The story of handloom weaving in India has been passed down from generation to generation since the time of the Indus Valley Civilization. However, if we do not expound on the role that Ajrakh has played in making Indian handicrafts more well-known, its story will remain unfinished.
The legend behind the name Ajrakh are many. Some people believe that the word ajrakh originates from the Arabic word ajrakh, which means blue. Blue is one of the primary colours used in ajrakh printing. However, other people believe that the word ajrakh got its name from the sanskrit word 'A-jharat,' which means 'that which does not fade.' A very interesting story also claims that the phrase ‘ajrak’ translates to "keep it today" (aaj-rakh) in Kutchi and Persian.
Ajrakh is a traditional form of block printing on textiles that is thought to have developed in Sindh sometime around 3000 BC. The civilizations that flourished in the Sindh region around the Indus River were the ones that eventually mastered the craft. The river served as a location for washing fabric as well as a source of water for the cultivation of indigo.
The movement of Khatri people from Sindh province to Kutch region in India in the 16th century led to the flourishing of the Ajrakh printing tradition in the country. The textile craft was accepted and honoured by the ruler of Kutch, who also supported the migration of Khatri people to unoccupied territories in Kutch. The Khatris community in Kutch, Gujarat are the keepers of Ajrakh tradition who are mainly settled in areas of Kutch, Khavda, and Barmer
Ajrakh is often cited as a pioneer in the field of art that takes its cues from the natural world. An ajrak is a piece of fabric that has been block-printed and then resist-dyed with natural dyes, including indigo and madder. The combination of handloom textiles and vegetable dyes results in a beautiful print that is distinctive to Ajrakh. This synergy is what gives Ajrakh its one-of-a-kind identity. It stands out thanks to its colour scheme of blue and red, as well as the intricate geometric and floral motifs it features. Even though artificial blue and red dyes are typically employed these days instead of natural indigo and madder, the procedures that are carried out are those that have been used for centuries. Dyeing and printing each consist of 14 and 16 distinct phases, and the process can take anywhere from 14 to 21 days to finish. The finished fabric has a jewel-like appearance and a pleasingly soft feel against the skin; it is also appealing to the sight and the sense of touch.
Ajrakh is always produced in a rectangular size (about 2.5 by 1.8 metres), and it is usually made for men to wear it as turbans, shawls, or lungis. Additionally, ladies in specific regions of Kutch use it as odhnies. In order to recognise an original and genuine ajrakh, one must have a keen eye for details. The genuine Ajrak will have print on both sides made using a technique known as resist printing. Several distinct wooden blocks are used to provide the unique repetitive patterning. The production of the blocks is a significant difficulty due to the fact that the design must properly match with the Ajrak as a whole and must also cover a variety of regions to protect them from dye.
In order to recognise ajrak, one must search for fabric that has either a red or blue background (although other colours derived from vegetable dyes, such as yellow and green, have also been used). Traditionally red, blue, black and white colours are used in the making of Ajrakh
Ajrakh is a stunning piece of art that has preserved all of her allure over the years. It was originally worn by the Maldhari community who were pastoral, but it has now made its way into the wardrobes of cosmopolitans in many forms. This pattern has been reimagined by designers, who have used it to produce stunning Ajrakh sarees and Ajrakh print kurtis. This masterwork will continue to be enjoyed by people for many years to come, despite the fact that the way it is worn has evolved throughout the years.
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