Ajrakh and the History of Ajrakh

Why is Ajrakh unique and sustainable fashion?
April 26, 2021

What is Ajrakh?

Ajrakh is a double-sided block printing textile tradition with distinctive symmetrical geometric or floral motifs. the 2 predominant colors seen in Ajrakh prints are indigo blue and crimson, although, with modernization, people are experimenting with newer colors. Ajrakh is an environmental-friendly textile where the material is resist-dyed using natural dyes.

The word Ajrakh probably has its origins within the Arabic word ‘Azrak’ which suggests the blue of the sky. The first versions of this fabric printing only used indigo and hence had predominantly blue designs. On the other hand, other colloquial stories tell you that the word probably comes from the Kutchi expression “Ajrakh” meaning “keep it aside today”. This apocryphal story probably has its origins within the long tedious steps involved in Ajrakh block printing.

History of Ajrakh

As per textile tradition, the legacy of Ajrakh goes a few years back to the Indus valley civilization. Archaeologists have come across strands of cotton dyed with red madder root from Mohenjodaro. The shawl on the shoulder of this familiar bearded guy bust from Mohenjodaro perhaps has an Ajrakh motif called Kakkar (cloud pattern), familiar to Ajrakh artists.

The community which has run through the art of Ajrakh for several generations is that the Khatris, who originally belong to Sindh. They practice tons of dyeing and printing crafts including Ajrakh, Rogan art, batik, and bandhani (tie and dye).

Arab invasions led the Khatris to migrate en bloc from Sindh to Kutch (Anjar and Dhamadka villages). Hindus and Muslims both were included among the Khatris. This tribe of artisans was led by their ancestors, Jinda Jeeva, to Dhamadka village in 1650, where Rao Bharmal I, the Raja of Kutch patronized their craft. Making Ajrakh needed a continuous supply of running water to get rid of the surplus dye, and Dhamadka was chosen because it had the river Saran flowing by.