(Views expressed in this article are the
personal opinion of the author.)
you ever wondered about the beautiful textiles that India has to offer? India was the largest exporter of textiles in the 17th and 18th Centuries, before the
Industrial revolution. One such beautiful textile craft is Ajrakh Printing. Of course
a lot of these crafts are being revived now, thanks to the enthusiasm of
individuals, NGOs and government. Here is some information on Ajrakh printing.
is the actual birthplace of Ajrak cloth. Ajrak has been in Sindh since the era
of Mohenjodaro, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, or even before
that. However, the true origin of the word "Ajrak" is unknown. In
Arabic, Ajrak means blue or indigo. Blue color is dominantly used in Ajrak
printing and hence the word. Also, Sindh was traditionally a large producer of
indigo and cotton cloth and both of these products used to be exported to the Middle East. It is unknown whether the word Ajrak came from Arabic to Sindhi or added from
Sindhi to Arabic. Traditionally, the fabric would be about 2.5 to 3 meters
long. Men used it as a turban, a cummerbund, and wrapped it around the
shoulders. Women used it as a dupatta and chaddar or as a shawl. There are some
people who still use it, though it has become more commercial now.
is patterned in intense jewel like colors. The dominant colors are rich crimson
and a deep indigo. A little bit of white and black is also used to give
definition to the geometric patterns. The geometrical designs in the fabric
seem to echo principles of Sufism or Islamic spiritualism that has several
great proponents in the ancient land of Sindh. The symbolism of geometric
patterns is generated from the concept of symmetry these repeated patterns
representing cosmic processes that extend in all directions.
Ajrak colors come out the best on cotton fabric. Earlier only cotton fabric
was being used for Ajrak printing. These days silk is also used but the colors
on silk do not come out very rich. As wood absorbs the color better and more
uniformly, only wooden blocks are used in Ajrak printing. First block (used in
printing of mud resist) is made of sesham and the blocks used in third and
fourth stages of printing are made of teak. Wooden blocks are soaked in mustard
oil when not in use so they do not expand in the rainy season.
Used: In olden days only natural
vegetable dyes were used for Ajrak. Now they have been substituted by chemical
dyes. Blue Indigo Red color: Alum, molasses, wheat flour, and fennel. The
areas to be dyed red are printed and while still wet are dusted with ground cow
dung or rice husk to protect against the indigo dye to be printed later. Black
color: Ferrous sulphates, molasses, millet flour, and tamarind seed powder is
used to make it thicker. Traditional Ajrak colors are red, black, and indigo.
These days yellow, orange and rust are also being used for a more contemporary