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How a Handful of Bihar Artisans Are Keeping an Ancient Indian Printing Technique Alive


Bihar’s age-old Chhapa art form is declining owing to a number of reasons, but artists in Patna are striving to keep this ancient art alive. Watch this video to see how.

Chhapa is a traditional art form in which a carved wooden block is dipped in natural dyes to imprint the design on cloth or paper. The word chhapa comes from chhap which means to imprint.

The imprinted textiles are worn as suits, sarees, lehengas and ghararas.

Chhapa is considered native to Bihar, but it is said to have been brought by migrants from Lucknow and Delhi who settled in Patna after the King of Afghans, Ahmad Shah Abdali, and the Shah of Iran, Nadir Shah, invaded the city in the early 1800s.

In the 19th century, these attires were in huge demand among Bihari Muslims. The art form continues to remain popular among them, and Bihari Muslim families around the world continue to wear chhapa printed clothes for weddings.

Gradually, modern techniques and equipment replaced skilled artisans for this labour-intensive art, forcing a lot of them to quit the work. However, many artisans in the streets of Sabzibagh, Shahganj and Sadar Gali of Patna are making efforts to keep this age-old craft alive.

While red and green used to be the only colours for chhapa earlier, they are now available in several vibrant colours including yellow, blue, violet and pink.

To learn more about the traditional art form, watch this video:

Edited by Asha Prakash