One of the workshops we'll be doing on our Gujarat tour is an Ajrakh (also Ajrak) block printing workshop. Ajrakh cloth is block printed with colors primarily deep red and indigo with some white and black made with natural dyes. Its history goes back to civilizations that lived in the Indus Valley around 2500-1500 BC. Originating from Sindhi culture, you can find some highly valued Ajrakh in the Kutch area of Gujarat. The Khatris, who migrated there from Sindh, Pakistan, in the 16th century are experts in this involved process. The Sindhis from Pakistan are predominantly Muslim. The basis of all Islamic art forms is balance and order. It is this underlying principle governing the laws of creation that you'll find in Islamic art and Ajrakh designs.
The wood block artisans use a compass and ruler to create the exacting geometric designs. A set of blocks are needed for each design that includes an outline block, one for background, and one or two for filler.
As a highly specialized craft, precise measuring and carving is required of an ajrakh printing block.
An Ajrakh cloth is usually about 2.5-3 meters in length. Several blocks are carved for each design, one for each color. The printing is done by hand and involves several stages of printing and washing. The execution and format of an Ajrakh print concerns a sense of order and discipline. The pattern is laid out in a grid with horizontal and vertical borders revolving around a main central all over patterned area. Ajrakh printed cloth can be used for scarves, shawls, bed fabrics and gifts given as tokens of respect. In contemporary use for the tourist industry, you'll find men's shirts and women's garments.
It's easy to appreciate the beauty and work that goes into creating these fabrics and to realize the importance of keeping this technology and art form alive.