BLUE GOLD – THE STORY OF INDIGO
A small group immersive textile tour and travel experience for travelers who want to plunge their hands in the raw materials of life. Come and explore the history of Indigo in India. Learn the mysteries and stories attached to Indigo, plunge your hands into vats of the rich blue gold and have a hands on interactive experience.
India is one of the few countries in the world with an unbroken tradition of dyeing and printing using natural dyes extracted from the indigo plant.
This tour offers the unique experience of learning the art of Dabu mud resist hand-block printing and indigo dyeing from traditional artisans of Bagru who have been practicing this craft for over 300 years. We will also visit the town of Sanganer which is renowned for its own version of block-printing. You will prepare your own creation and be involved in a very hands on way with daily workshops. We also allow time for important things like shopping, eating and sightseeing. This is a totally immersive way to discover India and the story of Blue Gold.
Indigo is a blue dye which comes from the indigo (neel) plant. Indigo cultivation is thought to have existed in the Indus Valley civilization more than 5,000 years ago and is reportedly among the oldest dyes to be used for textile dyeing. Its demand later spread far and wide and it was one of the major items of trade with Greeks and Romans. Later Arabs introduced it to the Mediterranean and the rest of Europe. They called it ‘a-nil’ meaning ‘the blue’ – the dye is still known as ‘nil’.
By the time Europeans arrived in India in the 1500s, indigo was one of the goods they took home. For the East India Company (and later the British Raj), it was so profitable, and thus valuable, that it was called ‘blue gold’. Indigo cultivation was a symbol of British exploitation throughout the independence struggle.
Day 1: Arrive Jaipur
On arrival in Jaipur you will be received at the airport and taken to your hotel (check-in after 12 noon).The capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur is known as the ‘pink city’ because of the pink paint applied to the buildings in its old walled city. Jaipur is steeped in history and culture and the past comes alive here in magnificent forts and palaces, where once lived the maharajas. Jaipur has been widely regarded as the first modern planned city in the world. Even though the city was founded and built in the 18th century, the city amazes any modern town planner and architect for its brilliance of planning and beauty of architecture.
7:30 pm meet and greet at the hotel followed by dinner.
Day 2: Jaipur
Our textile expert will give an introduction of the whole program which will cover in detail the entire process of Dabu mud resist process and indigo dyeing. You will be shown some examples of indigo dyeing and block-printing to understand the technique better.
We visit the romantic Amber Fort – one of the more fascinating of Indian forts. It was the ancient capital of the erstwhile Jaipur state. Its construction began in 16th century and was subsequently added on to by successive rulers. Inside the fort, the places worth visiting are the Palace of Mirrors, inlaid with millions of tiny glistening mirrors, the hall of Public Audience and the beautiful manicured gardens.
After visiting the fort we will head to Dera Amer, a camp which is surrounded by the wilderness of a reserved forest with no urban civilization in the vicinity, just a few hamlets housing the local villagers. After lunch we visit to the Anokhi Textile Museum – the only museum in India dedicated to the art of hand-block printing. The small museum is housed in a restored 16th-century haveli, or traditional Indian mansion. Exhibits spread over three floors display the intricate workmanship and painstaking process of different styles of hand-block printing.
After visiting the museum we will visit some popular retail shops in Jaipur selling a variety of block-prints such as Anokhi, Soma, etc. for your retail therapy.
Day 3: Jaipur
11:00 am: We will visit the local markets to buy material for the workshop. Return to hotel for an early lunch. After lunch we will drive to Bagru which is located about 30km from Jaipur. We will walk through the town’s printers’ quarter, known as Chippa Mohalla, where one can see barefoot men engaged in this centuries old tradition, using multiple dyes and block printing in almost primitive conditions. We will also meet a traditional block maker and see his collection of exquisite brass blocks, some of which are no longer available and are priceless.
We then head to the master artisan’s workshop where we spend the next few days learning Dabu mud resist block printing and indigo dyeing. We will learn pre-washing, printing, dyeing, color fixing, and textile finishing. As we learn we will print items such as scarves, stoles, cushion covers and tablemats. One may also print larger fabrics if one wishes to. Choose the blocks you like and start experimenting.
