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The Ajrak Story

Ajrak is the unique classical blend of handloom textiles and vegetable dyes. The word Ajrak is derived from an Arabic word "Ajrak" which means "blue" as blue happens to be one of the principal colors in Ajrak printing and it is one of the earliest printed fabric recognized by human kind.

Apart from the settlers of the ancient civilisation, ajrak printing blossomed in India in the 16th century with the migration of the Khatri community from the Sindh province to the Kutch district. The king of Kutch’s recognition of the intricate textile art spawned invitations for Khatri families practising ajrak printing to populate uninhabited lands in Kutch. Some families eventually migrated to Rajasthan and settled primarily in and around Barmer. Ajrak printed products created by the Khatri community have traditionally been donned by the Maldhari community. The Maldharis are an ethnic community of semi-nomadic herdsmen from Gujarat and Rajasthan who have since settled in the Banni Grasslands Reserve of the Kutch district, Gujarat.

How it is made and why is it different?

The process of creating Ajrak needs time and energy. Depending on the complexness of the planning, the number of colors, and the different types of blocks used, it can take up to twenty people to prepare a single unique garment.

As ajrak printing is a form of block printing, the production technique is, to an extent, similar. Designs are first carved into wooden blocks before being dipped in dye and printed onto fabric. Artisans diligently prepare the fabric before beginning the meticulous printing process. The fabric is first washed to rid it of starch and impurities. It is then soaked in a mixture of camel dung, seed oil and water, which not only softens the fabric but also acts as a bleaching agent. The fabric is then tied together and stored for 5-10 days, depending on weather conditions.

The quality of the fabric can be determined by the pungency of the smell that emanates from the stored fabric, somewhat like mango pickle. This is a result of the fibres of the cloth reacting with the seed oil. The fabric is then laid out in the sun to dry before undergoing a second treatment of a mixture containing oil and sodium carbonate. The fabric is then stored overnight before being washed. Traditionally, the Indus River helped matters with its plentiful.

Then the fabrics are soaked in sakun, a mixture of dried lemon, castor oil, molasses, tamarisk gall and water. Multiple treatments ensure that the fabric is able to consistently absorb and retain dyes resulting in ajrak’s patent – its deep colours.

Where are the colors derived from?

At the guts of Associate in Nursing ajrak is love for nature that is additionally the supply of all its raw materials.

These embody dried pomegranate peel, katha (an essential ingredient in paan), alum, dried lemon, clay, indigo dye, sakun (a mixture of a tamarisk gall, molasses, castor oil, dried lemons and water), soda ash, mustard oil, kesu phool and alizarine (red dye).

Even the producing method makes use of renewable resources like daylight, water and sustainable agriculture and mud, staying true to the thought behind the trefoil motif.

Although the styles aren't aniconic, of animals and humans, they symbolise the bounties of nature: stars, floral prints, indigo for twilight and red for the planet.

The famous description within local professionals and specialists is that Ajrakh means “state of the art.” The cloth is made in a sixteen step process of washing, dyeing, printing, and drying, with one step being complete in a day and the fabric being lay the rest of the day.

What is the brands approach towards sustainable fashion?

As a nature lover, the designer feel very strongly about the impact on the environment. The fashion industry is the second largest polluting industry in the world and therefore sustainability is the need of the hour. As a brand, we are contributing towards sustainable fashion by using Ajrakh which is completely based on natural resources and are making firm efforts to reduce our environmental footprint and we are trying to promote artisans. In 2018, we collaborated with Moana Lani Festival, Hawaii where the designer talked about what we are doing to save the environment through eco-friendly dyes and how we can save it by keeping the environment in consideration as a brand by moving ahead towards sustainable fashion.

Image Credit : Book Sindh jo ajrakh - Noorjehan Bilgrami