In search of craft…
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF FASHION TECHNOLOGY-GANDHI NAGAR
About Kutch 4-6
Making of Dhabla
History of Dhabla 17-21
Ramji Bhai 22-23
Weavers community 24
Dyeing of wool 27-29
Work procedure 35-45
Extra weft patterning 46
Design vocabulary 47-50
Current scenario 51-53
About the product 53-59
Making of Ajrak
Dr. Ismile Bhai khatri 65-68
This compilation of experience and learning is based upon an extensive filed research that had been under taken by us, a
group comprising of three fashion and textile students of semester 4 from NIFT Gandhi Nagar (2005-2009).
First and foremost we would like to thank the people of the villages, for excepting us into their midst and making our field
work in their village not only possible but also enjoyable.
We are extremely thankful to Vankar Ramji Bhai and his family and all his other fellow craftsmen for their valuable
guidance that helped us in understanding the craft and also helped in making the product in the village during our stay at
We are also very grateful to Dr.Ismile Mohammad khatri and this son Juned Bhai for their cooperation and time.
We would also like to thank all our faculties Ms.Payal Jain, Mrs.Rupali Pandit, Mrs. Subhangi Yadav, Mr. Manish Bhargav
for giving us such a wonderful opportunity of going and visiting the crafts in practicality.
At last the other group (Ms. Joytsna Gupta, Ms. Divya Sharma, Ms. Nancy Sikka and Mr. Ujjwal Gajbe) who went with to
Kutch and shared their experiences about the different embroideries, during our stay at bhuj.
NOORANI BISWAS SANJEET SORANGE GARIMA OJHA
We have always read a lot about India being a land that treasures the knowledge of some of the best and most astonishing
textile oriented crafts like, weaving ,printing dyeing ,embroideries as well as other crafts like wood work ,metal
work ,pottery happening all across the world and that to since ages.
Infact India is said to be the origin of some of the major crafts which people around the world not only recognize but also
take inspiration from. Living in such a state and aspiring to be textile designer itself opens the door for all of us to go and
witness some of the crafts happening around us our self.
As a student of 4th semester fashion and textile design department our curriculum gave us the opportunity of documenting
any textile oriented craft happening in India. This included an extensive field visit followed by the compilation. The motif
of the module was to visit the craft and the artisan practicing it and hence developing the over all understanding about the
Our group decided of documenting two crafts the Dhabla weaving (bhujori) and Ajrak printing (ajrak pur) since both fall
in the kutch region and very ancient in their origin.
Kachchh, also known as Kutch is the largest district in
Gujarat state and the second largest in India with an
area of 45,612 square kilometers. Surrounded by the Gulf
of Kachchh and the Arabian Sea in the south and west, its
name literally means “surrounded by water.”
When viewed upside down on a map, the district looks
like a tortoise, which is Kachchh or Kachbo in the Kutchi
and Gujarati languages. Hence, it is believed that the
name is derived from it. The district remains a wetland
for a large part of the year even if there aren’t too many
dams built around River Rann, a salt waste mainly in the
north of the district, which was the scene of Indo-
Pakistani fighting in 1965. Though little is known about
the entire area, its people and religions have made
Kachchh a “Mystery Land.
Major towns of Kutch
Lady wearing bandhni
Bhuj, the western most city of India, is a treasure
trove of heritage and culture. Like few other towns,
which have escaped the tourist invasion in India,
Bhuj offers to the traveler hospitality hitherto
unseen in modern times. Bhuj is known for its
small, meandering streets, palaces and temples. It
also has the oldest museum in the state of Gujarat.
It not only has numerous places of interest within
the city, but places (especially villages) around it
are very famous for their traditional handicrafts
Bhuj is located in the westernmost part of the state of
Gujarat, in the western region of India. It is around 300
km from Ahmedabad, the state capital. It is near the Gulf
of Kutch, a part of the Arabian Sea. Low hills overlook
the city of Bhuj. Though Bhuj is near the coast,
yet its climate is hot. It is because of its proximity to the
Great Rann of Kutch to its north and the Small Rann to
its west, which are
vast, sandy, and
dry salt flats. Bhuj
June) and mild
February). It is
monsoons in the
months of June-
A local ruler Maharao Hamir founded the city of Bhuj in
1510. In 1549 Rao Khengarji I, another local ruler, made
Bhuj his capital. It remained an independent princely
state during the rule of the British in India and became a
part of India, when it gained independence in 1947. ,
starting a dynasty of jadeja rulers that ruled over
Kachchh for 400 years. And so, the old walled city of
Bhuj is the most important town in the area. The place
lies at the heart of Kutch and is linked by many roads to
the rest of the peninsula.
