About Indian Tie and Dye Technique

  • With respect to Bandhani article gives history, making of Bandhani, design types and colours used.

The history of dyeing can be dated back to pre-historic times. This art finds its mentions in Alexander’s time texts about the beautiful printed cottons of India. As per evidence in historical texts, the first Bandhani saree was worn at the time of Bana Bhatt`s Harshacharita in a royal marriage. It was believed that wearing a Bandhani saree can bring good future to a bride.


Ajanta walls stand for the evidence of Bandhani sarees. The dyers have experimented with the use of different elements, both natural and man-made, for ages. Also, there are experiments with different binding/tying techniques to create patterns on cloth immersed in containers of dye.

Textile traditions painted in Ajanta Caves. Pic Shefali Vaidya.  

Another Ajanta pic, close up.

Different types of tie and dyes have been practiced in India, Japan, and Africa for centuries. Tie-dye became fully developed in China during the T’ang dynasty (618-906 A.D.) and in Japan during the Nara period (552-794 A.D.)

Reference and see pics  


Types of Tie and Dye

Tie dying is a resist process that may be used on thread before it is woven (to produce ikat), or on woven cloth. The process of tying parts of cloth tightly before submerging in dye, leaving areas undyed, is used in two classic Indian exports – Bandhani and Leheryia.

At Bhujodi village Kutch.


The term `Bandhani` is derived from the word Bandhan that means tying up. It is an ancient art practise that is mainly used in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Some 5000 years ago Indian Tie & Dye or Bandhani started. Places in Rajasthan like Jaipur, Sikar, Bhilwara, Udaipur, Bikaner, Ajmer, and Jamnagar in Gujarat are the well-known centres producing odhnis, sarees and turbans in Bandhani.


Different communities in Rajasthan have, for ages, followed the tradition on tying turbans with different patterns of bandhani on their heads. These were used to identify which community the person belonged to. In the early days dyes were extracted from roots, flowers, leaves, and berries.


Read About Turbans of India and in detail History of Bandhani

Bandhani on display, Bhujodi village Kutch.

Bandhani work in India was started by the Muslim Khatri Community of Kutch. The tradition has passed on from one generation to the other. The art of Bandhani is a highly skilled process. The technique involves dyeing a fabric which is tied tightly with a thread at several points, thus producing a variety of patterns like Leheriya, Mothra, Ekdali and Shikari depending on the manner in which the cloth is tied. The final products are known with various names like Khombi, Ghar Chola, Patori and also Chandrokhani etc.

Reference and to see pics



Leheryia is a Hindi word meaning ‘waves’. The cloth is rolled wet around a wooden pole and bound tightly at intervals to create lines. By rolling diagonally the resulting pattern is diagonal stripes, which can be produced in multiple colours by untying some sections after the first dye bath, and tying new sections. A chequered pattern can then be produced by unrolling the cloth and rolling from the opposite corners.


As with Bandhani, Leheria has been imitated in print, making it easier to mass-produce, and therefore sell cheaply. It may be argued that this was not a case of trying to counterfeit the tie dye technique, but to emulate, and perhaps surpass it. However, it should be noted that a true tie-dyed product will be sold with some of the ties still intact, to evidence its authenticity.

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The Tie and Dye Technique

Tie and Dye is an easy way to add a variety of colourful designs and vibrant style to your wardrobe. Brilliant effects are created by binding, folding or simply scrunching fabric before dyeing it.


"Tie and dye" is the process of creating patterns on clothes or fabrics. It is dying natural fabrics that results in interesting and colourful patterns. The technique of tying of cloth with thread and then dying it is the simplest and perhaps the oldest form of creating patterns on a plain piece of cloth is known as tie and dye.


Tie and dyeing need not be limited to clothes. Stunning effects can also be achieved on household items such as pillowcases, napkins and tablecloths. The technique involves spirals, marbling, diamonds ovals squares, knotting, crumpling, pleating or folding the fabric into various patterns, then tying it with string.

Reference and pictures


Steps Involved and Resulting Patterns

The area of fabric to be dyed is outlined lightly in the colour of choice. Next, a thin sheet of clear plastic is placed on top. This plastic has pin-sized holes over the indicated area, and the colour and pattern desired is transferred onto the fabric.

The dyer then finds a spot with an imprint of the hole and pulls a small amount of fabric through, winding thread around the cloth and coming through the hole to form a small knot. After all knots are tied, the fabric is washed to remove the imprints left. After this, the cloth is dipped in a chemical called naphthol for five minutes, and then in a light colour dye for another two minutes.


The fabric is rinsed, excess liquid squeezed out, and then it is dried, tied, and dipped again in a darker colour. The cloth is left alone for three to four hours as the colours soak into the desired areas, allowing the fabric beneath the threaded knots to remain undyed.


Once completed, the fabric is washed and starched as required. Once dry, the makers pull apart the fabric in a very precise way to release the tied knots and reveal the unique pattern of blank dots beneath them. The result of this Bandhani tie and dye technique is a beautifully dyed fabric with elaborate shapes and designs, such as flowers and bells.


