The two-story pink sandstone haveli in the dusty lanes of Amber is usually easy to miss. Many of the locals know this as Chanwar Palkiwalaon ki Haveli and not Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing, eight miles outside Jaipur where women clad in the most colourful of sarees suspend their chat to wave at you. The museum focuses on contemporary fabric ranging from innovative designs created by talented artisans to traditional outfits still worn in select regions today, albeit in dwindling numbers. A focused selection of historic textiles provides a context for a further understanding of block printing.
The one of its kind museums is an endeavour to preserve the community of artisans of 500-year-old block printing in Rajasthan, was started by Anokhi, a clothing line selling block printed garments in stores across in India. The company was started by a British woman who married an Indian and moved to Jaipur in 1970, Faith Singh worked with local craftsmen to create contemporary prints on textiles that have become so popular in India and abroad. It was Ms Singh’s daughter-in- law Rachel Bracken-Singh who restored the dilapidated 17th- century mansion which once belonged to the palanquin bearers of the royals and turned it into a museum and this preservation project earned a UNESCO award for ‘Cultural Heritage Conservation’ in 2000. The old but well-maintained building is a cool relief from the desert heat. Large boards are put up in the open courtyard which explain the lengthy process of hand block printing. It all begins with the design to be printed on the textile. Once finalised—often floral, paisley or geometric—they are carved by hand onto wooden blocks which have been soaked in oil overnight and cleaned. These blocks are then used to print the pattern onto fabrics using natural vegetable dyes like indigo, pomegranate rind and turmeric in vibrant blues, reds and greens.
More than a hundred garments and blocks are on permanent display inside alcoves and galleries across two floors. There are ethnic designs and patterns and also Western clothes in traditional prints, like knee-length dresses in shades of red and russet. On the roof-top terrace, a few craftsmen sit with their tools, ready to demonstrate their work to interested visitors. The museum also offers a 2-day course in block printing and wood carving to the enthusiasts. The museum shop carries a selection of hand-crafted merchandise which includes limited edition textiles, clothing, furnishings, jewellery, books and cards.
Anokhi is trying to preserve the dying craft which is overpowered by the more efficient and more economical machine-printing process damaging the livelihood of the artisans and threatening to extinguish an important craft. But it has a modern approach too. The team is always looking for new craftsmen and techniques to develop new garments in the main workshop on the outskirts of Jaipur. They have worked with a British designer to re-interpret William Morris’s prints, made costumes inspired by the Russian theatre, and worked their patterns into contemporary fashion—all of which are showcased in temporary exhibitions.
Chanwar Palkiwalon ki Haveli (Anokhi Haveli)
Kheri Gate, AMBER, Jaipur
Tel:- +91 – 141 2530226 / 2531267
- Tuesday – Saturday : 10:30am – 5:00pm
- Sunday : 11:00am – 4:30pm
Together with garments – Indian and Western in design – home textiles, sarongs and accessories, Anokhi offers a diverse and colourful selection of products in its 27 outlets in major cities of India. Anokhi doesn’t offer e-commerce.