The cenotaphs, erected at the royal cremation ground as
memorials to the former rulers and the CHHATRI of
Rao Lakhpatji who died in 1761, are fine specimen of
Kachchhi architecture. The prag Mahal made during the
rule of Rao Khengarji,is a beautiful example of Roman
architecture in Bhuj. Also in Bhuj are the Aina Mahal or
Glass Palace which was built in the 18th century, the
Kutch Museum, which is Gujarat’s oldest.
There are a
Bhuj. Some of
villages near Bhuj are Bhujori, which is famous for
weaving. Padhar and Dhaneti are famous for
traditional Ahir embroidery. Dhamanka is known
for block printing. Lilpur is known for its
embroidery while the village of Anjar is famous for
block printing, tie and dye items and traditional
betel nut crackers. Items obtained from these villages
make good souvenirs as well as items of daily use. The
village of Dholavira is an ancient site associated with the
Indus Valley Civilization. There is a Than Monastery (60
km) and a beautiful sea beach at Mandvi (60 km
southeast). Anjal Wild Ass Sanctuary and the town of
Gandhidham are other places near Bhuj.
Bhuj is known for its Rann Utsav (festival), which is held
every year in February/March. Also known as the Desert
Festival, it usually coincides with the Hindu festival of
Shivratri. The main attractions of this festival are
demonstration of traditional handicrafts, cultural events
and tours in and around the city.
OUR STAY AT BHUJ
Bhuj is a historical town and a very important sourcing
center for all the near by villages of kutch .
It is a developed town in terms its infrastructure. It has
most of the very important public entities like the
general hospital and the senior secondary school and
colleges; banks, etc.
The town is well connected with all the small villages
nearby highway as well as good transport system; buses,
jeeps, local chagra, taxis running
24 hrs. Because of such good connectivity, the villagers
can easily access all the facilities provided by the
The town is therefore perhaps the best halt station for
tourists visiting kutch, whether a craft lover or there to
visit some of the Gujarat’s most beautiful beaches.
The town has a number of dharamshala’s and
So tourism is one of the very important trades for the
local people . the local bhuj markets don’t have
malls but shops and showrooms have all the facilities.
That a town which is the back bone of the Kutch
region should have .
The city has a pretty decent nightlife where
the shops could be seen open till 11pm. During morning,
normally the town comes into life only after 10 am.
Bhuj also had witnessed a number of rulers.
The rulers seem to be great hunting lovers. The places
still have original skins and horns of animals not only
from the local jungle area, but also some of them were
exported from Africa through steamers.
Initially the palaces like the Aina mahal used
to be like any other rajwara palace of India. But later
on, in new royal buildings, roman and British
influence in architecture can be seen.
This palace has a very elaborate decoration by mirrors
and glasses. Most of the construction work used to be
done by the white mud and kutch is said to has
A common scene in bhujori
Bhujori is a village
which is around 20
km from bhuj.
It took us around
30 min to reach the
The village is like
any other village in
India is not exactly
on the road, one
needs to either walk
through or take
chagra or a times
even camel cart to reach inside the village
This takes around 10 min.
Reaching bhujori was easy but once we were in
Bhujori we had several other worries and curiosities
about the kind of place, people, sanitation and the most
important was communication problem which
we had faced earlier during our previous field visits
to the local gujrati villages, since none of us gujrati.
Backyard of house
We went to an auto wala and asked him to take
us to some dhabla shawl weaver .and he left us in front
of a house which was on the road.
On entering the house, we saw spacious
courtyard, surrounding which were several rooms.
The varanda is made of locally available white clay
and cow dung.
Inside the compound,
they had separate
rooms for there living
as well as for keeping
the ready stock for
sale and for keeping
raw material, like,
wool, cotton and silk.
Beside these they
have cattle area,
mostly the village
rear cattle’s like cow,
goat and sheep. Goat
and sheep are reared
by the rabaries.
