Fashion vocab

A Masterclass In The History Of Batik Print

I wore a Batik printed kurta some days back and was complimented by some people who said “it’s an interesting print”. “Interesting” and no one could name the print. That’s when I realized, we don’t talk about these age-old prints enough. Many of us are already deprived of print knowledge and it’s not long before these art forms cease to exist. In lieu of that, let’s talk about Batik and look at its very origin and other characteristics.

Batik generally refers to print technique. In this technique wax resist dying is applied to the whole cloth or to a particular section of the cloth. Lines and dogs are made on the cloth either by a sprouted tool called canting or by printing the resist using a copper stamp known as cap. This applied wax resist dyes and helps the artisan in applying selective color by soaking the clothes in dyes. The applied wax is then removed with boiling water.
With this, let’s look at the etymology, history, and process of Batik print.

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1. Etymology

Batik print
“Batik” has a Javanese origin. The origin of the word is traced back to the Javanese word “amba” (to write) and “titik” (dot). The term found its foothold in English in the encyclopedia Britannica back in 1880. There are various types of Batik print such as Javanese Batik, Coastal Batik, Sundanese Batik, Sumatran Batik, and Balinese Batik.

2. History in India

Batik print
The origin of Batik print in India goes back to the 1st century AD to the Khatri community of Gujarat. This technique of printing was initially practiced in China during the Sui dynasty. When the art form was introduced in India it was mainly practiced by the Khatri community of Gujarat which was the only artisan community associated with the technique. Later, it was propagated to various other states and now Batik print can be seen in Rajasthan, West Bengal, Andra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat.

3. Process

Batik print
The print technique involves 3 essential stages of print and those are waxing, dying, and dewaxing. The print is done by hiding a certain part of the clothes with wax. The fabric is first washed to remove starches and other sizing materials. Post this a wooden printing block is dipped in molten wax and applied to the washed fabric. The wax-coated fabric is then dipped in dyes and the areas without the wax coating soak the colors. The cloth is then dewaxed and dried.

One of the lesser known facts about the printing technique is when the cloth is coated in wax, it is done on a table that has sand on its surface in order to stop the wax bleed. The wax container is placed on a stove to maintain a proper temperature for the density of the wax.

4. Fabric used

Apart from the printing technique the artists also take into account the cloth. Materials such as cotton or silk are preferred for this print so that the fabric will absorb the wax for the successful completion of the dye-resisting process. High thread count is an imperative aspect of cloth in Batik printing for the desired results.

The motifs which are witnessed on Batik printed clothes are often taken from the artisans’ surroundings. From flora and fauna to other indigenous patterns, the cloth tells a tale of the locale.

Are you a proud owner of a Batik-printed kurta/saree? Not yet? I think it’s time you brag about your roots!

Picture courtesy- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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