Bandhani – The Indian Art of Tie And Dye

Tie and dye is among the simplest and the oldest form of textile dyeing. Tie-dye actually is a modern term to describe a set of ancient resist-dyeing techniques. The process consists of folding, twisting, or crumpling of fabric followed by application of dye. The manipulations of the fabric before the dye is applied are called resists, as they prevent the dye from coloring the fabric. Different types of tie and dyes have been practiced in India, Japan, and Africa for centuries. The dyes are mainly vegetable dyes extracted mainly from various parts of plants such as flowers, stem, leaves etc. Tie-dye is characterized by the use of bold patterns and bright primary colors such as yellow, red, green, orange etc.

In India, tie and dye technique is used in many variations on a wide range of fabrics, from cotton to silk. The Indian tie & dye can be classified into the following types:

  • The fabric is tied and dyed, like the Bandhani & Lehriya
  • The wrap is tied and dyed, like that in lkat
  • Both the wrap and weft are tied and dyed like that in Double lkat or Patola


The term `Bandhani` is derived from the word `Bandhan` that means tying up. Today most Bandhani making centers are situated in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Tamil Nadu where it’s known as Sungudi. Places in Rajasthan like Jaipur, Bhilwara, Udaipur, Bikaner, Ajmer, and Jamnagar in Gujarat are the well-known centres of Bandhani. Jamnagar was one of the earliest centres for bandhani in Gujarat as the water brings out the intensity of colour in the dye.

Indian Bijou_Bandhani_Dress

History & Socio-Cultural Aspect

The earliest evidence of Bandhani dates back to Indus Valley Civilization around 4000 B.C. The earliest physical example of this craft is in the 6th century paintings depicting the life of Buddha on the wall of Ajanta caves. The art also finds its mentions in the books written during the time of Alexander the Great about the beautiful printed cottons of India.

The bandhani technique was taken to Gujarat in the 16th century by communities of craftsmen who migrated from Sind. The Khatri community of textile craftsmen, both Hindus and Muslims, have been producing bandhani since the 17th century.

Bandhani also has a socio-religious significance. The colours and patterns of the fabric worn by the person indicates their status and community. While red colour fabric represents a bride or recently married girl, a yellow background suggests a lady has become a mother recently. In Rajasthan, men tye turbans with different patterns of bandhani on their heads as a mark of identification of their community.

Rajasthani man wearing Bandhani Turban


The art of Bandhani is a highly skilled process. It is the women and girls who always carry out this delicate art as it is a skill very rarely exhibited by men. Knots are tied in two ways. One option requires raising the folds of the material with the pointed nails of the finger to create a little bunch around which thread may be tied. The second option requires use of filler materials, which are impregnated within the knots. Women can tie up to 700 knots in a single day. It’s relatively easier tying knots in silk or cotton for the woollen knots have to be reaffirmed by biting them with the teeth.

A single stole can have 4000 to 5000 knots, known as ‘Bheendi’ in the local language. These knots form a design once the cloth is opened after dyeing in bright colours. Traditionally, the final products can be classified into ‘Khombhi’, ‘Ghar Chola’, ‘Chandrakhani’, ‘Shikari’, ‘Chowkidaar’, ‘Ambadaal’ etc.



  • The first step is to wash and bleach the cloth to prepare the fabric for dyeing.
  • Once the bleaching is complete, the fabric is sent to the artisan.
  • The artisans then pulls on a small area of the fabric where there is an imprint of hole and winds thread tightly around the protruding cloth to form a knot or bhindi.
  • The knots may be sprinkled around the cloth or placed concisely to form intricate patterns.
  • The knots are covered with wax to resist the dye and the cloth is ready to be dyed. The fabric is passed over to the dyer who will dip this in the colour of choice.
  • Next the fabric is rinsed, squeezed, dried and then tied again and dipped in a darker color. This is kept for three to four hours (without opening the knots) to allow the color to soak in. During this process the small area beneath the thread resists the dye leaving an undyed dot. This is usually carried out in several stages starting with a light color like yellow, then after tying some more knots a darker color is used and so on.
  • After the last dyeing process has been completed the fabric is washed and if necessary, starched. After the fabric is dried, its folds are pulled apart in a particular way releasing the knots and revealing their pattern. The result is a usually deep colored cloth with dots of various colours forming a pattern.
  • The first colour dyed is a light colour. The portions which needs to remain light are again tied and the fabric dyed in a darker colour. The tie-and-dye process is repeated for as many colours as are required.



Design Motifs

Very elaborate motifs are made, in tie and dye work. These include flowers, creepers, bells and Jalas. Knots are placed in clusters each with a different names such as

  • Beldaar – like a vine
  • Boond – a small dot with a dark centre
  • Chaubasi – in groups of four
  • Ekdali – a dot
  • Jaaldar – like a web
  • Kodi – tear or drop shaped
  • Laddu Jalebi – the swirling
  • Satbandi – in groups of seven
  • Shikargah – mountain‐like
  • Tikunthi – circles and squares appear in a group of three


Tear Drop Motif





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