Ajrakh print is one of the oldest known technique of hand block printing. Its history traces back to 2500 B.C. at the time of Harappa and Mohe Jo Daro. It is to be said that few of the statues found in these places wearing shawl depicting Ajrakh print.
It was mainly practiced in Sindh region of today’s Pakistan by “Khatri” community. It was spreaded to various parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan due to migration of few families in search of new markets and places to avoid stiff competition. There are interesting versions of Ajrakh print story told by craftsmen of Gujarat and Rajasthan. The common is that “Ajrakh” is an Arabic word which is used for “Universe” or “Blue” color.
Story told by National Awardee Shri Ranmal Khatriji to us, who migrated from Sindh region of Pakistan at the time of partition to Barmer in Rajasthan. He narrated that 2000 years ago basically four natural colors used in Ajrakh print were red, black, yellow and Indigo. Primarily geometrical designs including Stars and the Sun and domination of indigo blue color (Also a color of sky) in the process looks like universe has created on the fabric and when for the first time Arabic businessmen from Mesopotamia saw this, instantly called “ye to ajrakh hain” (Oh this is Ajrakh) and since then it is known as Ajrakh to the world.
He also added that Ajrakh printing was also done on the both sides of the fabric in similar manner like “Batik” mainly on “Lungi” for men so that it can be wore by either of the sides. But today it is a very costly affair to print on one side so both side printing is a matter of past.
Another version of the Ajrakh story told by Dr. Ishmailji Khatri of Ajrakhpur and it is a common to all the Ajrakh lovers.
In discussion with us he told us that it was traded to Arab countries in the past from Sindh region and Ajrakh meaning in Arabic language is “Blue”, so it is known as Ajrakh to the world. His version behind Ajrakh is “aaj hi rakh” (Keep it today) is also behind the name “Ajrakh” used for this beautiful hand block printing art.
In the past mainly geometrical designs were used by Ajrakh craftsmen but today variety of modern and floral designs introduced in Ajrakh printing.