The Charismatic Beauty of Indigo

 

What comes to your mind when you hear the word Indigo? Don’t you imagine different shades of blue color? Don’t you imagine the vibrant ethnic wear in varied shades of blue color? All those blue-dye dupattas hanging in the air, or just pairing those cute indigo kurtas with silver earrings?

While we all are fascinated with how the indigo dye is so soothing and aesthetic, the history behind its origination is quite intriguing and worth knowing.

The use of Indigo dye in India can be traced down to before 2000 BCE, widely practiced across the Coromandel Coast Bihar Coast and many other parts of India.  India had attained mastery in the extraction of Neel, Neelam or the Blue Dye plant in various shades from light blue to black. A variety of plants have provided indigo throughout history, but most natural indigo was obtained from those in the plant Indigofera, which are native to the tropics, notably the Indian subcontinent. It is also called Neel, Nalini, Neelam in the native language in some parts of India. 

 

The total process from start to finish took 10 days which involved crushing the soluble Neelam Leaves, then came fermenting and boiling, when the light grey color of the fermenting extract became dark blue, beating is another method to add oxygen, it was  by then the most lengthy and vigorous beating of the fermenting liquid, then the settled blue dye was filtered out to be scrapped off, dried, and then shaped into cakes for easy transporting. The blue dye was then transported to the different parts of the world from India. 
It was taken to Egypt by the Arabs who called it Ajrak. Ikat Fabric in Indigo Blue was found in the tomb of the Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt stands testimony to this. The continued tradition of Ajrak can be seen in Barmer of Rajasthan and Kutch in Gujarat. The fabric dyed in this dye was found wrapped around a vase in the excavations of Harappa, the civilization that flourished 5000 years ago. References for this Indian dye can also be found in the bible. It also went eastwards to japan and china through the Coromandel Coast and Bengal.

Today, indigo-dyed garments are an integral part of everyone’s wardrobe — whether you’re a teacher or a banker, a corporate woman, or an actress. It is easy to forget that indigo used to be a rare article of trade. Only a few eras back, this peculiar dyestuff was so elite that only royalty and the upper classes could afford it. It was imported with great difficulty from far-off colonies, which earned indigo a status like that of tea, coffee, silk, or even gold.

Ruhaaniyatt’s range  of indigo crafts is a result of the artisan’s  efforts and our devotion to sustainable fashion, creating an assortment of exquisite wooden block printed  on tops and kurtas, employing traditional hand-block printing techniques and natural dyes.

What makes this art even more special is that it is practiced close to the artisans’ homes, where they not only get to keep a close eye on each process but also give each step their individual attention. By investing in these products, you are not only supporting the art’s continued existence, but also the livelihood of artisans who practice them. Since indigo is a natural dye, it is not uncommon for it to bleed. Usually, any fabric that is processed with natural indigo, will bleed in the first wash. Our only two cents on this, wash all your indigo-dyed clothes separately.

Here are a few of our handcrafted indigo kurtas from Ruhaaniyatt: