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Enigmatic India

This blog captures the life experiences of the Enigmatic India team in the beautiful and enigmatic country of India.We capture our experiences through our writings, photos and products that depict the very essence and fabric of India.Through this platform, we invite you to join us in our journey as we explore.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Textile traditions of India: The awe-inspiring world of Ajrakh

Ajrakh is that awe-inspiring block print fabric, gratifying the senses and the soul, steeped in 400 year old history. How about enriching your sartorial taste with a dash of this vibrant fabric that defies geographical boundaries and connects us with the abundantly rich textile traditions of India. I'm happy to share my second blog in this series, featuring the world of Ajrakh.

Synonymous with the region with of Kutch and Sindh (in Pakistan) today, authentic Ajrakh is striving hard to revive and survive - it needs our appreciation, care and concern.  Patterns and designs that are rooted in our composite culture, tracing back to the Mohenjodaro civilization, bind us with our neighbour Pakistan and trace our links with the Egyptian glory.

Ajrakh takes me back to those days when Hyderabad had very few stores that sold ready-to-wear handlooms and hand block printed garments. I got introduced to Ajrakh at this small store in Lal Bahadur Stadium, run by Sohan Shetkari Sanghathan. I can still remember vividly how the store manager explained to me why Ajrakh garments cost more than other prints and how constrained I was to buy with with my measly pocket money in student days!

I always cherished the longing wish to own at least a kurta and a dupatta; here’s a stole from Fabindia that I usually pair with my tops and tunics for that awesomely earthy feeling!

Ajrakh is symbolic and and literal at the same time. The paradoxical name of aj-rakh (keep it today) actually refers to a process that takes days  as the fabric undergoes magical changes, transforming itself into something beautiful and ethereal.  As this richly informative source says: "The word Ajrakh also relates it to the Arabic word 'Ajrukh', meaning 'deep blue'; referring to the 'universe". The sharp geometrical patterns resembling stars and the indigo dye denoting the sky is a symbolic representation of the ‘universe’, originally depicting Islamic forms of architecture.

Here are some interesting facts about Ajrakh  that give its unique colours and shining finish no matter whether it’s done on cotton, silk or any other fabric:
  • Authentic Ajrakh is printed on both side, with pure natural dyes
  • A mixture of  camel dung soda ash, castor oil is used to soak the cloth and soften
  • The resist method uses Chuna (quick lime ) and gum arabic to get the exact natural effect
This video captures the process in detail and shows the ingredients and the delicate intricacies that are followed traditionally
My interest in learning more about the textile, took me to the books and videos of Ms. Jasleen Dhamija, the well-known textile historian and author, deeply connected with crafts and handlooms of India. Spare a few minutes to watch Ms. Dhamija narrating interesting incidents that takes us back to historical moments:
It's almost impossible to say many nice things about Ajrakh in a short write-up. However, it's heartening to have so many online sources to learn from. I wouldn't have been able to compose this piece without referring to many online sources, particularly Youtube and Wikipedia.
(Contributed by Madhuri Dubey)

1 comment:

  1. Nice content.It's interesting to see the way you conceptualize each shoot. We have similar styles for you to check here at:


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