The word batik is Javanese in origin. It may either come from the Javanese word amba (‘to write’) and titik (‘dot’), or may derive from a hypothetical Proto-Austronesian root *beCík (‘to tattoo’). The word is first recorded in English in the Encyclopædia Britannica of 1880, in which it is spelled battik.
Batik craft came from the Coromandel Coast to South East Asia and revived in Shantiniketan, near Calcutta, and has now gone all over the country and is practiced everywhere. Wax is used as a resist on the parts of the fabric which are dyed different from the base color which is usually dyed in a dark color. Wax resist dyeing of fabric is an ancient art form. The applied wax resists dyes and therefore allows the artisan to colour selectively by soaking the cloth in one colour, removing the wax with boiling water, and repeating if multiple colours as desired.
Batik fabric is washed in boiling water so as to remove the wax from batik fabric and then it is again washed with soap after all the colors have been absorbed. The color seeps through the cracks in the irregular network of the breaking wax-coat. The removal of the wax and the irregular network forms a unique design to give the fabric a beautiful appearance.
Firstly, a cloth is washed, soaked and beaten with a large mallet. Patterns are drawn with pencil and later redrawn using hot wax, usually made from a mixture of paraffin or bees wax, sometimes mixed with plant resins, which functions as a dye-resist.
After the cloth is dry, the resist is removed by boiling or scraping the cloth. The areas treated with resist keep their original colour; when the resist is removed the contrast between the dyed and undyed areas forms the pattern. This process is repeated as many times as the number of colours desired.
The most traditional type of batik, called batik tulis (written batik), is drawn using only the canting. The cloth need to be drawn on both sides and dipped in a dye bath three to four times. The whole process may take up to a year; it yields considerably finer patterns than stamped batik.
Batik is a “resist” process for making designs on fabric. The artist uses wax to prevent dye from penetrating the cloth, leaving “blank” areas in the dyed fabric. The process, wax resist then dye, can be repeated over and over to create complex multicolored designs.
Silk Sarees in Batik are made mostly in Bengal but cotton fabrics and home textiles are produced both in Gujarat as well as in Madhya Pradesh.
Five basic techniques are combined to create various effects:
- CRACKING : This effect is produced by applying only paraffin wax. The fabric is dipped in the molten wax or else thick brush is used for even waxing.
- SCRATCHING : To acquire thin line diagrams this technique is used. Here only bees wax is used. The entire fabric is waxed similar to cracking and after the wax is dried the design is etched out with the help of a pin/biological needle.
- SPLASHING : Here molten wax is splashed over the fabric with the help of a brush or stick. This produces overall tiny spots as design.
- SCRATCH & CRACK : As the name suggests this technique combines the process of scratching and cracking. Here again paraffin wax is used similar to cracking. The line design is then etched out similar to scratching. In this variation the background will have the cracks along with a finely etched out line design.
- BATIK PAINTING : This is the actual batik where the effect is like a printed motif. Any suitable motif can be selected for this purpose. More than one colours can also be produced. First the wax is applied to the portions of the design where white or base colour needs to be resisted. Then the fabric is dyed. After dyeing the fabric is again waxed for the second colour. The white portions waxed earlier are also re-waxed, as dyeing tends to destroy the waxing.
Visit to a batik unit with Zahina at MP