One of the most specialised and finest kinds of block printing, AJRAKH is a popular traditional art form of Kutch with its main centres in Dhamadka, Khavda and Bhuj in Gujarat.
Ajrakh printing is one of the famous traditional special skills of Kutch. The word ‘Ajrakh’ means ‘keep it to day’ and perhaps served as resources of advertising. It also means making beautiful and in Arabia, Ajrakh indicates the blue colour which is an important technique. Khatri community has been occupied in this craft for many centuries and the technique is controlled down from father to son. In recent times, Harijan craftsmen qualified under Khatri craftsmen are also capturing this craft. Dhamanka and Khavda are the two most important centres.
The entire process of printing Ajrakh thus involves 13 stages that are inevitably more expensive to produce, but the result is a wonderful depth of colour not achievable with surface printing.
First, the material is preoccupied and progressed by washing. Washed cloth is dipped in a solution of microbalances and dried. Then, it is spread on printing table topped with sack made stuffing. The fabric section required to maintain the original white colour is first printed with defend against prepared by using lime, gum and water. Wherever red colour is required that segment is printed with Alum solution. The Alum sees through the cloth while lime acts as refuse to accept. Sometimes, sawdust or camel dung powder is spotted to strengthen the resist. The same process is repeated on the other side for both sides printing. Afterwards, the cloth is absorbed in mixture containing. Alizarine and Padvas in which the processed cloth gets a bright red colour on the portion provided with Alum. Again, resist print is repeated to maintain white and red colours. Then, the cloth is dipped in indigo solution prepared by mixing indigo cake, chajikar, lime and water by the exciting method. Even a type of yellow soil nearby identified as ‘Kaiya’ is used for black colour. The cloth is washed in flowing water, dried, ironed and packed.
In the ‘Minakari’ process of painting, lime or terracotta resists is avoided and the white portions of Ajrakh twist into light blue. Minakari process makes possible the printers to get different shades from dark blue and red to deep maroon. To avoid the lengthy and time overwhelming method the craftsmen also make use of artificial colours. Nepthols for red and for blue colour indigo green no. 60 is also utilized.
Champakali, Raiya, Kharek, Nipad, Grinari etc. are the main and famous traditional designs used in painting and they are used on cradle spreads, lungis, sarees, dress materials, pillow covers and table cloths. Main centres of printing are Dhamanka, Khavda and Bhuj.