The most common clusters and patterns of knots made from clusters, each with their own name.

• Ekdali: single dot.

• Tikunthi: three dots that make circles and squares.

• Chaubundi: four dots.

• Satbandi: dots in groups of seven.

• Boond: small dot with a dark center.

• Kodi: tear or drop-shaped pattern.

• Dungar Shahi or Shikargah: a mountain like pattern.

• Jaaldar: web like pattern.

• Beldaar: vine like pattern.

• Laddu Jalebi: swirling pattern.

• Leheriya: wave-like pattern.


Colours Used

Just as the patterns of Bandhani dyeing hold deep meaning, so do the colours.


Traditionally, only two colours are used at a time. When this type of tie & dye began, the colours yellow and red, which are lucky in Indian culture, were used. In the Bandhani technique now, bright colours such as yellow, red, green, and pink are used in various shades.


While the colours vary in modern times, certain ones still hold huge cultural meaning. Red represents a bride or woman who was recently married, and yellows are used for a new mother.


Ramji, expert tie&die village Sumrasar near Bhuj, Kutch. Tel 9998082332.

The Making of Bandhani

The process starts by drawing a design on stencil paper that is then punched with needles. A fugitive dye is then brushed through the paper, imprinting the design directly on the fabric.


The base fabric can be fine silk or cotton, or even wool. A fine silk cloth can be folded in two for a symmetrical design or to make two scarves, thereby saving time. The tying of the pattern with thread to form the resist is next. This step is generally women’s work as it is portable; men do the dyeing.


Most widely used is the simple dot (bindi) which is formed by pinching a small area of cloth and tightly wrapping cotton in one continuous connect-the-dots around the raised parts. Using a metal tube through which the cotton thread is fed facilitates the winding around the dots. Once the wrapping is complete, the fabric goes into the dye bath, the dye squished into the fabric to make sure it penetrates.


The binding resists the dye from reaching that part of the cloth so when the thread is removed, the undyed circle is revealed. Once the scarf is dyed and dried, the knotting is removed simply by pulling on both ends of the cloth.


Steps Involved

The area dyed is outlined using fugitive colours. Then place a transparent thin sheet of plastic, which has pin holes over this area of the fabric and using fugitive colours transfer an imprint of the desired pattern onto the fabric.


The artisans then pulls on a small area of the fabric where there is an imprint of hole and winds thread tightly around the protruding cloth to form a knot or bhindi. The thread generally used is nylon thread.


After tying the knots the fabric is thoroughly washed to remove the imprint. The cloth is then dipped in napthol for five minutes and dyed in yellow or another light color for two minutes.


Next it is rinsed, squeezed, dried and then tied again and dipped in a darker color.


This is kept for three to four hours (without opening the knots) to allow the color to soak in. During this process the small area beneath the thread resists the dye leaving an undyed dot. This is usually carried out in several stages starting with a light color like yellow, then after tying some more knots a darker color is used and so on.



After the last dyeing process has been completed the fabric is washed and if necessary, starched. After the fabric is dried, its folds are pulled apart in a particular way releasing the knots and revealing their pattern. The result is a usually deep colored cloth with dots of various colours forming a pattern.


Very elaborate motifs are made, in tie and dye work. These include flowers, creepers, bells and jalas. Knots are placed in clusters each with a different name, for example, a single dot is called Ekdali, three knots is called Trikunti and four knots is called Chaubundi. Such clusters are worked intricately into patterns such as Shikargah (mountain‐like), Jaaldar (web‐like), Beldaar (vine‐like) etc.


Some of the most common designs are -

Dungar Shahi – the mountain‐pattern

Chaubasi - in groups of four

Tikunthi - circles and squares appear in a group of three

Satbandi - in groups of seven

Ekdali - a dot

Boond - a small dot with a dark centre

Kodi - tear or drop shaped.



Laddu Jalebi (after the name of Indian Sweet) - the swirling

Rajasthan is well known for its Leheriya pattern or pattern of waves, which symbolizes water waves. Only two colours are used which alternate each other in a pattern of stripes arranged diagonally. Originally, the two colours used were the auspicious colours of yellow and red. The dominant colours in Bandhani are bright like yellow, red, green and pink. Maroon is also an all‐time favourite. The Bandhani fabric is sold with the points still tied and the size and intricacy of the design varies according to the region and demand.


In Bandhani, different colors convey different meanings. While red represents a bride or recently married girl, a yellow background suggests a lady has become a mother recently. Also, the colours and patterns indicate the community the girl belongs.



In Today’s Times

Today, the Khatri community is the main producer of Bandhani in Gujarat, maintaining an authority of the craft that has been passed down for generations. The demand for intricate designs featuring Bandhani is high, and the newest patterns can feature as many as one lakh ties.


Bandhani is used for daily attire and for important and auspicious occasions, like births, weddings, temple pilgrimages and more. One of the oldest forms of surface art-work done on textiles, Bandhani also has its mention in some old Indian scriptures and manuscripts.


Women from various communities and religions, especially in north and north-western India, pass on bandhani clothes as family heirloom.



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