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Textile Guide: Ajrakh

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

Ajrakh printing

The printing of our ajrakh silk crepe kaftans, Ajrakhpur, Gujarat

The following is taken from the excellent publication, "Ajrakh - patterns & borders", produced by the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing in 2007. The Anokhi Museum in Jaipur is a wonderful source of inspiration and information for all things related to ajrakh, and more generally, hand block printing.

What is Ajrakh?

Ajrakh is a form of traditional hand block printing and resist dyeing using indigo, madder and printed mordants. Ajrakh production is limited to very few places in the world, namely Sindh in Pakistan, Kachchh or Kutch in Gujarat, India, and Barmer in Rajasthan, India. Produced by the Khatri community of dyers and printers, ajrakh is the most complex of their many textile products.

Ajrakh designs are easily recognisable by their bold geometric repeats, in combinations of centre field and border designs. These symmetrical patterns are printed and dyed in natural red and black, with the white cloth resisted on a dark indigo blue background.

In the isolated Banni region of Kachchh, Gujarat, ajrakh is traditionally worn by men of the Muslim Maldari community of cattle herders. In the far westernmost reaches of Rajasthan, ajrakh has been adopted by the Langhas and Mangnyars, itinerant communities of musicians. A marker of identity and family associations, the origins, creation, colours and design of a piece of ajrakh is crucial to its perceived authenticity and value.

Images: Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing

Where is ajrakh made?

Ajrakh production is limited to a very few isolated locations in Western Indian and Eastern Pakistan. Spanning modern political orders, ajrakh is traditionally associated with the geographical zone centred on the Rann of Kuchchh, Lower Sindh and the western edge of the Thar Desert. Prior to the political partition of Indian and Pakistan in 1947, this geographical region was, for many millennia, bound together by its people, places and landscape features, the key feature being the great river Indus.