Editor’s note: This article was published before the coronavirus pandemic, and may not reflect the current situation on the ground.

In a small corner of northern India, generation after generation of families are keeping the art of Rajasthani block printing alive. Lorna Parkes visits the village of Bagru to see how tradition and modernity are merging to maintain this centuries-old craft.

It’s the hammering that guides me to the Chhipa Ka Mohalla printing community. It’s persistent and considered, interwoven with the equally dogged drone of high-pitched car horns that permeate life in Rajasthan.

The literal translation of ‘chhipa’ is ‘to print’. And here in the village of Bagru, the speciality is exquisite block-printed textiles, a craft that’s been passed down from generation to generation since the Mughal Empire. The tapping I hear is the genesis of an artisan journey that begins with a wedge of sheesham wood, a steady hand and a small steel chisel guided by a wooden hammer.

Sitting 30 miles outside of Jaipur’s pink city, Bagru is well known in Rajasthan for its dense concentration of textile artisans, who survive cheek-by-jowel in a dust bowl of concrete family compounds that house a thriving cottage industry.