ancient dye technique, batik has travelled
across the centuries and through many continents. Today,
it is ubiquitous and is seen on a range of clothes, from
sarees to shirts and turbans.
The word batik is rooted in the Javanese
word 'tik', which means 'dots'.
No one really knows its place of origin. Batik prints
have been found in the Far East, Middle East, Central
Asia and India. The prints (in the form of
white patterns on a blue background), found on fabric
excavated in Egypt, date back to the fifth century
A.D. and is the earliest trace of batik. The early Chinese
(A.D. 581-618) used it on their silks, while the Japanese
(A.D. 710-794) used it on their screens to depict animals,
hunting scenes and mountains.
India, the print was exported to Indonesia,
along with spices in the 12th century A.D. The frescoes
in Ajanta and Buddhist caves in Aurangabad,
depict these prints on turbans. With the advent of industrialisation,
the prints were mass-produced in Europe, starting with
the Germans in the 1900s, and the Swiss in the early 1940s.
In the 60s, batik symbolised the rebellious moods
of the time and was favoured by the youngsters then. Today,
it is popular across the world, and each country has evolved
its own version and prints.
fabric, usually white cotton, linen, silk or rayon, is
painted with molten wax and dyed. When the cloth, crisscrossed
with wax outlines is dipped in dye, the wax cracks and
the dye seeps in. The result, a combination of dye on
the cloth along with flecks of colour (where the dye seeps
through the cracked wax), is the arresting batik print.
The process is repeated several times on different parts
of the cloth.
An interesting fact is that batik was traditionally only
done by men.
Batik has traversed miles, but the Javanese took
it home. Over there, special prints in gold dust are reserved
for brides and bridegrooms. Several fashion designers,
namely Iwan Tirta have introduced the print into
the international fashion world. In India, too, many of
our top designers have experimented with the print from
time to time. The traditional dye community, the 'nilkars',
practice the technique. Indore and Bherongarh
in Madhya Pradesh have become centres of batik
prints. In India, it is found on sarees, bedspreads, turbans,
dupattas, scarves, upholstery and lamp shades. Besides
textile stores, batik prints are bought and sold on the
Down the ages and across races, the versatile and resilient
batik is more than just a fashion statement. It symbolises
a culturally hybrid international order, that is the predominant
trend of our times.