RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT FOR NATURAL DYES
There is a vast need for an on-going, in-depth research to extract natural colors, experimenting on vegetables, herbs and minerals, because it is a fact that colors can be drawn from natural products. For instance, natural indigo would give blue dyestuff for textiles, pomegranate would evolve yellow dyestuff, madder would draw out red, pink and orange dyestuff for textiles. Then kamala would be able to derive orange, yellow or golden-yellow dyestuff, similarly lac can extract red and violet dyestuff for textiles, mayrabolan for greenish-yellow color, catechu would bring brown dyestuff and himalayan rubrub can extract yellow dyestuff for textiles. All such kinds of natural dyes exhibit good and acceptable fastness ratings.
The ancient India was famous for textiles. The rich mughals and merchants were very fond of fine block printing. Till date, these blocks which are still in use are called saudagari - named after the rich merchants who used to export these prints. As far as in 327 BC, Alexander the Great mentioned these as 'beautiful printed cottons' in India.
Natural dyes were extensively used for the dyeing of all natural fibres until the middle of the nineteenth century. The discovery of chemical colors spelt the death knell of the indigenous industry. Due to the ease of application and the bright shades obtained, the hand weavers started to opt for synthetic dyes without a clear understanding of the after-effects of using these.
Yet, natural dyes are a class of colorants extracted from vegetative matter and animal residues. These are considered as mordant dyes as they require the inclusion of one or more metallic salts of aluminium, iron, chromium, copper to sunlight and washing. These metallic salts combine with the dyestuff to produce dye aggregates which cannot be removed from the cloth easily. Compound shades are also derived by over dyeing of yarn with two colors or by cross weaving. These natural dyes are eco-friendly, skin-friendly, labor oriented and economic.
The use of natural dyes has petered out except in few pockets like Kalahasti of Andra Pradesh and a few places in the tribal belts of Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. The textiles of Madhya Pradesh are a part of the rich heritage of India. The printing and coloring of textiles here have influenced the bordering states of Orissa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. At the same time they have developed their own distinctive style and individuality.
Hand block printing is among the important crafts of Madhya Pradesh. The colors used in this process are vegetable and natural dyes. The natural, attractive colors do not fade easily. The Malwa and Nimar regions are renowned for their printed cotton textiles. Bherongarh near Ujjain, has large printer communities who specialise in jajams, oudhnis and quilts. These printed quilts were also present in the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar and were exported to Europe during the pre-independence days by East India Company. Today, tragically in Bherongarh about 500 families are starving because they cannot obtain natural dyes since the water has become contaminated due to excess of washing of chemical colors in the river. The biggest factor is marketing of natural dyestuff for textiles, but the lack of marketing, new designs and different shades have caused such sufferings in Bherongarh. Meanwhile, the best of the natural colors are red and black which are used by the 'cheepa' community of Bagh located in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. The eminent printers of Madhya Pradesh have somehow failed to document anything on these valuable products.
The women at Mahashakti Seva Kendra, request the State as well as Central Government to extend their helping hands to them, who are already in the process of experimenting and extracting colors from the natural sources. Natural colors are evolved from earthen elements like mud, oil, herbs, metals, salts - and are also developed in Indian conditions to give hand-woven cloth an additional lustre through traditionally rich designs and stylized motifs on unique patterns. The distinctive styles developed by Mahashakti Seva Kendra women are, of course, a new mixture of cultural influence, traditional art and prolific creative minds. These women at MSK ardently seek to revive the ancient skill and style of block printing with natural vegetable dyes and alizarian, under the skillful guidance of the National Award winner : Mr. Rahim Gutti. We are proud to express that he has extracted different colors and even the duration of ten days which the natural dyes used to take formerly, has now been curtailed. Mahashakti Seva Kendra is a proud owner of almost hundred sets of blocks specially purchased from all over India and also possesses a large range of colors and trained people. MSK welcomes designers from all over the globe to come and select their choice of blocks to make their own patterns. Fashion designers and boutiques are also invited to visit our humble work sheds to open up a plethora of marketing opportunities. In a planned and organized manner the R&D segment requires a constant endeavor to rejuvenate our heritage in acquiring and using natural colors. The R&D sector envisages to perennially strive to grow important plants to give us natural colors; and the marketing segment would seek for small-time to big-time buyers on a regular basis.