Dabu printing is a method of mud resist handblock printing that has been practised for centuries by several communities in Rajasthan, especially Udaipur. The word ‘Dabu’ comes from the Hindi word ‘dabana’ which means ‘to press’, referring to the use of hand-carved blocks to imprint designs onto the fabric piece, thus creating unique patterns. The extensive process involves printing, washing and dyeing. The whole process is labour intensive.
First, the plain fabric from the mills is washed thoroughly to remove all impurities. It is then dyed with designs with the help of the handcrafted printing blocks. This is followed by the application of a ‘mud resist’ paste - made from mud, gum, lime, waste wheat chaff and water - onto certain portions of the fabric, which is then left to dry. The drying process is accelerated by sprinkling sawdust over the mud resist paste. Next, the fabric is dyed again in a different dye and the parts covered with the paste retain their original colour. The fabric is then washed to remove the paste and any excess dye. The final product yields a print layered with various colours and patterns.
The colours and motifs used for Dabu printing are essentially influenced by the surroundings of the craftsmen. Whether it is the bright sky or the distinctive terrain - these organic elements have found their way into the patterns made by Dabu printers. Some common motifs passed down through generations include kahma, lal titri, dholika and kantedar.
It is also essential to highlight the sustainable practices used in Dabu printing. The craftsmen use ingredients like black dye from the nearby ponds, bidhan or wheat powder as an adhesive for the paste, and lime water to prevent cracking of the clay. All these materials contribute to a more conscious and eco-friendly art form.
Luckily, there were a few communities who were able to survive the period of industrialisation, and continued to keep the craft alive. To their credit, the craft survived for us to appreciate. It has been supported and sustained by various driving forces. One such force is Aavaran, an organisation based in Udaipur, Rajasthan, which aims at upholding rural indigenous communities and preserving their traditional craft.
Aavaran has created a unique opportunity and workspace for Dabu artisans. Aavaran attempts to enable rural, indigenous artisan communities become economically self-reliant as well as ensure the sustainability of traditional craft techniques and skills that they practice. The organisation along with the artisan’s community have created a very interesting range of products – bags, pouches, clutches and jutis. They have gone beyond the traditional mud-resist sarees and created lines of tops, tunics, stoles and dupattas as well.
Image Credits- Aavaran
To know more about Aavaran and their work, log on to their website- http://www.aavaranudaipur.com/home