Though Ajrakh has become a common hand printed fabric worn by people in most of the country, very few among us know about the origin and history of this traditional and ethnic craft.
Ajrak is basically the name of a block printed cloth having symmetrical patterns with deep crimson red and indigo blue background. The word Ajrakh is derived from “Azrak” meaning blue in Arabic. That’s the reason blue is one of the principal colours in Ajrakh printing.
Well, there are several views on where the name Ajrakh come from. It was also said that a king was so fond of his bedspread that he insisted his maids not to change it for one more day. He mumbled “Aj k din rakh” and the phrase went on to used as fabric Ajrakh. It is also believed that the term “Ajrakh” came from the Sanskrit word “A-jharat” which means one that never fades.
History of Ajrakh!
Researchers believe that art of Ajrakh belongs to the civilization resides around the banks of river Sindh(Indus in present days Pakistan). In the 16th century, King of kutch invited many Ajrakh craftsmen to Kutch as he was entirely smitten by their art. He also invited printers, dyers, embroiderers and potters to Kutch just to spread and encourage the Ajrakh craft.
Soon Ajrakh entire Kutch and it remained unchanged until the industrial revolution shaped the world with synthetic fabrics and vibrant colours in 1940. In this sudden bombardment of the market, Ajrakh lost his fame for nearly 15 years. But again in 1960, the persistent efforts of some patrons and craftsmen helped Ajrakh to regain its popularity.
How is Ajrakh craft done?
As said above, Ajrakh is a kind of block print textile craft that can stretch about 2.5 to 3 meters. This Ajrakh craft has a hint of sufi culture that also dominates the Sindh region. In Ajrakh printing, there are mainly four themes:
- Teli Ajrakh
- Do Rangi Ajrakh
- Kori Ajrakh
- Sabuni Ajrakh
Essential Steps involved in making Ajrakh fabric!
Fabric washing is also known as “churrai” :
As the word describes, it is the process of cleaning fabric for making Ajrakh. The step follows the general process of washing a cloth to clean all dirt and impurities. After washing, the fabric is soaked in a special solution of soda bicarbonate and oil. This process of soaking may take a couple of days and is slightly complex.
Printing is obviously the next step. Ajrakh printing is generally done manually using wooden hand-carved blocks. It can also be done using printers to print real Ajrakh on both sides of the cloth. This method of printing is known as resist printing. The printing is done in a grid and uses repetitive patterns making it a web-like design or jaal.
At the end, the Ajrakh printed cloth goes through another washing phase with soda and bleaching powder. This last step gives a lovely vibrancy to the fabric colours.
Wrapping it Up!
Ajrakh is a sindhi tradition and can be seen in daily usage such as bed sheets to dupattas, scarves and in shawls. Apart from these, the Ajrakh print can be seen in pagdis, skirts, and in bedsheets. Khatri community has developed a fabric for the modern market and today Ajrakh printed bedsheets, kurta sets, furnishings and sareers can be seen everywhere.