Ajrakh – Tattooing Time on Fabric
On the face of it, Ajrakh is block-printed fabric.
Explore a little deeper. It is testimony to how well art can rise from the mundane, if you only give it time.
Ajrakh, a centuries-old art form of block-printing, is a lexicon for all things sublime. Ajrakh comes from the term ‘Aajrakh’, a term in Hindi that translates to ‘Keep for today’. Some others also speak of ‘Ajrakh’ to mean ‘the Universe’, while it is also linked to the Arabic term meaning ‘indigo’. Indigo is the most common color used to create the Ajrakh printed fabric.
Origin: How Far Back, Where, and Why
The Ajrakh that is popularly known and consumed today comes from villages in Kutch, where it has been practiced for nearly 400 years. However, before this, its antecedents can be traced to the Sindh region. Others say that “Ajrakh” may be the oldest continuous form of printing indigenous to the sub-continent of India—tracing its origins over 4000 years ago.
The Ajrakh printing process is also a study in artistry, assured mastery over the components, a submission to natural elements, and patience.
Ajrakh is a 16 step process, with a day’s gap involved between processes. In fact, it is this wait between each step that determines the hue and depth of the colors used. It is said that the longer a fabric is kept and the stronger the sun, the more vivid the colors. And since Nature doesn’t quite give the same kind of sunshine on any two days, reach piece of textile is unique and distinctive. The print of each fabric carries with the signature of the environment on that particular day.
The artisans use custom-made blocks and dip them in a hand-made resin. The prints have to be symmetrically applied on both sides with the blocks without the prints overrunning onto each other.
As the art actually uses colors from local plants and seeds, it is an ecologically sustainable craft that honors the produce of the land.
Ajrakh has also been a robust route for survival.
Following a devastating earthquake in Gujarat in 2001, nearly a thousand artisans were displaced. They set up their trade of Ajrakh and built a life for themselves. This township is called Ajrakhpur – a colony of Ajrakh artisans.
Next time you want to spruce up your space or have something on you that is timeless, try Ajrakh. It is sweet little aphorism in fabric, suited for modern living – stay a while and let beauty emerge.