Ajrakh: Harmony at Repetition

Crafts Museum

The technique and process of making an Ajrakh 

Ajrakh is a unique combination of hand block printing and resist dyeing. The skilful manipulation of two kinds of resist, or Dabu (mud and lime-resist) produces intricate, multi-layered designs on treated cotton cloth.

The hallmark of the original Ajrakh textile, which typically uses blue or red vegetable dyes, is double-sided printing, where the pattern on one side of the fabric is precisely replicated, line for line, dot for dot, on the other, ‘reverse’, side.

Ajrakh-making process,

Barmer, Rajasthan

1. Washing with soda ash to soften cloth
2. Rinsing washed fabric
3. Preparing Balls of Harda to treat washed fabric
4. Drying Harda treated fabric
5. Sieving the masala of Bhantaana.
6. Preparing the patiya with layers of fabric for printing.
7. Laying down harda treated fabric on patiya for printing
8. Printing bhantaana (first outline)
9. Printing katkachekkna (black outline)
10. Mixing cow dung in earthen pit.
11. Sieving kharrhka masala for printing.
12. Printing fabric with kharrhkachekna.
13. Fixing kharrhkachekkna with khattar (cow dung powder) 
14. Drying the printed fabric in the sun.
15. Dipping the resist printed fabric into indigo dye bath.
16. Drying indigo dyed fabric in the sun.
17. Dipping indigo dyed fabric into an Alizarin solution, being heated over a bhatti (furnace) 
18. Davdi ka phool being added into the Alizarin solution.
19. Shedding off extra flower content or any residue before final washing.
20 – Final washing of finished textile. 

Traditional Ajrakh Printing

Harmony at Repetition

“The construction of the motifs follows two opposite but complementary tendencies. On one hand, the printing block, used as the basic unit, is a closed surface having a clear, coherent and balanced order: the centre is always clearly defined and the diverse elements of the pattern are solidly structured around it according to the pattern of the diagonal and medians. 

But on the other hand, and at the same time, this well-delimited construction opens outwards and by this very opening a new order is created, ruled by different laws. It is this balance between the centrifugal and the centripetal tendencies within one unit, translated by the surfaces (and of course the alternating colours) which will generate the harmony at the time of repetition; that is, at the moment when the part will merge into the whole.”

- Francoise Cousin

‘Light and Shade, Blue and Red: The Azrak of Sind’, Ahmedabad : Mapin Publishing, 1989

AJRAKH Textile through stages

White cloth washed in camel dung, soda ash and castor oil
Dyed with Myrobalan
Printed with resist made of gum arabic and lime
Printed with rust iron solution
Printed with mixtures of alum and clay
Dyed with indigo - first dipping
Washed with plain water
Boiled with alzarin red and termix powder for a dark red
Printed with a mixture of alum and clay
Dyed with indigo - second dipping
Washed with plain water
Boiled again with alzarin red and termix powder
The final Ajrakh

Naturally Dyed Fabrics

1. Alizarin and temrix flowers for dark red

2. Madder for pale red

3. Temrix flowers for mustard yellow

4. Rhubarb root for pale yellow

Credits: Story

Dr Ruchira Ghose, Mushtak Khan and Kritika Narula — Crafts Museum, Delhi
Collaborating Institution for Exhibition held at Crafts Museum — National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi
Swatches representing "Ajrakh through stages" made by — Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri
Video On Ajrakh made for Ministry of Textiles — Kutch Adventures India
Online exhibit credits — Consultants - Digitization, Crafts Museum - Gunjan Tripathi, Visetuonuo Kiso and Habib Ahamad

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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