Bandhani, one of the oldest known methods of tie-dyeing, is still widely practiced in western India today. The fabric is made by pinching very small portions of cloth and tying them by plucking the cloth with the fingernails into many tiny bindings that form a figurative design to form an intricate pattern of dots. The cloth is then placed into different dye vats to form bright and beautiful colors.
The term bandhani is derived from the Sanskrit word banda (“to tie”).
Bandhani is also known as Bandhej, Bandhni, Piliya, and Chungidi in Tamil as per the regional delicate. Leheria or leheriya derives from the word lahar, meaning wave is also another unique form of tie dye technique used in Rajasthan. Other tying techniques include Mothra, Ekdali and Shikari depending on the manner in which the cloth is tied.
The term `Bandhani` is derived from the word `Bandhan` that means tying up. The art of Bandhani is a highly skilled process. The technique involves dyeing a fabric which is tied tightly with a thread at several points, thus producing a variety of patterns like Chandrakala, Bavan Baug, Shikari etcetera; depending on the manner in which the cloth is tied. The main colours used in Bandhani are yellow, red, blue, green and black.
The main colours used in Bandhani are natural. As Bandhani is a tie and dye process, dying is done by hand and hence best colours and combinations are possible in Bandhanis.
The Bandhani work has been exclusively carried out by the Khatri community of Kutchh and Saurashtra. A meter length of cloth can have thousands of tiny knots known as ‘Bheendi’ in the local language (‘Gujarati’). These knots form a design once opened after dyeing in bright colours. Traditionally, the final products can be classified into ‘khombhi’, ‘Ghar Chola’, ‘Chandrakhani’, ‘Shikari’, ‘Chowkidaar’, ‘Ambadaal’ etc.
Bandhani work is also done in Rajasthan state but having different types of colours and designs than the Kutch and Saurashtra of Gujarat. In Bandhani, different colours convey different meanings. People believe that wearing Red brings good luck to a newly wed’s life.
Places in Rajasthan like Jaipur, Sikar, Bhilwara, Udaipur, Bikaner, Ajmer, and Jamnagar in Gurjarat are the well known centres producing odhnis, sarees and turbans in Bandhani. Different communities in Rajasthan have for ages followed the tradition on tying turbans with different patterns of bandhani on their heads. These were used to identify which community the person belonged to.
Earliest evidence of Bandhani dates back to Indus Valley Civilization suggests that dyeing was done as early as 4000 B.C. The earliest example of the most pervasive type of Bandhani dots can be seen in the 6th century paintings depicting the life of Buddha found on the wall of Cave I at Ajanta. This art finds its mentions in the Alexander the great time texts about the beautiful printed cottons of India. As per evidences in Historical Texts, the first Bandhani saree was worn at the time of Bana Bhatt`s Harshacharita in a royal marriage. It was believed that wearing a Bandhani saree can bring good future to a bride. Ajanta walls stand for the evidences of these Bandhani sarees.