The art of Indian block print textiles has survived and grown from ancient times to the present because of the beauty of the handmade products that are a result of labourious process. Dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization, cloth shreds found in the ruins of Mohenjo Daro, an ancient city are testament to the block printing practice being as old as the 3000 BCE. Under the aegis of the royalties, the art flourished in the 12th century. The 17th century saw a revitalization of the art. And still, here in the 21st century, block printing of fabric by hand is an art practiced by Indian artisans. Like most art forms that take birth in india, block printing has taken various forms in various parts of the country.
In Gujarat, this form of hand printing has been practiced by the Paithapur families. They make intricate blocks, and print their textiles using the mud resist-printing method. These prints are called Sodagiri (trader) prints. From Gujarat, the art of block printing spread to Rajasthan. Here colourful prints of birds, animals, human figures, gods and goddesses are popular. The important centres for this form of hand printing are Jaipur, Bangru, Sanganer, Pali and Barmer.
The block printing from Punjab is not as famous as its Rajasthani counterpart, but it is still note worthy. Their art was rooted on the art of Chhimba – a group of textile workers whose designs were mainly floral and geometrical in pattern. Today, traditional motifs and vegetable dyes have been replaced by chemical counterparts. The colours are muted and usually pastel. The motifs are usually mango patterns and peacocks.
In the eastern regions like the West Bengal, this art was introduced in the early times of the the twentieth century. As it was an art learnt over time, the Bengali block printing artists have grown on the conventional patterns and have also developed their own over time. In West Bengal, Serampur is the most popular centre of block printing. It is well-known for its bold and vibrant patterns.
In Andhra Pradesh, the block printing method is applied in the creation of the exquisite Kalamkari Painting. Kalam which means pen in hindi, is an artwork made using pen otherwise known as kalam in hindi. This art, beautifully combines hand painting and block printing and creates eye-catchy, appealing prints. This is unique to India amongst other things.
Block printed garments are unique in their aesthetic and traditional quality. The block printed material can be used to make a number of styles of clothing from boys kurta to tunics to women saris. Used widely in the area of fusion fashion, block printing is a definitely a traditional art that can fit modern trends.