Anokhi Museum – History of Block Printing

Learn about traditional Indian fabric printing

The Anokhi museum is situated in Jaipur, India. It is a converted haveli which is an old town house and is now a museum where you can learn about the history of block printing.

Wander around the Anokhi museum and you will learn about the tools, fabric and techniques that have been passed down through block printing history.

The history of block printing 

Records show that as far back as the 12th century, several centers in the south, on the western and eastern coasts of India became renowned for their excellent printed cotton. On the southeastern coast the brush or kalam (pen) was used, and the resist applied by the

 same method. In the medieval age printing and dyeing of cottons was specially developed in Rajasthan. In Gujarat the use of wooden blocks for printing was more common. Tents were made from printed fabrics and soon they became necessary part of royal processions. The seasons largely influenced the integration of the highly creative processes of weaving, spinning, dyeing and printing.

Festivals also dictated this activity. Block printing is a special form of printing first developed in China. The earliest known example with an actual date is a copy of the Diamond Sutra from 868 A.D (currently in the British Museum), though the practice of block printing is probably about two thousand years old Trade in cotton cloth is said to have existed between India and Babylon from Buddha’s time. Printed and woven cloths traveled to Indonesia, Malaya and the Far East. In the 17th century, Surat was established as a prominent center for export of painted and printed calicos, covering an extensive range in quality. Cheaper printed cloth came from Ahmedabad and other centers, and strangely enough Sanganer was not such a famous center for printing as it is today.

Block printing today

Today India has many major printing centres with their own block making skills and history. Wood blocks are largely used for printing fabrics for costumes, floor coverings, bedspreads and sometimes even wall hangings or prayer rugs. Blocks are also used to transfer designs, which were used by the embroiderer as a guideline for embroidery; for example in – Chikankaari of Lucknow, Kashmiri shawls and Pheran; embroidered yolks in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Another technique where blocks are used to print the basic design before the real work started was tie and dye or baandhani from Kutch.

Come and visit the Anokhi museum 

We would love to show you around the Anokhi museum and join us on a trip to Jaipur. Please visit our website and reserve your place.