Leheriya is a traditional style of tie dye practiced in Rajasthan, India that results in brightly colored cloth with distinctive patterns. It symbolizes the unique and rich costume heritage of Rajasthan. The technique gets its name from the Rajasthani word for wave because the dyeing technique is often used to produce complex wave patterns. Lehariya is distinguished by the natural, ripple effect in mesmerizing colours, using a colour resist dyeing technique. The wavy, diagonal stripes created through this technique look bewitching in brilliant colour combinations. These harmoniously arranged diagonal stripes were originally dyed in the auspicious colors of yellow and red.
It is the dyer’s extraordinary skill that paints magic onto a simple cotton. The cloth that is used in the process is traditionally of a lighter color, generally in cotton, silk but today can include chiffon and georgette also. The cloth is tied and folded in such a manner that when opened post-dyeing, there is a striped pattern created on the cloth with color on every alternate stripe. The material is rolled diagonally and certain portions resisted by lightly binding threads at a short distance from one another before the cloth is dyed. If the distance is shorter, then greater skill is required in preventing one colour from spilling into the other.
The process of dyeing is repeated until the requisite number of colours is obtained. Traditionally, craftsmen would tie and dip it in 5 different colors to get the desired pattern in multiple hues. Natural dyes are used with indigo for shades of blue, and Alizarin for the hues of red in the final stages. Depending on the skill and imagination of a worker, every fabric gets a new look, with vivid colors, fresh patterns and vibrant designs.
The leheriya style has been inspired by regions in and around Rajasthan. The motifs and designs often portray a sense of joy and colorfulness, retaining the simplicity of the culture of Rajasthan.
In its earliest form, leheriya was a style mainly used in head turbans and was a standard part of male business attire in Rajasthan during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For a number of years, leheriya was a style that exclusively belonged to the Marwari community in Rajasthan. Those who belonged to the royal class wore blue leheriya attire.
As time progressed, leheriya was introduced in women clothing such as lehenga, salwar and sarees. Today one can find the style on ethnic and casual clothing, bags and shoes, as well as on scarves and cravats.
Leheriya is produced in Jodhpur, Jaipur, Udaipur and Nathdwara. It is offered for sale with most of its resist ties still in place as proof of authenticity, with a small portion of fabric unrolled to display its pattern.