One of the most mystical colorful and oldest known technique of hand block printing is Ajrakh. We already discussed about the history and interesting story about Ajrakh in our previous blog "Ajrakh story" wrote more than an year ago. This blog will provide insight about two different school of thoughts based on the opinion of two different masters of Ajrakh on the evolution of Ajrakh. One modern thought developed in Gujarat about Ajrakh and another is from Barmer district of Rajasthan which stick to the old school of thought.
On the basis of my study and meeting with two legends of Ajrakh hand block printing National Awardee Shri Ranamalji Khatri from Barmer & Dr. Ismailji Khatri from Ajrakhpur, Gujarat during my PhD., I am sharing different perspectives of Ajrakh as told by them. It is important in recent times to have a clarity about different school of thoughts about Ajrakh.
One school of thought considers its Arabic meaning of Ajrakh as true other school of thought considers its literal meaning Ajrakh as a process.
While talking to the Ranamalji Khatri about Ajrakh he told the story of Ajrakh that in ancient times some 2500 years 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 what I can call "Orthodox" or Old school of thought.
In discussion with Dr. Ismailji Khatri; he considers "Ajrakh" as a process of doing hand block printing with a particular process of traditional importance and steps need to be followed. 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.
I consider this thought as Open or Modern school of thought.
But still I think more and more research and interaction needed to explore hidden truths of this one of the oldest tradition of hand block printing.