Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Textiles in Daily Life: Proceedings of the Third Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24–26, 1992 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1993).


Copyright © 1992 by the author(s).


In Barmer, Rajasthan, India, traditional alizarin and alizarin-indigo cotton bandhani1 (tie-dye) garments are produced and distributed to rural populations. The producers of these garments are the Khatri, traditional Hindu dyers and weavers of cotton and silk, while the garments are purchased and worn by Sindhi Muslims and the Hindu Khumbhar women. Thus, the producers and consumers are socially distinct groups. This historical association between producers and consumers has created a tradition of bandhani production that is currently threatened by the introduction of inexpensive screen-printed textiles.

There are two aspects of this traditional bandhani production that may play an important role in determining whether production continues in future generations. First, since the producers and consumers come from different social groups, each may be influenced by different cultural and economic forces. This increases the vulnerability of bandhani production by increasing the number of social and economic variables that must remain stable for continued traditional textile production. Second, the production of these bandhani textiles requires many steps, and there are many individual contractors required to make a single piece. Therefore, the production of traditional bandhani requires the preservation of each task in the complex network of workers.

The work I present in this paper is based on research I performed in Barmer, Rajasthan, the major center of production of the alizarin and alizarin-indigo bandhani garments discussed. The bandhani garments produced in Barmer are distributed to the Sindhi Muslim and Khumbhar women who live in the rural areas throughout Barmer and Jaiselmer Districts of Rajasthan, and in the regions of Kutch, Gujarat and also the Sindh region of Pakistan. Similarly styled bandhani garments are also produced in Sindh, but the motifs and layouts differ from those used in Barmer.

The bandhani garments produced in Barmer are the odhani, para, and pettee. The odhani (Fig. 1) is a large head covering draped from the front left side of the waist of the skirt upwards across the back and over the head. The para is a tightly gathered skirt up to 9 m. in length which rests just above the ankles. The pettee is the lower front piece of the kanchali, one of the two styles of blouses worn by the Sindhi Muslim and Khumbar women, which is decorated with bandhani. The bandhani production techniques and design motifs are very similar for these garments. Below, I describe in detail the process of bandhani production to illustrate how the complex network of artisans may affect the future of bandhani production.