Dabu printing - Traditional printing practice of Rajasthan Dabu printing - Traditional printing practice of Rajasthan – RESHA

Dabu printing - Traditional printing practice of Rajasthan

Author - Divyashree Thacker

Hand printing a fabric in dabu technique from rajasthan

Dabu or daboo is an old mud resist hand block printing technique native to Rajasthan. The practice almost died out over the last century but was restored and is today a flourishing and very profitable business in many villages of Rajasthan. The fact that it is very labour intensive and involves several stages of printing and dyeing is visible in the end result which is very unique and beautiful.

Dabu printed fabrics display a subtle and uncommon beauty and depth which is appreciated around the world. 

It has captured the attention of modern day designers and is often used to decorate many Indian and Indo-western outfits and home decor items. The craft of hand block printing is an ancient one which is said to have started in China. Throughout the years it moved out to India, with the state of Rajasthan pioneering into the most productive producer of hand block printed fabrics. Mud resist printing is a special type of printing, the source of which can be followed back to around 675 A.D. Today it is recognized that the town of Akola, in the Chittorgarh region of Rajasthan, is the producer of the one of a kind Dabu printing style which utilizes mud resists.

Dabu printing is frequently assembled together with other Rajasthani hand crafted block prints like Sanganeri and Bagru, however in reality it has a very particular look and technique.

The designs are said to be fundamentally the same as 'Batik' however the methods used to deliver the two are very different. Earlier, Rajasthan province was densely populated with Dabu printing clusters, very few survived. One of the few that survived, is the Akola village, which thrives solely on the fabric demands of neighbouring villages. The village works in a self-sufficient system for Dabu printing.

Naturally dyed printed fabric

Conventional Dabu designs and motifs are fundamentally the same as the designs utilised as a part of all customary Rajasthani materials, since the 'blocks' utilised for printing are traditional to the majority of these procedures. They have a tendency to be nature motivated designs and motifs of plants, birds, blossoms, organic products and in addition aesthetic ethnic themes.

Dabu printing is basically a village handiwork, which is currently practiced in numerous provincial territories of Rajasthan.

For some, it has turned into a private company, with the more established older generations passing on the secrets and facts of the craft to their kin. These craftsmen tend to deliver the more traditional and classic assortments of prints which are clearly viewed as the most authentic. Then again, some new-age producers and experts are influencing a business to out of creating new Dabu printed textures.

Dabu printed fabric kept on floor Dabu printed saree drying in the sun

The procedure of Dabu printing is very complex, including numerous craftsmen and various stages of printing, washing and colouring. In the first place, the plain fabric derived from the factories is washed to expel any impurities which may interfere with the colouring procedure. At that point, designs are carefully and meticulously hand imprinted on to the texture utilising pieces which are immersed into fast dyes. The following and significant step includes the utilisation of the mud resist which makes this print so interesting.

Fixings like mud, gum, lime and waste wheat refuse are mixed to make the mud resist glue which is then imprinted over specific parts of the design.

The glue is dried with sawdust. This covering shields these parts of the fabric from the colour applied later on. After this procedure of printing, the texture is spread out in the sun where it totally dries out. It is then dunked into a vat of color, dried again lastly given an intensive washing to expel the glue and any overabundance color. The colours utilised are commonly characteristic vegetable colours and glues. In this way the unprotected parts of the texture get the shading while the Dabu secured portions stay plain.

The texture might be coloured more than once in various hues to give each piece of the design a different shade.

Today Dabu prints have become famous the world over, much loved for their exuberant and unique designs and colours. In particular, silk, crepe and georgette have become very popular amongst Dabu artists, mainly because they hold the designs and colours very well. However, absorbent and resilient cotton fabrics remain the most commonly used for Dabu printing.

While a majority of the block printers in Akola have extended their markets beyond the borders of Rajasthan, even internationally, a very small minority of three families continue to process the cotton, handprint the motifs and dye the colours according to the ritual needs of their loyal local clients.

Their craft speaks of skill and years of experience, as the craftsmen meticulously pattern the clothes.

The demand for Dabu textiles is on the wane with the young not willing to carry on the tradition and urban fashions changing needs of the clientele.