everyday use. For instance, in Barmer, the odhani, a woman’s headcovering that extends from the left waist and is draped over the head, can be recycled into mattress covers. Local production communities have realised this market and the tourists' desire for such products and bandhani mattress covers now account for a percentage of tourist sales. The ability of skilled craftsmen to produce tie and dye items in response to the changing market ensures the perpetuation of the textile art.

A bandhani trader at a bazaar in Jaipur, Rajasthan
A bandhani trader at a bazaar in Jaipur, Rajasthan

 

Images: D'source, Wikipedia, Retina Charmer Photography