Ajrakh: Harmony at Repetition

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"

Ajrakh - Process: Washing fabric with soda ash to soften it, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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1. Washing with soda ash to soften cloth

Ajrakh - Process: Wringing washed fabric, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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2. Rinsing washed fabric

Ajrakh - Process: Preparing harda (myrobalan) to treat the washed fabric, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Ajrakh - Process: Drying harda (myrobalan) treated fabric, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Ajrakh - Process: Sieving the masala of bhantaana (first printing), 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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3. Preparing Balls of Harda to treat washed fabric 4. Drying Harda treated fabric 5. Sieving
the masala of Bhantaana.

Ajrakh - Process: Preparing the patiya (printing table) with layers of fabric for printing, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Ajrakh - Process: Laying down harda (myrobalan) treated fabric on patiya (printing table) for printing, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Ajrakh - Process: Printing bhantaana (first outline), 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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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)

Ajrakh - Process: Printing katkachekkna (black outline), 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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9. Printing katkachekkna (black outline)

Ajrakh - Process: Mixing cow dung in earthen pit, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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10. Mixing cow dung in earthen pit.

Ajrakh - Process: Sieving kharrhka masala (raw material for preparing resist), 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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11. Sieving kharrhka masala for printing.

Ajrakh - Process: Printing fabric with kharrhkachekna (resist paste), 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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12. Printing fabric with kharrhkachekna.

Ajrakh - Process: Fixing kharrhkachekkna (resist paste) with khattar (cow dung powder), 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Ajrakh - Process: Drying the printed fabric in the sun, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Ajrakh - Process: Dipping the resist printed fabric in indigo dye bath, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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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.

Ajrakh - Process: Dipping indigo-dyed fabric into an Alizarin solution, being heated over a bhatti (furnace), 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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16. Drying indigo dyed fabric in the sun.

Ajrakh - Process: Drying indigo dyed fabric in the sun, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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17. Dipping indigo dyed fabric into an Alizarin solution, being heated over a bhatti (furnace) 

Ajrakh - Process: Davdi ka phool (Davdi flowers) being added into the Alizarin solution, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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18. Davdi ka phool being added into the Alizarin solution.

Ajrakh - Process: Shedding off extra flower content before final washing, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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19. Shedding off extra flower content or any residue before final washing.

Ajrakh - Process: Final washing of finished textile, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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20 – Final washing of finished textile. 

"Traditional Ajrakh Printing"

"Ajrakh" Glimpse of Traditional Block Printing from ..., From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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"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"

Ajrakh through stages: White cloth washed in camel dung, soda ash and castor oil, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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White cloth washed in camel dung, soda ash and castor oil

Ajrakh through stages: Dyed with Myrobalan, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Dyed with Myrobalan

Ajrakh through stages: Printed with resist made of gum arabic and lime, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Printed with resist made of gum arabic and lime

Ajrakh through stages: Printed with rust iron solution, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Printed with rust iron solution

Ajrakh through stages: Printed with mixtures of alum and clay, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Printed with mixtures of alum and clay

Ajrakh through stages: Dyed with indigo first dipping, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Dyed with indigo - first dipping

Ajrakh through stages: Washed with plain water, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Washed with plain water

Ajrakh through stages: Boiled with alzarin red and termix powder for a dark red, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Boiled with alzarin red and termix powder for a dark red

Ajrakh through stages: Printed with mixtures of alum and clay, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Printed with a mixture of alum and clay

Ajrakh through stages: Dyed with indigo, second dipping, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Dyed with indigo - second dipping

Ajrakh through stages: Washed with plain water, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Washed with plain water

Ajrakh through stages: Boiled again with alzarin red and termix powder, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Boiled again with alzarin red and termix powder

Ajrakh through stages: The final product, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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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"

Naturally dyed fabrics: Alizarin and temrix flowers for dark red, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Naturally dyed fabrics: Rhubard root for pale yellow, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Naturally dyed fabrics: Madder for pale red, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Naturally dyed fabrics: Temrix flowers for mustard yellow, Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri, 2000/2014, From the collection of: Crafts Museum
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Credits: Story

Dr Ruchira Ghose, Mushtak Khan and Kritika Narula—Crafts Museum, Delhi

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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