Day 4: Jaipur
Drive to Bagru after breakfast. We continue our experimentation with the block print process and simultaneously leaving finished items for drying. Afterwards we will learn how to dye with indigo. Return to the hotel for lunch.After lunch we will visit the City Palace. The whole complex is wonderfully laid out with large courtyards, balconies, cupolas, arched entrances and gardens, which are a combination of Rajput and Mughal architecture. The museum here displays the rich heritage of the Jaipur family in miniature paintings, textiles, garments, books & manuscripts, carpets, palanquins and weapons dating back to the 15th century.
Day 5: Jaipur
Drive to Bagru after breakfast. We continue learning to dye our creations with indigo. Afterwards, we will learn how to create different shades of indigo and also dye with different colours.
Afterwards we will visit the nearby town of Sanganer which is also renowned for its block-printing. The main distinguishing feature between Sanganer and Bagru printing is that Sanganer print is usually done on a white ground, whereas Bagru prints are on an Indigo or a dyed background. Local water also has its effects. In Sanganer water, block comes out in its best dark shade, while at Bagru block comes with a reddish tinge. As water has always been abundant in Sanganer, the washing of cloth has formed the main basis of printing and dyeing there. In contrast at Bagru, where water in comparatively scarce, Dabu resist printing and indigo work is mostly done. Sanganer is known for its small decorative and delicate floral patterns, called ‘boota-booties’ which are printed on fine cotton and silk. Bagru motifs are large with bold line, more geometric than the Sanganeri motifs. Return to hotel for lunch.
This evening we enjoy dinner at a Rajasthani home. Rajasthani cuisine was influenced by both the war-like lifestyles of its inhabitants and the availability of ingredients in this arid region. This cuisine is largely vegetarian, with emphasis on pulses, millets and milk products, however, since this community was also known for its royal hunting soirees, small game animals and lamb dishes are also a specialty.
Day 6: Jaipur
Last day at the workshop to give final touches to the work. Return to Jaipur to enjoy some popular street food of the city. We will visit traditional food stalls that developed in the folds of the culture of old Jaipur. At each stop you will sample the house specialties. Some of the foods that you may sample are: Achaar (picked vegetables & fruits), Samosa (triangular deep fried dumplings stuffed with potatoes), Kachori (deep fried dumplings stuffed with an assortment of lentils and spice), Kulfi (Indian icecream), Lassi (a sugary yogurt drink), etc.
In the evening a local tailor will be arranged to meet us at the hotel should anyone wish to get the printed items stitched. The tailor will deliver the finished items the next day.
Day 7: Jaipur
Day free to explore Jaipur bazaars on your own. The bazaars between the Badi (Large) and Chhoti (Small) Chaupar (Square) in the old city of Jaipur feature some of the best sights that the city has to offer. You will walk through the labyrinth of colourful alleys where artisans make puppets, bangles, and other local handicrafts. There is jewellery market or Johari Bazaar, architecturally interesting havelis (mansions), and bangle shops in Maniharon ka Rasta and the flower sellers near Choti Chaupar.
In the evening enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel. Before dinner, each member of the group will be gifted a saree, a set of bangles and bindis. We will have someone help you tie the saree and dress you up for dinner in traditional Indian attire. Henna artists will also be arranged so that you can also get our hands painted.
Day 8: Jaipur – Onward Journey
Today you will be transferred to the airport for your onward journey.
Accommodation: Check-out 12 Noon
THIS IS A SMALL GROUP IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE. PARTICIPANTS ARE LIMITED TO 8.
We like small intimate groups of sensual travelers; our limit is just 8 people so you can be sure of getting a personal experience. We stay with interesting locals and have interesting conversations, we learn by touch and taste and feel. We interact, make friends and make meals. Sometimes we make other stuff. We make friends too. Sometimes we make heart connections.
We don’t want you to buy souvenirs. We want to give you something! A story of India where you play a major role!
Please note that these tours are FIXED DATE DEPARTURE and are priced for 8 participants which is our maximum. If we decide to run the tour for fewer people there will be a slight price adjustment.