The fabrics for our clothing printed with Ajrakh come from Ajrakhpur. This village consists of an immigrant community from the state of Sindh. Everyone here practices the same craft: Ajrakh, a form of block printing.
Ajrakh: printing with natural dyes
The Maldhari communities live about 40 kilometers away in the village of Dhamadka. They still make and wear traditional Ajrakh prints: prints of pure natural dyes, applied with wooden stamps on textile. Ajrakh patterns are applied to one side of the fabric or to two sides at once. This double sided identical printing requires great technical skill.
(men in traditional Ajrakh)
Production up to one month
Making ajrakh is a lengthy process. The fabric can go through as many as 16 processing stages, is printed and dyed several times and production can take up to a month. Ajrakh is expensive because it is very labor intensive and is only made on a small scale.
Vegetable and mineral dyes
Ajrakh and other manual prints are characterized by geometric patterns. Cotton or silk is printed with wooden blocks that serve as a stamp. Usually (and always with Ajrakh) mineral and vegetable dyes are used.
Block printing: 4500 years old
The art of block printing on cotton cloth has been practiced in India for over 4,500 years. Excavations from ancient civilizations in the Indus Valley provide evidence that block printing on cotton fabric in geometric patterns may have been one of the oldest printing methods in the Indian subcontinent.
Large quantities of coarsely woven, indigo-dyed fabrics were exported from the Indus Valley to the Persian Gulf, via the sea route to Egypt and Babylon. Egyptians used this blue cloth to wrap mummies before burial.
(dyeing with indigo)
The meaning of blue, red, black and white
The word ajrakh is probably derived from the word azarukh, which means "blue" in Arabic and Persian. The blue in the ajrakh prints symbolizes the sky, the red symbolizes twilight and night is indicated by black. The white motifs scattered throughout the fabric are like stars in a dark night.