Block Printing craft of Kutch
The Craft and Community:
The Khatri community, whose ancestors have been printing with Ajrakh blocks for centuries, migrated to Dhamadka, Kachchh from Sindh. Ajrakh printing, a form of block printing, began as a localized art. The Khatri community, whose name means “one who fills or changes colours,” printed using local natural dyes and water from the Dhamadka, the river that gave their village its name. Traditionally, artisans used combinations of fifty hand carved ajrakh blocks to decorate clothes for men from Sindhi pastoral communities living in their village and its surrounding area. For the women in these communities, artisans printed malir fabrics that signified social and marital status. Ajrakh means both “keep it for today” and “like the blue night sky with stars sparkling in the darkness.” Kachchh ajrakh is distinguished by the use of traditionally designed blocks and four colours— red, black, blue and white.
Ajrakh block printing follows a lengthy and demanding process. Printers prepare fabric for printing by tearing un-dyed fabric into 9 meter lengths, washing it to remove starches, wax and impurities and then dying it with myrobalam. Artisans select a wooden block from their collection of blocks carved with traditional designs. This first block is coated in lime and Acacia gum and carefully pressed onto the cloth at regular intervals. It acts as a resist. Artisans continue the process by selecting and coating blocks in dye, aligning them with previous prints, and pressing them carefully onto the fabric. Jaggery and gram flour are used for black designs; alum and tamarind for red. Artisans use fuller’s earth and alum to resist dyes. After each colour of print, artisans rinse and sun-dry the cloth. After the printing is complete, the cloth is washed, dyed in one of many natural colours, and once again laid in the sun to dry.
The craft products: Sarees, Double sided Duppatta, Stoles, Dress materials, Home furnishing items like Single – double bed covers, Cushion covers etc.