It is a well-known fact that in India the division of communities and castes was done on the basis of the chosen occupation. For example, the individuals who would choose intellectual means of livelihood like teacher and consultants would have their separate community from the other people whose occupation is ruling or trading. This division helped in the formation of exclusive culture and traditions ensuring that the society as a whole grows in each and every aspect.
One testament of this detail is the presence of the communities that are still known by their ‘traditional occupation’ like the Chhipas. Known by various other names like Chhimpi, Chhimpa, or Chhipi, Chhipas are one of the well-recognized communities of Rajasthan, the primary occupation of which is dyeing and printing of clothes.
According to a legend, Chhipa was originally a warrior class or Kshatriyas. They used to have a similar lifestyle like that of a Rajput that involves physical activities like hunting, and battle-combats. Once, when, according to Hindu epic Mahabharata, Lord Parshurama was killing all the Kshatriyas to avenge his father, two brothers of the clan took refuge in a temple. One of them hid behind the idol of the presiding deity and got the name ‘Chhipa’ literal for Hindi verb ‘to hide’. Later the Rajput boy adopted the profession of fabric printers or dyers and thence was no longer a Kshatriya. The lineage of this Rajput boy is the present day Chhipas.
Another account of the Chhipa’s origin states that it wasn’t the Lord Parshuram the Chhipa Rajputs were hiding but Turco-Mongol conqueror Taimur. Yet another source states that the name was derived from the root word ‘Chhapna’ or ‘Chhap’ which means to print, which makes sense since it consonants with the primary job of the community.
In Rajasthan, and especially in the villages like Bagru, most of the Chhipas are still engaged in their traditional work, though many of the others have chosen other areas due to the paucity of income associated health hazards. Nevertheless, the traditional fabric printing and dyeing arts of Rajasthan like Bandhej, Bagru, leheriya, etc. still remain synonymous with the community.
Team Oh My Rajasthan! got in touch with Vijendra Chhipa, an artist keeping this art alive.