The discovery of the first synthetic dyes in 1856 and their subsequent introduction into undivided India by the British had disastrous consequences. It led to the rapid decline in the use and commercial production of vegetable dyes. By 1861 the formula for alizarin, a synthetic dyestuff, replaced the vegetal madder root for all shades of red. Chemical indigo was developed in Germany in the beginning of the twentieth century, after 12 years of research it was simply a matter of time before it entered with similar negative consequences for natural indigo. Thus it took barely a hundred and twenty-five years to eliminate almost all traces of natural dyes from the Subcontinent. The skilled craftsmanship of centuries was inevitably eroded because a cheaper alternative, requiring little or no skill, was made available in the captive colonial market.
Dr N N Banerjee in his report on "Dyes and Dyeing in Bengal" in 1896-97 recorded Dhaka, Rajshahi and Bogra as dyeing and weaving centres. Nesbitgunj near Rangpur, was known for satranjis of dyed cotton. Indigo vats scattered all over the country confirm that substantial vegetable dyes were still being used at that period.
Share on Facebook