Ajrakh is a cumbersome process of block printing where a set of 3 to 4 blocks is used to create a desired pattern. First an outline of resist paste is printed using first outline block then a paste of fullers earth, gum arabica & alum or alum mixed with tamarind seed powder using 2nd block is printed, then iron rust water with jaggery mixed with tamarind seed powder paste is printed using 3rd block.
Now in the end a resist paste made from fullers earth, clay and gum arabica is printed using 4th block on the place where alum paste was printed and after it get dried on next day it is dyed with indigo traditionally now a days it is dyed with kashish, pomegranate peel or any other chosen natural dye.
After dyeing it is washed and again dyed with alizarin using bhatti (Furnace) to get red color in place of alum printing. Now after washing saree or fabric is ready.
Ajrakh school of thoughts
One school of thought considers its Arabic meaning of Ajrakh as true other school of thought considers its literal meaning Ajrakh as a process.
National awardee Ranamalji Khatri shares the story of Ajrakh that in ancient times some 2500 years ago when Arab tradesman from Mesopotamia of today’s Iraq visited Sindh region and saw traditional hand block printing for the first time where geometrical patterns created on the fabric with penetration of indigo blue in the base they instantly said “Oh, ye to ajrakh hain” (Oh, this is blue sky). In Arabic language “Ajrakh” means blue or sky. Since then it is known as Ajrakh to the world. They stick to the Arabic meaning of Ajrakh as it is used for geometrical pattern printed with red, black and white and dyed background with indigo blue gives the feeling of blue sky. For other color background they have different names such as “Nashpal” for green background. This approach is known as “Orthodox” or Old school of thought.
Another legend of Ajrakh Dr. Ismailji Khatri considers “Ajrakh” as a process of doing hand block printing with a particular steps to be followed in a traditional manner. In his words Ajrakh means “Aaj hi rakh” (Keep it for a day), that means each and every step done in Ajrakh for a day only, one can not do next step of the process on the same day. One step need to be followed in a day only.
So as per talk with the Dr. Ismailji Ajrakh is considered as a process with its literal meaning “Aaj hi rakh” (Keep it for a day). There is no restriction of color pattern without disturbing the traditional steps, use of natural color and process.