Natural Dyes extracted from flower, leaf, fruit, seed, bark, and stone have coloured man’s life, his clothing and decorative, ritual and utilitarian products since ancient times, going back millennia. India was a world leader both in the craft of dye making and the use of dyes on textiles and other products, proof of which can be seen in the 5000 year old scrap of madder cloth excavated in Mohenjo-Daro, the painted ware pottery of Indus Valley, the Indian indigo ikat cloth found in a Pharaoh’s tomb and the fabled paintings of Ajanta. Indian natural dyed textiles, precious commodities of the ancient and medieval silk route, worshipped as ‘sacred cloth’ in the Far East and coveted in the European courts used dyes such as madder extracted from the roots of Rubia tinctorial, indigo from the leaves of indigo tinctorial, yellow from saffron as well as a list of other natural dyes.
The advent of chemical dyes in 1856 with its repertoire of bright and fast colours dealt a near death knell to natural dye use the world over including India. However, several pockets of natural dye textiles, especially centres of fabled saris and carpet making continued to extract and use dyes got from an increasingly wide range of nature’s resources. Needless to add that natural dyes are skin friendly, non-allergic and environment-friendly in the matter of toxic wastes and pollution. They also produce uncommon soothing and soft shades.
The Crafts Council of India (CCI) has been at the forefront of the natural dyes revival movement which has gained worldwide momentum in the past 5 – 6 decades. CCI was involved in the UNESCO-sponsored International Natural Dye Symposium held inHyderabad in 2006 and in 2015 CCI held a widely appreciated, highly successful Natural Dye Bazaar in Chennai.
A Natural Dye Handloom and Handicrafts Bazaar is being organised by CCI in Chennai from July 12 – 15. On display will be a wide range of naturally dyed handicrafts, weaves, textile expressions of fabled craft traditions such as Ajrakh, Bagru, Hand block prints, rare Kutch weaves, Khadi, Pochampally tie and dye, Lambani embroidery, Kalamkari, Kerala Mural art, etc. These will be products of excellence crafted by master artisans. Among them are Dayal Atmaram Kudecha’s handwoven stoles, dupatta, Vankar Shyamji’s stores, Nature Alley’s khadi and natural dye embroidered outfits, T.Mohan’s Kalamkari wall hanging, C.V. Raju’s turned and lacquer ware toys, Abdul Rauf Khatri’s Ajrakh saris and dupattas, Rapole Krishna Kant’s Pochampally tie and dye ikat material and much more. Each product carries unique craft skills and contemporary style with a 5000 years natural dye tradition.
The Natural Dye exhibition will take place at Lalit Kala Akademi, Greams Road from 12thto 15th July 201