India has always been famous for its textiles and Rajasthan, especially for its hand-block printed and dyed textiles. Ancient and medieval literature mention the colorful textiles produced in this region. The earliest specimens on display are small fragments excavated at AL FUSTAT near Cairo, Egypt. French archaeologists, while excavating at Al Fustat, old capital of Egypt, found dead bodies wrapped in coarse cotton fabric printed with bright colours. At the time of discovery, these were not documented as originating from India, but later, the renowned French scholar late Mr. R. Fister identified them after closely studying the styles of the costumes and textiles depicted in the ancient Jain miniature paintings from Western India, and on that basis they were documented as being from Gujarat, India. This led scholars to start believing that India was producing colorful printed fabric in the 14th-15th century which was exported to the European and African countries.
After founding the new city of Jaipur, Sawai Jai Singh brought all the royal departments to his new capital and renamed them. Bhakhata Rama Shah, a Jain poet, writes in his work Buddhi Vilas, composed in 1770, (twenty seven years after the death of Sawai Jai Singh) that the Maharaja changed the Persian names of all his thirty-six karkhanas into Hindi. Out of these, four - Toshakhana, Chhapakhana, Rangkhana and Siwankhana, were associated with costumes and textiles.
Toshakhana, probably had to deal with daily-wear clothes.
In the Chhapakhana, the printing on cloth was carried out by means of a wooden block.
Rangkhana & Siwankhana
Rangkhana and Siwankhana, as suggested by their names, looked after dyeing and stitching work. The Rangkhana records frequently mention dyeing and printing of Mahmudi.
Bagru, is an important centres of hand-block printing and though it originally produced textiles for the local market, today it caters to the international and the export markets. The Bagru prints are usually on a creamish background. The motifs printed at Bagru are large with bold lines, inspired by the wild flowers, buds, leaves and geometric patterns.
Bagru is said to be situated on the banks of the river Sanjaria, which is believed to have originated from a water source some 7 kms west of the village. It was then known as Bagora island, from where Bagru perhaps derived its name. The source of the river is said to have dried up and for the past 50 years there has been no sign of the river, though many people still remember the river existed here. It is widely believed that the water of this river permeated the soil of Bagru to give it the special BAGRU LOOK appearing in its rich brown, red and black.
History Of The Chiapas
The social structure of ancient India was based on the Caste System or Varna Vayavastha. The art of hand-block printing was practised by the Chhipa community only and, till today, it is peculiar to this community. Not only in Bagru, but also in Akola, near Jodhpur and Bagh in Madhya Pradesh, the Chiapas are practicing the traditional art of hand-block printing. All the Chiapas of Bagru claim to be the descendants of saint Namdev of Maharashtra (1270-1350). They had to migrate due to the incessant warfare and raids between the Mughals and the Marathas. The Chiapas had settled here about 400 years back and some families had migrated from Gujarat. It is said that the thakur had brought the Chiapas from different places and helped them settle here.