Ajrakh is an example of textile printing in which natural dyes are used. Previously many kinds of vegetable dyes were prevalent in our country and put to use. Rather than allow the ecological balance to tilt due to the use of chemical dyes it is necessary to relate to nature and explore plant resources.
Legend goes that ajrakh printers were descendants of Rama's sons Lava and Kusha. The king of Kutch brought them over to his barren uninhabited land, along with dyers, printers, potters and embroiderers. The dyers were Khatri Brahmins. Two generations later they converted to Islam and settled in Dhamadka. This place was devastated by severe earthquakes twice which caused the artisans to shift to Ajrakpur 12 kilometres from Bhuj. The ajrakh makers claim that their craft harks back to early medieval times. Scraps of printed fragments which were believed to originate from Western India, were unearthed at Fostat near Cairo.
|Ajrakh printed textiles|
The finest samples were printed in Sind (now Pakistan) but traditions are maintained in Kutch, in Khavda and Dhamadka and Barmer in Rajasthan. A few Khatri families use the ajrakh method of printing. Mohammad Siddique whose forefathers migrated from Dhado village of Sind, Pakistan, belongs to the community. The Siddique family belongs to the ninth generation of the makers of ajrakh in Dhamadka. Ismail Mohammed Khatri, brother of Razzaque Mohammed Khatri will work on the ajrakh prints which will be displayed at the Crafts Council of India's exhibition of revival of heritage textiles in December. With almost 200 traditional geometric and floral designs, the Khatris plan to put together a design directory.
Ajrakh printed cotton is traditionally worn by the pastoral Maldhari community. Apart from pagdis and lungis the women wear printed skirts, and use the ajrakh fabric as bed covers to line cradles for babies. Every colour tells a story and the design images the status. The Khatris have developed a feel for the contemporary market and now ajrakh yardage, kurta sets, furnishings, scarves can be bought.
A remarkable feature of ajrakh printing is that on a single fabric, using the same design, resist printing is combined with other printing and dyeing techniques. The whole process is repeated on both sides of the fabric in perfect cohesion, which calls for unsurpassed skill. Ajrakh uses mud-resist in the various stages and another unique feature is that the dyeing and printing is repeated twice on the fabric to ensure brilliance of colour. Superimposing the repeats is done so perfectly that the clarity is sharpened.
To identify ajrakh one needs to look for fabric with a background of red or blue (though other vegetable dye colours like yellow and green have been introduced) Traditionally four colours were used red (alizarin), blue (indigo), black (iron acetate) white (resist). The ajrakh makers believe that the printed fabric has warm and cool colours which steady the body temperature… blue is cooling and red is warm.
Crafts Council of India's exhibition KAMALA a heritage textile craft revival will showcase Ismail Khatri's signature ajrak prints along with reproductions of some of the finest heritage textiles on December 16 and 17 at the Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai
Courtesy: The Hindu