When the world is buzzing with “sustainability” and “environment-friendly” as the newest big trends of the future, for many centuries, innumerable crafts have existed in harmony with nature. Some things so subtle that they do not glare out, yet so vivid that one cannot help but appreciate the aesthetics in their creation. One such craft is the Ajrak.
Traditionally, Ajrak is the name of a block printed cloth with deep crimson red and indigo blue background, bearing symmetrical patterns with interspersed unprinted sparkling white motifs. An ancient craft, the history of the Ajrak can be traced back to the civilizations of the Indus Valley that existed around 2500 BC-1500 BC.
The term “Ajrak”, may be derived from “Azrak”, meaning blue in Arabic, as blue happens to be the one of the principal colours in Ajrak printing. Water is vital to the production of Ajrak cloth. Artisans take the cloth through a process that can involve over thirty separate steps as first the cloth is prepared, then mordanted, then dyed. Through each stage the character of the water will influence everything – from the shades of the colours themselves to the success or failure of the entire process.
India has lost over 2 million artisans over the last 30 years. Today we see that fashion is all about glamour and trends. But in reality, fashion is about the people who create it with their craft to bring an imagination to life. Today, we are very conveniently forgetting the very people who make it. Artisans of Khatri community in Kutch have almost stopped production of Ajrak because of shortage of water and the entery of screen printed material using chemical dyes.