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AJRAKH - Hand Block Printing with Natural Dyes Organic Colours

Khanjan Mankad

 

  • One of the 27 different traditional art forms of Kutch region of Gujarat
  • Ajrakh Printing is a method of Typical Hand Dyed Printing.
  • Roots of this art can be traced back to a 16th century and it came to India from Sindh, bringing with him the craft of Ajrakh printing.
  • The popular story amongst local printers is that Ajrakh means “keep it today.” It is also linked to azrakh, the Arabic word for indigo, a blue plant
  • Ajrak is the name of a block printed cloth with deep crimson red and indigo blue background
  • Ajarak printing is a long process involving many stages of printing and washing the fabric over and over again with various natural dyes and mordants such as harda, lime, alizarin, indigo and even camel dung. 
  • There are 17 ( Seventeen) Stages of Ajrakh Printing and is RESIST Type of Printing and in very labour and material consuming prolonged process.
  • For printing each Colour, Whole fabric is dyed and design part is blocked with resist.
  • The cloth is washed in water to remove any finish applied in the mill or workshop.
  • The cloth is dyed in a cold solution of myrobalan (the powdered nut of the harde tree). This stage is known as kasanu.
  • A resist of lime and gum arabic is printed onto the cloth to define the outline of the design. This is known as rekh.
  • Rekh resist printing is applied to both sides of the cloth.
  • A paste is made by fermenting scrap iron (from horseshoes, etc), jaggery (raw cane sugar) and besan (gram flour). This Paste produces Black Background
  • Tamarind seed powder is mixed with alum (aluminium sulphate) and then boiled for one hour to produce a printing paste for the red areas of the design.
  • A paste of alum, millet flour, red clay and gum arabic is printed on the cloth where there are large areas of red in the design.
  • The cloth is dyed in indigo (bodaw). In order to make an indigo vat, natural indigo, sagikhar (a salt), lime, casiatora (the seed from kuwada plant) and water are mixed in a clay vessel, plastic barrel or concrete vat.
  • The cloth is washed in running water and laid flat to dry in the sun. This stage is known as vichharnu.
  • The cloth is boiled in a solution of tamarix (from the dhawri tree) and either madder root powder or al root powder and is then washed and sun-dried.
  • Gach (alum printing – see 7) is repeated. The cloth is left for several days after this.
  • The second indigo dyeing (bodaw) takes place and the cloth is sun-dried.

 

  • This piece of art and expertise involved in same from the master craftsman, is sure to catch the one’s attention and imagination.

 

Thank You for Patronizing Arts and Crafts of Kutch and the craftsmans of the Kutch.

May the Traditions of our country live indefinitely, enriching our lives.

Note: Since each article is handmade, article may have slight variation, piece to piece and design to design


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