Bandhej or bandhani is an ancient tie and dye technique from Gujarat, practiced widely across the state as well as in the adjacent areas of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. It is used to make bandhej or bandhani sarees, along with lot of other fabrics and garments. The bandhani saree has been around for many centuries and continues to remain one of the most popular ethnic garments around. It is frequently seen in movies and televisions shows, especially those centered on the rural traditions and cultures of west India.
The technique used to create these sarees has evolved over time though the basic principles remain the same. A plain white fabric is tied using rings, plastic caps and other tools and then dipped into colored dyes, sometimes in multiple shades. It may then be boiled or treated in some way and after drying, is ready to be cut into a saree. The resultant fabric will have kaleidoscopic co-centric designs and lines which produces a very eye-catching effect. The colors and methods of tying vary from region to region and each technique produces a distinct look and design. For instance a single knot pattern is called ekdali, three knots are called Trikunti and four knots is Chaubandi. A combination of these basic designs can be used to produce bandhej sarees with exotic designs like dungar shahi (mountain), boond (small dot with centre), kodi (teardrop) and laddu jalebi (swirls). Other interesting patterns requiring more intricate techniques, known for their artistic beauty, are Leheriya, Mothra and Shikari. These patterns can either be all over the fabric in equal density or symmetrically arranged at the centre of the pallu or the skirt area, or at the borders.
The traditional colors used to dye bandhani sarees are blue, red, black, green and yellow with every region having distinct variations. The classic design of the Jaipuri bandhej sarees typically comes in a range of bright colors, which fits in with the color-oriented fashion ethos of the state, while in Gujarat a warmer color palette limited to yellow and orange might be more popular. Of course nowadays these traditional sarees produced by artisans are not the only bandhej sarees women can buy. The more modern sarees imitate this attractive ethnic design by simply printing them on various fabrics. While such sarees would be cheaper, they would not be as ‘authentic’ as the original, but on the other hand, will have a more contemporary vibe that some women may prefer.
In terms of fabrics, silk is the classic choice and the most preferred ‘fancy’ fabric for such sarees. Cotton is the most frequently used material for Rajasthani bandhej sarees, as it suits the hot weather in that state; moreover, the fabric can easily be dyed into the vibrant colors so often seen on these sarees. Chiffon bandhej sarees have become very popular nowadays, as the popping bandhej designs go very well with the thin and clingy fabric. Fabrics like satin and georgette are also widely used today, to make the more expensive and high-end varieties.
While the traditional sarees produced by the rural craftsmen have an unmatched ethnic charm, there are also more contemporary and updated varieties that might suit the tastes of modern women better. For instance, designer bandhej sarees by big-name fashion houses utilize these expert techniques but also incorporate more modern patterns, fabrics and decorations. Thus while a classic bandhani saree comes with little to no additional decorations, relying on the dynamism of the varied colorful patterns to create an attractive vibe, designer bandhej sarees might come with zari, stones, sequins, appliqué or Resham work as well patch borders and aari designs.
Styling Bandhani sarees
The styling for a bandhani saree would depend upon the style of the saree and the occasion for which it is worn. These garments are immensely popular for festivals, especially the dance-festivals like Navaratri or Dandiya which are very widely celebrated in west India, and for such occasions, chunky Indian jewelry is preferred. Oxidized necklaces, colorful lac bangles, large antique silver earrings and silver bangles all look very ethnic and festive with bandhej sarees.
For a high-end or special occasion like a wedding, the luxurious silk bandhani sarees would be the best choice. The authentic versions can be quite difficult to source unless one has immediate access to an emporium or bazaar; in that case, one can buy Bandhej sarees online from a trusted online retailer, along with some appropriate jewelry like a Kundan necklace and silver anklets.
The most dazzling jewelry should be paired up with bridal or wedding bandhej sarees. Such sarees tend to be quite heavy, in traditional colors like red and orange, so they go with gold necklaces and Thewa jewelry.