Culture, tradition, legacy… Ajrakh is a craft that wears many titles. It is an intricate hand block printing method that originated in the present-day provinces of Sindh in Pakistan, along the banks of the Indus river. However, the roots of Ajrakh can be traced back as far as the Indus Valley Civilization. Today, the craft’s legacy is carried on in the Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
The craft’s name is believed to have multiple origins. Some say it comes from the Arabic word ‘Ajrak’ meaning ‘blue’, one of the primary colours used in Ajrakh printing. Others say that the name is the fusion of two Hindi words ‘Aaj’ and ‘rakh’ denoting ‘Keep it Today’.
Traditional Ajrakh prints feature blue and red colours with diverse natural as well as geometric patterns. Owing to the influence of the Mughal period, Ajrakh also flaunts mesmerising and complex architectural motifs. The use of natural dyes and thoughtful designs results in the creation of a fabric that makes a statement wherever it goes.
A single Ajrakh print comes to life only after a skill-intensive and elaborate process that spans over months. It combines hand block printing and resist-dyeing that fuse to produce delicate, multi-layered designs. From washing the cloth, preparing it, carving the wooden blocks, creating the dyes, and finally printing the cloth with finesse, it takes a lot to create the majestic Ajrakh print.
A dedicated community of artisans and their brilliance are the pillars that form the foundation of Ajrakh’s worldwide popularity today. Even though the craft has faced challenges along the way, especially with the rise of screen printing, its authentic charm remains unbeatable.