23 Oct Hand Blockprinting Fame, Colors, and Floral Designs of Sanganer
How did this small town come to be known as the best in the history of Hand Blockprinting?
It was usual for the Rajasthan medieval elites to have musicians, artists, and craftsmen associated with their family. The artists were attached to their patron’s family. They would create a whole gamut of objects and arts in-house for family-like jewelry, clothes, music, bangles or prints, etc. Sanganer became a land of great artists and patronizing families. Whenever the king or the ruler needed something particular, word of mouth would search for unique skillsets. The best artisans would be found and sent. The selected printers and dyers would prepare a new design or a new shade of color for their king. And that’s how the skills of the artisans of Sanganer became known and sought by higher nobility.
This type of patronage was not just a way for economic sustenance for artisans, but also a peek into the outside world, offering the artisans a channel for aesthetic inputs.
Sanganer Hand Blockprinting: Like every other textile lover, I visited Jaipur searching for exquisite ‘vintage’ textiles, decorated with hand block printed florals in gorgeous shades of aged reds, greens, and indigo from the era of nobility and generous patronage in the history of Jaipur. I ended up traveling 13 km away from the central city to get to this self-contained city of Sanganer packed with old structures and temples of great details and architecture. It is a town known for its unique ‘sanganeri’ hand block printing technique. It was revelatory to stumble onto Sanganer’s various sister crafts like handmade papermaking, gold and silver foil making, and cotton weaving. The small town has its artisanal ecology.
The people of Chhipa caste in Sanganer, local and from other states like Gujarat, practiced their hand blockprinting craft, as they do even today. Indigo dyers, also called ‘Nilgars, ’ work separately from the other block printers in Sanganer. It is also home to ‘Bandharas,’ people who tie knots for dyeing. Sanganer does not have local block makers.
Mughal floral design Influence in Sanganer Blockprinting design
Sanganer was once in the control of a ruler, whose son (Ram Singh) grew up in the Mughal court where the prince had developed a taste for Mughal culture, to the extent that he had planted a garden at Sanganer. It is perhaps he who introduced the Mughal floral motifs to Sanganeri prints.
Motivic Vocabulary of Sanganer BlockPrinting
Cari Buti: The word Cari stands for a “green mango,” and Buti stands for “Paisley.” The mango shaped motif filled with floral patterns was a highly famous Sanganer motif during the 17th century.
Nargis: Also known as narcissus, Nargis is another Sanganer motif. Nargis grows abundantly in the Himalayan regions, and as a tradition, the mountain kings wore the narcissus in their headdress.
Sosan: It is the Rajasthani name of Iris. Sosan is violet with a pink tinge. Sosan first appeared in the architecture of one of the palaces of Rajasthan. Post which, textile designers and sword makers adopted it. Textile designers composed several motifs based on a flower with leaves, just the flower, the border composed of repeated flowers with small leaves, or the sosan bush.
Dhatura motif, leaf of wood apple, and rudrakasha beads: These are all sacred to Lord Shiva. The dhatura flower was once extensively studied, and almost ten different prints were created for Maharaj Ram Singh, a dedicated Shaivite. Priests would gift textiles covered with these motifs to their kings.
Genda: also called marigold, became very popular with the block printers and appeared regularly on different textiles. Likewise, some other local trees and flowers like Aloe and neem became a part of Sanganeri chintz.
The culture of high artisanship has survived in Sanganer even in the face of the changes brought by modern machinery. We can’t be more thankful to collaborate with a group of block printers at Sanganer recently.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nidhi Garg Allen is an alumnus of Parsons School of Design and Adjunct Professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She is a technologist turned artisan entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Marasim. Marasim based in NYC is committed to preserving artisanal textiles that make use of regional techniques without uprooting craftspeople from their native communities