Evolution and Influence in Indian block printed designs

An image of a fragment of fabric printed in Gujarat for the Egyptian Market. Excavated at Fostat (old Cairo), dated to the 14th Century AD (courtesy of Anne Morrell).



An image taken from the book Trade, Temple and Court, Indian Textiles from the Tapi Collection Ruth Barnes, Steven Cohen and Rosemary Crill,

Gujarat Late 13th/early 14th century, traded to Sulawesi, eastern Indonesia, cotton, resist print and mordant – dyed.



My own picture taken during my recent trip to Ajrakhpur. This is a sample book of the different stages in the ajrakh print process. It is the work of Dr. Ismail Khatri, influenced by the above ancient pieces, said to have been of the same the same tradition as ajrakh, printed by Ismail’s ancestors.

According to the authors of Trade, Temple and Court, the motif in the above images was named daun bolu – ‘leaf of the sirih plant’, the piper beetle that is an essential ingredient in chewing beetle by the Toraja community in Sulawesi.

This is another early textile find from Fostat. The image is from Ruth Barnes’ Indian Block Printed Cotton Fragments in the Kelsey Museum, The University of Michigan. Like the above image it would have been resist-dyed and also for the Egyptian market. The red would have been achieved using madder dye.

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This image is another taken from the Tapi Collection book and is again from Gujarat, traded to Sulawesi, eastern Indonesia from the 17th/18th century. The teardrop like motifs in these two images bear resemblance. This motif is still used regularly today. Although from my experience more in Rajasthan than Gujarat.





This motif is often seen in Anokhi’s designs. A contemporary version a Tapi booti of the pattern is shown here printed on tussar silk and made into a book.









Another Fostat print from the 14th century on the left and on the right a similar print from Ismail Khatri’s workshop, January 2010. Again this is a sample book of the print process stages.

I find it fascinating seeing patterns in cloths hundreds of years old still being used today. I wonder how the translations of the patterns and uses of the cloths by the Toraja of Indonesia differed from the Egyptians, and the Gujaratis themselves.


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