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The rich and exquisite diversity of Indian textiles is one of the numerous ways that art and craft are expressed in India. This piece of our legacy combines the highest craftsmanship, creativity, vibrant colours, and a wide variety of weaves, designs, and materials. One such beautiful craft in our rich heritage is Ajrakh.
This intricate and timeless art of block printing was practised among the artisans of the Khatri community in Sindh, Pakistan, 400 years ago, one of the reasons it is also known as Sindhi Ajrakh. Later, the community moved to Gujarat's Kutch and Rajasthan's Barmer, where they continued to practise their ancient craft. The village of Dhamadka in Kutch was chosen to print ajrakh because of its proximity to the river Saran, which was a good source of saline water and alum for dyeing purposes. Traces of the ancient craft of sindhi ajrakh can be found in the indus valley civilization.
This distinctive and easily recognisable craft of Sindhi ajrakh is usually about 2.5 to 3 metres in length and employs hand Block printing on fabric with a wooden block that is hand carved with intricate symmetrical patterns. Traditionally, Sindhi ajrakh is block printed with deep crimson red and indigo blue background with symmetrical patterns and unprinted white motifs. It is a very labour-intensive process and involves 14-16 stages of printing and dyeing. Multiple blocks are used in generating the designs and patterns by the artisans. This method is also called resist printing – which prevents the absorption of a dye on the areas intended to be left uncoloured. Click here to shop for beautiful ajrakh products.
Ajrakh was traditionally printed on both sides. This was because cattle herders, traditionally wearing Ajrakh, would leave their homes before sunrise, and at the time, there was no electricity, making it difficult for them to determine the right and wrong side of the fabric in the dark. So, printing on both sides of the fabric ensured they could wear it either way.
Sindhi ajrakh was also known for ajrakh shawls as they displayed special designs and patterns made using block printing by stamps. Ajrakh has evolved into a representation of sindhi culture and customs over time.Making your search hunt easier, here is the direct link for this article.
There are many stories behind the origins of the name of the craft. The one popular among the local practitioners is that once the Mughal King in those days liked his Ajrakh printed bedspread so much that whenever the servants came to change it, he asked them to leave it for another day, and thus the term "aaj rakh" was coined. It is believed that the soft and smooth Ajrakh fabric helped the king to enjoy a deep slumber. It is also said that one day time period was needed to prepare the fabric for the successive step in the process of making and it was said as ‘Aaj ke din rakh’ in Hindi – this gave the technique its name in with a twist on the original expression and came to be known as ‘Ajrakh’. Given that traditionally, blue was the primary colour used in sindhi Ajrakh printing, the name may be derived from the Arabic word "Azarak," which means "blue." Craftspeople are experimenting with fresher themes and patterns to keep up with shifting consumer preferences and industry trends. Ajrakh is developing several new expressions that are in high demand among consumers. Feel the ancient aesthetics with amazing handcrafted ajrakh articles at Lal10 website.
The glory of this ancient Sindhi ajrakh rests within the highly contrasting hues and a fascinating fusion of the Mughal inspired nakshatras and floral patterns. The motifs are deeply rooted within the Mughal legacy, inspired by ancient architecture and landscape. sindhi The motifs draw inspiration from historic landscape and architecture, and igraine the Mughal legacy. The designs and hues used in the mosques, tombs, and other architectural marvels of the regions surrounding the Indus served as the inspiration for sindhi ajrakh themes. The Ajrakh print is employed within a grid, the repetitive pattern creating a web-like design or the central jaal.
The importance of nature in Ajrakh's creation is an intriguing fact. The sun, river, animals, plants, and mud are all used in combinations by the artists to create their ajrakh creations. In order to achieve the desired colour, water is a crucial component in the process. The sindhi ajrakh products manufactured by Ajrakh artisans use only natural dyes, including both mineral and vegetable dyes.
The primary colours used in ajrakh printing are derived from indigo, iron, jaggery, spices, fruits, flowers, and dirt. Alum is then used in the process to fasten the colours. For example, madder root, alizarin, sappan wood, lac, alum, molasses, wheat flour, and fennel are used to create the colour red. Yellow is made from pomegranate and turmeric, while black is made from scrap iron and jaggery. Blue and green are made from indigo. It is difficult to believe that craftsmen utilise rusted iron to manufacture dye since they also generate new colours by combining old ones in inventive ways. The black dye for Ajrakh is made by cooking scrap iron, jaggery, and tamarind over flame after two weeks of soaking in water. Ajrakh printing is a lengthy procedure that involves numerous printing stages and repeatedly washing the fabric with different natural dyes and mordants like harda, lime, alizarin, indigo, and even camel dung. The natural dyes used in sindhi Ajrakh printing lends a unique characteristic to the fabric.
The intriguing art of Sindhi ajrakh printing using natural dyes is a unique form of resist printing in india. Ajrakh is one of the most complex and sophisticated craft, including a sequence of difficult and long drawn processes. In contrast to other processes where the colour is directly applied on the fabric but in ajrakh the fabric is first printed with resist paste and then dyed. This process is repeated with different colours and dyes to attain a predetermined design or pattern. The ajrakh fabric is printed and washed multiple times with natural dyes and mordants. There are around 14-16 stages in the process of making sindhi ajrakh and a specific name is given to different stages.
The fabric is initially printed with a resist paste in ajrakh printing, and then it is coloured. This technique is performed multiple times with various dyes to achieve the final design in the deep blue and red tint. It is a lengthy, labour-intensive and time consuming process. The final print gets more colourful and rich as time passes before the following stage starts.
The first stage in the process of making sindhi ajrakh print is saaj (soaking) where the fabric is washed to remove the starch and dirt from the fabric. Then is kasano (fixing) where a solution of the powdered nut of the Harde tree which is used as a mordant is applied. The next stage is khariyanu (resist) where the resist paste is applied to the fabric. After applying the resist paste , the ajrakh fabric is dyed in the desired colour. Then use a clay, alum, and gum Arabic mixture to create a resist print. The grey regions printed in black are given a rich tone (rang). In order to achieve its preferred colour, which ranges from Indigo to yellow to brown, it is also dipped in various natural solutions like indigo, alizarin, madder root, or henna. Extra dye and resist have finally been eliminated by one or two washing. Click here to explore sindhi ajrakh craft.