Whether you live in Western India or not, you’re probably aware of the pomp and show that is Navratri. The nine nights of celebration are all about foot-tapping beats, well-choreographed dance moves and exaggerated bursts of colour, thanks to the perfectly dressed crowds. Of course, Navratri as we know it, has changed over the years. While the traditional Gujarati folk dance form, Dandiya, has given way to Bollywood dance routines, and designer lehengas have replaced traditional attire, there’s something still so charming about the Bandhani saree that comes from this region.
The Bandhani or Bandhej saree, made by an intricate process of weaving and dyeing, is a sight to behold. It features patterns like dots, stripes, waves or squares formed by first tying small portions of the fabric at intervals with continuous thread to form interesting patterns, and then dyeing it. In fact, the process of tying the cloth is what gives ‘Bandhani’ (from ‘banda‘ meaning ‘to tie’) its name.
While the earliest evidences of Bandhani can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization (4000 BC ), nowadays, Ahmedabad is the hub for this dyeing art and the master craftsman are said to be from the Khatri community of Kutchh and Saurashtra. No wonder Bandhani is strongly associated with the people of Gujarat and Rajasthan and remains a part of every Navratri celebration. Gujaratis would readily admit that dandiya nights would hardly be the same without bandhani!
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Fun fact: Usually crafted in bright, striking colours like red, green, blue, yellow, pink and purple, the colours of the Bandhani saree have a correlation to the stage of life a woman is in. For instance, red is worn by newly-weds, while yellow by new mothers.
Bandhani is popular in both, Gujarat and Rajasthan. However, the art of tie-and-dye differs slightly across both these states. In Rajasthan, this art form is known as Leheriya (from ‘leliai‘ meaning ‘wave’) because of the fact that it takes on wave-like patterns. The thin cotton or silk fabric is rolled diagonally from one corner to the other, and binding threads are used a short distance from each other. This technique of resist dyeing requires great skill in order to keep the colours from mixing with each other. Leheriya is popularly used for turbans and sarees.
The Mothara (from ‘moth‘ meaning ‘lentil’) technique of fabric dyeing comes from Leheriya. After the fabric has been rolled diagonally one way and dyed, it is then rolled along the opposite diagonal. This results in a chequered pattern with only tiny, lentil-sized undyed areas.
Whether Bandhani, Leheriya or Mothara, we think for their sheer beauty, these dyeing arts ought to be revived this festive season. Get ready to make a colourful splash; shop these bandhani sarees now!