Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Art & Crafts of India: Ajrakh or Ajarakh

Every dusty road trip that we made into the small villages in Kutch, Gujarat turned into a journey marveling at the abundance of traditional art & crafts of the region.

One fact that really stood out was the high density of different traditional crafts in the Kutch region of Gujarat. One afternoon we understood the intricacies of the Mutwa embroidery in Dordo village, next evening we were engulfed in a colorful world of vegetable dyes used in block-printing in Kukma Village.

Ajrakhpur, near Kukma is where the tradition of Ajrakh block printing is kept alive by the Khatri community, whose ancestors came from the Sindh region in Pakistan.

Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri is one of the few left who carry on this tradition of laborious but beautiful craft of Ajarkh printing.

Carrying forward the tradition, his son Junaid Khatri.

Ajarkh derives it's name from 'Aaj ke din rakh' or keep it for the day, the processing of Ajrakh printing is pretty long drawn with each stage involving many days.
Dr. Khatri explained that the process involved procuring the best cotton fabrics, washing, steaming in copper containers.

The fabric is then soaked in a mixture of dung, oil an water to make it soft. Dried for a couple of days and then re-soaked with other natural ingredients to bleach and make it ready for printing.

Ajarakh uses the process of resist printing in which hand block printing is done on designated areas in the pattern which are pre-treated to resist penetration by the dye.

Natural vegetable dyes like Indigo, Turmeric, Lime, Rice and many others are used to create intricate geometrical block print patterns that are typical of Ajrakh printing.

Block makers who carve these intricate Ajrakh designs are also very few these days.

The intricate patterned blocks stained with natural vegetable dyes.

Wooden Blocks stored in different boxes...

We were amazed at the various designs on the wooden blocks and prayed with all my heart for this wonderful craft to flourish.

I bought this beautiful craft in the form of a dupatta that I will drape with a sense of pride and great respect for these artisans who carry on the age-old laborious craft.

I have tried to style the fabric in my bare home with few interesting finds from a yard sale that I went to last weekend:-)

If you come across Ajrakh blockprinted fabric in any craft fair do buy and support the craftsmen.

The very few left who practice this craft.

(Images by Arch)


Amtrips said...

This (~block) craft-form of India is the most known form across the world (I guess). A US delegate in office once asked me to take her for shopping and in FabInd, she went crazy about everything, and ended up buying stuffs of block printing only. :) The way you wrote the story here is incredibly beautiful. I doubt there is anyone (with creative inclination) who doesn't love ajrakh print. Voila... :)
And yes, love the dupatta and the new plant. Your new home is slowing growing and taking the shape.

The Foodie Traveller said...

Beautiful post as always!!!

Swati said...

Arch, I am so happy to read this because I am a HUGE fan of Ajrakh and two because you've featured my favorite partner artists - Dr Ismail and his ever-smiling son Sufiyan. They are great artists and wonderful human-beings. I will share this post with them. They'll be delighted :)

Thank you :)

Neha@ All things beautiful said...

Lovely post, Archna!
I'm totally fascinated by blocks and block printing.

theartandcraftgallery said...

Lovely Posts, like the way you wrote info about this craft. I love block printing too .. nice way of fashioning your dupatta :)

Anonymous said...

Archana, this i pacchai Milagai urf Nitya.
Do google Maiwa foundation. They are a foundation out of Vancouver BC canada that supports this craft. I recently went o Vancouver and happend to visit their exquisite store. They have annual textile block printing workshops too. Maybe now that you are close by you can give it a try. Loved the post BTW.
My best to you always......

zobars said...

I am soo soooo happy to see your post. I was waiting for your return to blogging. Hopefully you are all settled in your new home. If you ever come to NW USA do ping me and I would love to host you and your family at my place. Cheers and welcome to USA

Reshma at said...

What a lovely post! I have a project in mind to use block prints on scarves.

Anonymous said...

thanks for visit ajrakhpur swati and archna ji and thank you very muchh for posting
ajrakh artical and very happy to see this link

sufiyan khatri

Rosie said...

You have visited many of the places I have been to on my first tour to India. I went on a textile tour and admired many of the hand craft traditions. Sadly some of the artisans I visited no longer had family interested in their trade or were making less complex and smaller objects. I have managed to collect a few of the wooden blocks both from my visit to a block maker and The Silk Road Exhibit at the NMA in Canberra had a few vintage blocks for sale in the gift shop. I am going to the textile workshops in Calcutta next and Bhutan. Thank you for sharing your excitement about textiles from India. I so enjoy the vibrant colours of fabric and thread from this region.

Wendy said...

Beautiful photographs, especially of the blocks. Thankyou for sharing these, and for taking me on a little visit to one of my favourite families in Kutch

Karishma said...

A few years ago I was doing a little bit of research on AJrakh for a college project. Believe me, there was nothing relevant out there. Now that I've finally managed to find a piece on Ajrakh, I wanted to say thank you. :)
Here's a lesser known fact about the art, it originated in Sindh (modern day Pakistan).

rk said...

I have always been in love with block printing. These blocks are so complex and intricate. So sad if this amazing trade is lost. I have had a tough time buying these blocks though when I visited Bengalooru unfortunately. I got a few small ones but nothing like the ones you have posted here :) I try to use them in my craft work and I would love to visit Kutch and Rajasthan some day to see/buy these beauties.

Swati Vaid (simply trying) said...

I bought a set of Ajrakh cushion covers today. I was so happy to have identified the craft (I would have mistaken them for just about any block printing technique) and came home to read about the process. I couldn't believe the amount of work that goes into making this tiny piece of fabric, that people would probably take for granted. Total respect for all those who are keeping the traditional arts/ crafts/ music/ dance etc. etc. alive! And kudos to you for helping spread the word...