A Legacy of Prints and Dyes – Ajrakhpur

If you have been following us on Instagram, we were in the Western most part of India, Bhuj with @theflapperlife in December’19. We’ve heard everyone suggest that a trip to Bhuj is incomplete without a visit to the Kutch villages and its talented artisans. Thus began the village hopping in Bhuj and our first stop was at Ajrakhpur. The car took a left from the ever stretching Bhuj- Bachua highway on a December afternoon when I woke up from my slumber in the long car ride. The driver expertly maneuvered the car through small narrow lanes with sparsely located houses on the muddy streets . It was a typical lazy Sunday afternoon in Ajrakhpur – arid, dry and the village had no reason to show any kind of activity. Most houses looked similar – single storied, flat roofed and earthquake resistant spaced at equal distances. Even from a distance, the studio of Dr. Ismail Khatri caught my attention with its ochrecolored walls . It looked earthy and inviting, subdued yet bold.

The moment I entered the studio, it felt very artistic and contemporary in style. The entrance door made up of used/discarded blocks of Ajrakh prints gave a very distinct look and revitalized vibe to the studio.There were a few pieces of blocks scattered on the floor along with large amounts of saw dust, cutters, hammers surrounding it. Those must have been blocks carved and chiseled fresh. The hall at the entrance that’s more like a courtyard is huge enough to accommodate 30-40 people, for any discussions or classes. My eyes fell on an old style cot that was stacked with Ajrakh fabrics. It had everything, from saris to stoles. My mood was comparable to a child who was just shown a very colorful candy store and doesn’t know where to begin.

Courtesy – toothpicnations.co.uk

The fabrics were soft and every single piece was made out of hours of tremendous human efforts. The mixture of indigo and maroon which dominates the Ajrakh style was spread in various geometries and constellations of Mughal inspired paisleys. Mustards and greens found their ideal spot in the small sunflower inspired prints on the handwoven cottons, kota-doria, Muga Silk, Maheswari silk, Chanderi and every other exquisite fabric. Every piece boasted of contemporary design blended with traditional motifs and a heavy price tag. Beyond question, slow fashion is expensive, unlike the industrialized garments with synthesized colors.

Did you know ?

The artisans of Ajrakh use seeds of pomegranate and indigo, iron, mud tamarind paste and camel dung to create natural dyes?

And these colors on the fabric don’t bleed or run!

I stepped out of the studio after fighting the irresistible urge to shop the entire store and looked past the door at the unnamed street that looked dry and dusty .There were a few similar looking houses (though not so artistically done) creating and selling Ajrakh. At the dead end of the road, I found a humble store with no dramatic appearance and I stepped in leaving my shoes out.Yet another sight of Ajrakh-i fabric right from stoles to saris and blouse fabrics. The person in the store Mr. Ismail Anwar Khatri was very courteous and polite in showing us his products and he did not attempt to boast of his craft because they spoke for themselves! I loved his humility, the warm welcome and the simplicity of his place. Yet those fabric pieces housed on the shelves were gems. My determination of being frugal failed and I couldn’t resist myself from splurging on a few saris and dupattas.

Being a Sunday, I had access to just 2 artisan’s creation. But the entire village of Ajrakhpur is dotted with workshops and outlets manufacturing and selling arts, crafts and designs from Ajrakh. Migrated from the Province of Sindh(now in Pakistan) the family of Khatris moved to Dhamadka in Kutch. The earthquake in 2001 devastated their livelihood and the artisans of Ajrakh migrated further and settled down in Ajrakhpur. This is such a buzzing spot and travelers take that diversion from the highways to reach this little hamlet that supplies to giants like Anokhi, FabIndia, Reliance retails and a few other well known brands

To meet the artisans and be a part of their workshops or see the process of printing , you need to take an appointment. But to visit the village, you only need eyes to fall in love with colors and prints . Let us appreciate slow fashion and not let this aesthetic art perish. Let us make “Buy Local” not just a fad or a trending hashtag on the social media, but to strengthen the domestic crafts and economic base of such communities

How about adding these to your pinterest boards?

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