The tie and dye art of treating textiles is fairly universal, with many ingenious versions scripting new genres in various parts of the world. The technique of resist dying by binding the individual parts of the cloth to shield them from the dye is usually known in India as ‘Bandhani’. There is ample evidence to suggest that the relatively complex process of mordant-dyeing was known to the inhabitants of the ancient city of Mohenjo-Daro in about 2000 BC. So, it is possible that resist dyeing was also practiced. Archival facts further confirm that in 6th-7th century A.D Bandhani cloth was depicted on walls of the Ajanta caves.
The task of tying of motifs is predominantly carried out by the womenfolk who manage this along with the rest of the household chores at their homes in the village. The thread used for tying is usually plain cotton yarn which is mostly collected from industrial waste. It is led by the thumb and the forefinger of the right hand and is made to run through a fine millet stem bobbin, so that it runs smoothly and evenly. Knots are tied in two ways. One option requires raising the folds of the material with the pointed nails of the finger to create a little bunch around which thread may be tied. The second option requires use of filler materials, which are impregnated within the knots. More interestingly, women can tie up to 700 knots in a single day.
While women are busy tying knots, the men are actively engaged in the dying process which happens in more specialized workshops. The fabric carrying the tied knots is first soaked in cold water and then wrapped in a cloth to ensure that the ties are not undone. It is eventually dyed in the lightest color (mostly yellow) by immersing the tied fabric in a hot solution of dyes. It is finally rinsed, squeezed and dried. There is limited use of natural dyes in this process.
The textile can even be touched upon by manual application of certain colors for selective dying. Fast dyes, which can be directly applied, have made this process simpler. This technique is known as lipai. Naphthol dyes are effective in cold solutions and can be used to dye the next darker color. The dyed textile is washed by local washer men and starched if necessary. The ties of the folded Bandhani textile remain closed till they are sold or at the most opened at one corner to show the color scheme. For opening, the Bandhani material is pulled crosswise forcibly so that all the ties open up simultaneously as all the threads are rendered loose.