Blocks of Happiness - Bagh Print!!

Bagh Print is a traditional hand block print with natural colours, an Indian Handicraft practiced in Bagh, Dhar district in Madhya Pradesh, India. Its name is derived from the village Bagh on the banks of the Bagh River.

Bagh print fabric with replicated geometric and floral compositions with vegetable colours of red and black over a white background is a popular Textile printing product. 

In this printing technique the cloth used is cotton and silk cloth which are subject to treatment of a blend of corroded iron fillings, alum and Alizarin. 

The designs are patterned by skilled artisans. On completion of the printing process, the printed fabric is subject to repeated washing in the flowing waters of the river and then dried in the sun for a specific period to obtain the fine luster. 


The process of creating Bagh prints includes pre-printing (the washing and pre-dying of the fabric), printing (application of the design) and post printing (fixing the dyes and applying a fabric finish)


Pre-printing starts with Khara Karna, the initial washing of the fabric for printing. Cotton is the commonly used fabric; however, other fabrics include the Maheshwari suit material, kosa silk, bamboo chicks, chiffon, crepe, georgette tissue, and mulberry silk. The Khara Karna washing consists of washing in running water for two hours and beating the fabric on river stones to remove any starch in the fabric to assist with the dyeing process.

Next, the fabric is soaked in a water solution of rock salt, mengni (goat dung), and castor oil, pressed, rinsed and dried three times, which is known as Mengni Karna. Then, the cloth is pre-dyed with Harara to provide an off-white base color, which also adds a richness to the black and red dyes that will be applied later.


Bagh prints are made by hand applying natural and vegetable-based dyes using carved wood relief blocks. Red and black dyes are most common, but indigo, mustard, and khaki dyes are also used. New blocks for printing are hand carved from teak or sheesham wood, but some blocks have been in use for 200 – 300 years. Motifs for the prints are geometric or floral, sometimes inspired by the 1,500-year-old paintings at Bagh Caves.


Dyes for printing are derived from plant sources (plants, fruits, and flowers), and minerals. To make the dyes, pigments like ferrous sulfate and alum are boiled in water and mixed with tamarind seed powder to make a paste, which acts as black and red dyes respectively. Other colors like indigo, mustard, and khaki can be made using indigo leaves, dhavdi leaves, or pomegranate rinds

Printing blocks:

The blocks, known as bilals, are made of intricate and deeply carved teak or sheesham wood and are frequently sourced from Pethapur, Gandhinagar, and Jaipur.The relief blocks can be reused and collected over generations, with some family libraries holding thousands of individual designs. Some blocks are aged up to 300 years old and have been in use for so long that they are known by particular names. New blocks are made approximately every six months to keep up with market demands, but care is taken to ensure that the new design is a variation of a traditionally accepted design. Common motifs include geometric shapes as well as natural forms like jasmine, mushroom, mango, or small dots on a field.

Printing process:

In order to apply the correct amount of dye to the printing block, a wooden reservoir, called a palea, is filled with dye. A bamboo mesh (kartali) wrapped in wool is set up to float in the reservoir, soaking up the dye and transferring the color when the printing block is rested on top. The cloth to be printed is laid over a red sandstone table, called a farsi, which is padded with extra cloth or old clothes to ensure smooth printing. The printing blocks are applied by hand, with an expert craftsman producing five yards of fabric in two to three hours, depending on the complexity of the design. Once the design is fully printed, the cloth rests for 8 to 14 days to allow the dye to fully absorb into the fabric.


Once the fabric has rested, it is brought to the river and rigorously washed for 20 minutes and beaten against river stones to remove excess dye. This process, known as the Bichalna, requires both strength and care, as any smudges or stains that occur from improper washing are permanent. The fabric is then fixed and finished in the Bhatti process, where the fabric is boiled in a mixture of water, Alizarin, and Dhavda flowers. The fabric is constantly shifted and turned with long sticks as the temperature of solution is slowly increased, which aids in the proper development of the colors. The whole process takes from four to six hours. Finally, the fabric is bleached and washed three more times before the fabric is complete