Located in the northern most region of Gujarat, Deesa is sited on the banks of the river Banas which in the past provided the mineral rich waters for the textiles colors to blossom in its wash.
The local populace provided the clientele for the full length drawstring gathered Ghaghara skirts, the head mantle odhnis, the saris and the pagdi head turbans. Skilled printers juggled their choice of the cotton textile base to suit the intended user while simultaneously choosing and positioning the placement of the motifs according to the client’s requirements. The layout for the sari took into consideration the end piece, the borders and the patterning in the field, the ghghras, a minimum 10 meter cotton length, requiring borders on three sides; the head mantle with its four sided border, a central motif and overall patterning, while the pagdi required its own specific orientation. Motifs and colors specific to caste and tribe were printed to suit the Patels, Bhils, Rabari, Mali and others, identifying its wearer’s affiliations, status and social standing. The ‘Widow’s sari’, for instance, block printed specifically for the Patel community with small, usually geometric, sparsely printed motifs in black on a white background, clearly identifies the marital status of the wearer.
Deep claret, iron black, white and indigo-blue supplemented with turmeric yellow and green form the traditional color palette at Deesa. Natural dyes such as pomegranate and turmeric are also used to achieve a wider range of colors, with synthetic dyes gaining popularity for their ease of use.
While the block printers in Deesa are known for their mud-resist process of block printing, they are adept at wax-resist printing and discharge printing too, with three families continuing to practice this art at present.