In two earlier articles readers were introduced to the Khatris of Kachchh district in Gujarat, western India. The first article described the history and development of their traditional vocation -block-printing and dyeing textiles - while the second discussed their experiences following the destruction of the Gujarat earthquake of January 2001. This article describes some of the technical processes of block-printing and the use of natural dyes. It features ajrakh, a resist-dyed cloth, colored predominantly red and blue with madder and indigo that is printed on both sides of the fabric.
The origins of the term ajrakh remain unclear. The explanation favored by many scholars is that it derives from azrak, the Arabic for 'blue', and this would seem likely considering its indigo hue. Ajrakh is the traditional male attire of the maldharis, the Muslim animal herders of Kachchh. Highly prized for its enduring colour, it is attributed with protective properties against the district's harsh climate and is customarily given to a groom at the time of marriage. Traditionally ajrakh was printed on hand-woven cotton (khadi) made on pit looms by the Vankars (weavers). Due to the narrow width of khadi, the practice developed of joining two pieces of fabric together to make: a serviceable garment. The elaborate geometric and floral designs of ajrakh were further embellished by an embroidered centre seam, often worked in an interlacing stitch known as machi kantho (fish-bone stitch) by the w...
block printing, Gujarat, KUTCH
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