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Home > City Resources > Fashion and Bueaty > Batik

  The Ubiquitous Batik  
An International PrintAn 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.

Batik from KenyaIn 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.

 Technique behind batik 

Creating the print in IndonesiaThe 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', also Intricate Designscommonly 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 internet.

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.
- Divya Unnikrishnan

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