Historical background

India has been renowned for its printed and dyed cotton cloth since the 12th century and the craft flourished as the fabric received royal patronage. Though the earliest records mention the printing centers in the south, the craft seems to have been prevalent all over India. The earliest centers for block printing seem to have been located in what are now the states of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. From these centers, the craft appears to have spread gradually with the migration of craftsmen to other areas. Centers such as Sanganer in Rajasthan rose to prominence in the 18th century. Other centers such as Serampore developed even later, becoming the hub of block printing in West Bengal in the 1940s. 

The main centers where block printing is practiced are:

• Andhra Pradesh: Hyderabad, Machalipattnam (Kalamkari)*

• Gujarat: Ahmedabad (Pethapur), Kutch, Porbandar, Rajkot

• Rajasthan: Bagru, Chittroli, Sanganer, Jaipur, Jodhpur

• Madhya Pradesh: Bagh, Behrongarh, Indore, Mandsar, Burhanpur

• Uttar Pradesh: Benares (Block-makers), Farrukabad, Pilakhuan (Blockmakers)

• West Bengal: Calcutta, Serampur

Each of these regions traditionally had distinct design elements with unique color schemes and motifs. Although the elements have got intermingled due to interaction between regions, block printed fabric by expert craftsmen from each of these regions are still identifiable by their region of origin.