Rekh, Datta, Gadh: Exploring the Unlimited Possibilities of Hand Block Printing in Tussar Silk Sarees

Hand block printing is a traditional textile art form that has captivated artisans and fashion enthusiasts for centuries. Among the various fabrics that lend themselves beautifully to this craft, tussar silk holds a special place. Renowned for their rich texture and natural sheen, tussar silk sarees become even more exquisite when adorned with intricate hand-block prints.

In this blog, we will delve into the fascinating world of hand block printing, exploring the techniques of Rekh, Datta, and Gadh, and uncovering the boundless possibilities they offer in creating stunning tussar silk sarees. But before going into that let’s discuss the art of hand block printing. 

The Art of Hand Block Printing

Hand block printing is a traditional printing technique that involves the use of intricately carved wooden blocks to create repetitive patterns on fabrics. This art form originated in ancient India and has been practiced for centuries, evolving into a significant cultural heritage. Each block is meticulously carved by skilled artisans, with patterns ranging from geometric shapes to intricate floral designs.

The process begins with the preparation of the fabric, which is typically silk. The fabric is washed, bleached, and dyed to create a solid base color or left in its natural state. Next, the master craftsman prepares the colors by mixing natural dyes derived from plants, roots, barks, and minerals. These organic dyes not only produce vibrant hues but also ensure an eco-friendly and sustainable approach to the craft.

Once the design is finalized, the artisan dips the wooden block into the dye and stamps it onto the fabric with a firm but careful hand. This process is repeated multiple times, aligning the blocks precisely to create a continuous pattern. The repetition and precision required in hand block printing demand great skill, experience, and attention to detail.

Tussar silk, known for its unique texture and ability to hold vibrant colors, serves as an ideal canvas for hand-block printing. The lightweight and breathable nature of this silk makes it a popular choice for sarees, and when combined with the artistry of hand block printing, it results in truly remarkable creations.

Now, we’ll discuss different techniques of hand-block printing that include rekh, datta, and gadh. Traditionally, gadh blocks are first dipped in color and printed on fabric followed by the rekh or outline block, and finally datta or filling block. 

  1. Rekh: The Outline Block

Rekh is a hand-block printing technique that focuses on creating intricate linear patterns. Rekh is used to create outline designs. They are also carved depending on the form of the designs required. They are basically the primary wooden printing blocks to begin printing and also act as a guide for subsequent blocks. Since these blocks are initial blocks, they need to be carved intricately and even. Artisans use thin, sharp-edged blocks to form precise lines on the fabric. These lines may be straight, curved, or intertwined, creating captivating motifs that are both mesmerizing and elegant.

The rekh technique allows for the creation of captivating motifs that are both mesmerizing and elegant. These motifs can range from traditional patterns such as paisleys, floral vines, and peacock feathers to more contemporary designs featuring abstract patterns or minimalist geometric shapes. The versatility of rekh enables artisans to experiment with different layouts, color combinations, and block variations, ensuring that each tussar silk saree adorned with rekh hand block prints is a unique masterpiece.

The delicacy of the lines and the precision with which they are applied, contribute to the overall aesthetic appeal of the tussar silk sarees. The natural sheen and texture of tussar silk enhance the visual impact of the rekh prints, making them truly remarkable.

One of the unique aspects of rekh hand block printing is the ability to combine different line patterns within a single motif, creating a sense of movement and rhythm. The artisans' expertise lies in their ability to maintain consistency in line thickness, spacing, and alignment, resulting in a harmonious and balanced design.

Rekh hand block printing on tussar silk sarees offers a timeless appeal. The delicate lines can be arranged to form traditional motifs such as paisleys, floral vines, or peacock feathers. Alternatively, contemporary designs featuring abstract patterns or minimalist geometric shapes can also be created. The versatility of rekh allows artisans to experiment with different layouts, color combinations, and block variations, making each tussar silk saree a unique masterpiece.

  1. Datta: The Block for Inner Filling

The filler blocks are known as datta wooden printing blocks and they are curved in bold relief betting on the colors employed in the design. Like rekh, datta is also carved in complete relief. It complements the design of both gadh and rekh blocks. 

The size and intricacy of the motifs depend on the desired effect and the skills of the artisan. The precision and attention to detail in the datta technique are crucial in creating visually appealing designs that complement the tussar silk fabric.

The combination of tussar silk sarees’ natural sheen and the precise detailing of the datta hand block prints results in sarees that exude elegance and charm. They add a touch of sophistication to the overall design, framing the saree and drawing attention to its intricate patterns and vibrant colors.

The versatility of the datta technique allows artisans to create inner fillings that range from simple and minimalistic to elaborate and ornate. It offers endless possibilities for artisans to experiment with different motifs, arrangements, and color combinations, resulting in sarees that are unique and one-of-a-kind.

Datta hand block printing embodies the craftsmanship and artistry of skilled artisans who painstakingly create designs for the inner parts that add depth and character to tussar silk sarees. Each saree becomes a testament to their talent and dedication to preserving the traditional art form, making it a cherished piece of wearable art that celebrates the rich heritage of hand block printing.

Datta hand block printing allows artisans to unleash their creativity by incorporating various motifs, including flowers, leaves, paisleys, and geometric patterns. The combination of tussar silk's natural sheen and the precise detailing of datta hand block prints results in sarees that exude elegance and charm.

  1. Gadh: The Background Filling

The function of gadh wooden blocks is the exact opposite of rekh blocks. These blocks are used to form colors within the background of the fabric. This type of block printing is carved in intaglio and is engaged to print large background figures. This printing is also known as the filling of negative space. This technique is often used to create the central design or motifs scattered across the body of a tussar silk saree.The motifs can range from floral patterns to intricate figurative designs, each adding its unique charm. 

Gadh hand block printing offers endless possibilities for artisans to showcase their craftsmanship. The blocks used in this technique are often larger and cover more surface area, allowing for greater intricacy and detailing. The motifs created with gadh can range from floral patterns to intricate figurative designs, each adding its unique charm to the saree.

Artisans carefully arrange the carved wooden blocks and dip them into natural dyes before applying them to the fabric. The process involves stamping the blocks onto the fabric with precision and repeating the pattern to fill the desired area. The repetition and alignment of the blocks contribute to the overall aesthetic appeal of the gadh prints.

The motifs created with gadh hand block printing can be arranged symmetrically or asymmetrically, depending on the design intent. They can be scattered across the body of the saree, creating a visually dynamic composition. The motifs can also be strategically placed to form a central focal point, drawing attention and adding a sense of balance to the overall design.

The gadh technique allows artisans to explore a wide range of motifs and themes, incorporating elements from nature, mythology, or cultural symbolism. The larger surface area available for printing enables the creation of intricate details, such as fine lines, delicate textures, and shading, adding depth and dimension to the motifs.

The combination of the gadh technique with tussar silk's natural sheen and texture results in sarees that are visually stunning and rich in artistic expression. Each block-printed motif tells a story, capturing the imagination and celebrating the artisan's skill and creativity.


We, at Ramdhanu Ethnic, have been dealing with hand-block printing since our inception. Our tagline reads ‘Reimagining Hand-Block Printing’. We’ve got a group of master artisans who do all the unthinkable in terms of hand-block printing. Every saree that we create carries the legacy of hand-block printing. All the sarees present on our website are the children of hand-block printing. 

Here, we’ve discussed the art of hand-block printing and its three different techniques- rekh, datta, and gadh in a detailed fashion. Each of these blocks is used separately or together to produce endless design variations. 

Go to the saree section and explore the best hand-block printed tussar silk sarees!

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