Gujarat is a known place for tourists. People from all over visit this place to experience mere yet exceptional handicrafts, holy temples, historic capitals, wildlife sanctuaries, beaches, hill resorts, mouthwatering cuisines, traditions and culture and colorful lifestyle of the people. It is one of the most diverse states in India. The word Gujarat is from the word ‘Gujaratta’ which means the land of Gurjars, a sub-tribe of Huns who ruled the area.
Gujarat has a very rich inheritance of handicrafts. The handicrafts of Gujarat are very unique and they have been given a boost by the government and some private clients. The products can be seen in emporiums. Other crafts such as embroidery, leatherwork, Bandhani and hand block printing are also witnessed in Gujarat. Printing on cloth is seen widely and is a complex and specialized job. The wooden blocks are engraved with the designs needed. There are various techniques of embellishing fabric with dyes and Ajrakh printing is one among them. An extraordinary piece of Ajrakh printing is that the same design on a single fabric is done with other dyeing techniques. The process of printing is repeated on both sides of the fabric perfectly which takes the skills of an experienced artisan. Dyeing is repeated to get brilliant colours and sometimes to fill the outlined patterns. The superimposing happens so flawlessly and clarity is perfected.
The skilful and patterned Ajrakh printing came to kutch around four hundred years ago when Muslim artisans settled in Dhamadka, a village 50kms away from Bhuj, a center for printing fabric. The earthquake that took place in 2001 relentlessly damaged Bhuj, Dhamadka and other towns all over the region. In the rise of this disaster, the artisans who worked on printing fabrics were brought together and a new village was built to rebuild their lives and start with craft production, they named the place Ajarakhpur. The fabric of Ajrakh carry a lot of meanings and a popular one amongst local printer is that Ajrakh means ‘keep it today’. The word is also linked to the Arabic word Azrakh, a word for indigo. The deep indigo and mesmerizing maroon dyed with tinges of black and white of an Ajrakh product charm the heart and soul of any beholder. The deepest blue of indigo and the heated red that are the complement base colors, are the motive of creation. Artisan works with sheer joy keeping the tradition of producing printed fabrics. Traditionally Ajrakh printing is exclusively done on both sides of cotton fabric and these days silk is also used. Ajrakh uses complex geometry patterns to create collections in indigo, maroon, and black and white colors. The patterns are inspired by the architectural forms of Islamic architecture’s complicated jali windows and trefoil arches. The Ajrakh coloring is fast and it is carried out in fourteen to sixteen steps of the making process that includes washing, dyeing, printing and drying that requires a high level of a skilled and experienced person to keep colors fast and even. Natural ingredients are used to get the dyes. Keeping eco-friendly dyes will increase the sustainability of the craft and the ecology.
Ajrakh is also said to signify the universe and the use of color palate is explained so as the color red is used to symbolize the earth, black for darkness, white for clouds and blue for the universe on the whole. The star-spangled sky against a bluish-black background is what Ajrakh means, blue in Arabic as compared. One can easily notice the fabric of Ajrakh, backgrounds with colors of red or blue along with some vegetable dyes like yellow and green make it noticeable. It is also believed that warm and cool colors that are printed on fabric steady the body temperature.