Against the dull canvas of the Kutch district, outshines a pool of rich and bold colors of the amazing block print art — "Ajrakh". The millennia-old tradition and technique of this block print art unfold many stories and the name carries many meanings. Let’s unearth the history of the attractive "Ajrakh Printing".
A long time ago, a revolution art was about to rise in the Sindh culture of Pakistan, the roots of which stretched even to the Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan due to the inhabitants who were settled along the valley of Indus river. Thus, an elaborately intricate art found a place of admiration in the world of textiles. The ethereal azure, mesmerizing maroon, highlights of white and black in an Ajrakh ensemble appeals the soul and heart of any beholder.
The word "Ajrakh" has many meanings amidst which the popular denotation is "Keep It Today — Aaj Rakh". It also denotes the Arabic word for indigo — "Azrakh", named after the blue plant that thrived in the arid ecology of the district. The key community in preserving this lyrical symmetry printing pattern are the Khatri community, who formed and resided in a new village named "Ajrakhpur" which commemorates this block print art skill. Ajrakh is a time-honored emblem across all levels of the society and is often given as a gift with respect to elders. Mostly the Ajrakh ensembles are donned by nomadic groups like the Rabaris, Maldharis, and Ahirs.
Nature plays an important role in the making of Ajrakh. The sheer brilliance of Ajrakh print celebrates environment, color, form and centuries-old skills, which is enough to leave one speechless with awe and wonder. Taking intricate craftsmanship to the next level, the Ajrakh Print ensembles symbolizes the painstaking efforts of the artisans. Practiced by the most skillful traditional craftsmen of Kutch, this print art pushes the boundaries of the textured world. Artisanal excellence is what seen clearly in the fabrics, accentuated by the rich colors like blue, red, black, maroon, yellow, and green. The Ajrakh pattern is an ode to the architectural forms of Islam demonstrating the intricate jali windows and trefoil arches. The complex geometry shapes and motifs make the fabric stand out and easily travel through time.
The Ajrakh cloth is prepared in a 16 step long process of washing, dyeing, printing and drying, requiring high amounts of concentration and focus in order to keep the colours fast and even. The entire process requires raw materials like gum, pomegranate seeds, wood, flower of Dhavadi, locally cultivated indigo to make dye color, etc. The Ajrakh is basically printed using hand carved wooden blocks on over 2.5 to 3 meters long cloth, where unlike other block printing techniques here the fabric is first printed with resist paste and then dyed. Each process is time consuming as to proceed further to next artisans have to wait. The other endearing quality of this printed fabric is it has the intrinsic ability of keeping the wearer warm in the winters and cool in the summers.
Poised to elicit admiration from one and all, this age-old Ajrakh printing is something unique which is to be treasured to render sophisticated chicness to all the bearers. So what are you waiting for, let’s celebrate the vintage and modern culmination in style!
Hitanshu Bhatt is an artist based out of Mumbai, India. An art director at ElephantDreamz, design is an endless passion for him. Either it’s Visual art, Photography, Graphic design or Art direction. He loves to explore different creative areas on a different platform. Music is a source of his creative energy. He gets inspired from everything around him nature, music, movie, people, impression etc. He is creating beautiful story, which reflects Indian root merging into beautiful abstract form.
View his artist page here.