First we went to the shop room where customer can
visit to buy dhabla. Inside the shop we met the care
taker shri. Rajesh Bhai. We introduced our shelves and
told him the reason of our arrival . He told us to wait
in the shop itself and he went out side.
Meanwhile we take a look on the different products in
the shop to gather an idea about dhabla.
They had made various products using extra weft
pattering in weaving, like shawls, blanket
Bags, cushioncovers, stoles, mufflers, etc.
Shop and store
to his father
weaver of the
that’s how we
bhujori as well
Interior of Vishramji’s house
Like we had seen the interiors of the aina
mahal at bhuj had very elaborated
decoration done using glasses and mirror
a similar kind of decoration could be seen
in the interior of most of the traditional
houses all around kutch .
HISTORY OF DHABLA
Rabbari women at work
Vishram ji Bhai told us that bhujori
village is more ancient than the town
There community i.e the Vunkar
community, which is
right now weaving dabla, is originally
from Rajasthan where they were called
Then Vishram ji narrated us the whole
story of how this migration happened.
According to him the Meghwal
community in rajesthan were great
followers of shri Ram Dev PirJi. Once
Ram Dev Pir Ji came to kutch and that
motivated the meghwals to follow him.
This is how for the first time meghwal
come to kutch.but slowly, besides
religion, trade also become another
reason for the meghwal to give frequent
visits to kutch. This vunkar community
realized that kutchi villages badlly need
weavers as there was no weaver
community in kutch at that time.
Rabaries, Ahirs were the first one who came to kutch .
Rabbaries are mainly sheep
rearers and Ahir’s are the people
of lower caste.
Rabaries are master’s in
embroidery but lack the
knowledge of weaving, so this is
how the vunkar from Rajasthan
got good job of weaving in these
villages and slowly settled here.
Initially it is said that the rabbari
women used to rear the wool
from the local sheep.
while sitting idle in there houses,
they used to spin wool.
Once the meghwal’s came rabbaries started giving these
hand spun wool to the weavers and the weavers
make shawls and blanket for rabbari women and men.
The traditional shawls woven for rabbari men were
called “dhabla”. Dhabla is a gujrati word meaning
The traditional dhabla was woven in two parts as the
loom width in those days used to be narrow as they
used hand shuttles for picking, longer width fabrics
are not possible with hand shuttle. So blanket was
woven in two parts each of a width of 26 inches and a
length of 100 inches.
They used to give ready shawls to rabbari women,
they finely stitches the two parts together.
The dhabla traditionally had very few color’s i.e. white
black, maroon and brown at times.
Earlier only natural dyeing used to happen.
The body was predominantly white, while black and
maroon extra weft pattering and at times warp wise
border with a black and maroon used to
happen most of the times the patterning was very
less. Traditional dhabla was very heavy .For
blankets they used 2 ply yarn and for shawl single ply
Embroidered luri for wedding
It is said that the rabaries men used
to drape the shawl tightly and the
weaving used to be so tight that
even water doesn’t penetrate during
rainfall. Men used to wear dhabla
throughout the day. For women
these shawls were called “luri”.
Lur it is of single ply and were relatively
lighter, predominantly black in
color and lesser extra weft pattering
than dhabla. It is mainly of plain
weave. The rabbaries themselves
used to do elaborate adornment by
using bhandni .They make red dots
on black body then they used to do
extensive embroidery over it.
These luri were used by newly wed. Young girls
eligible for marriage used to embroider luri for
themselves, they do lots of mirror work, thread work.
Luri’s were longer than dhabla since women used to
drape it around themselves like sarees, its length is
around 130 inches and width of 48 inches.
Traditionally the loom width used to vary from
Even today the rabari
women do their
works which another
happening in the
Name of the
Dhabla woven for ahir
community were more
colored. they had 7 colors
like, red. Black rust, pink,
orange, green, blue, black.
It was only after the year 1965 bhujori
gained fame for its craftand the credit goes to
prabha Ben shah from Bombay.
At the request of the craft sang manager of gujrat
Mr.Tripari Baiwas Mrs. Prabha Ben came to kutch and
saw this amazing craft happening, She made weavers
realize that this craft has much
more potential to grow and not just a tool of
fulfilling the domestic need of the village.
POPULATION DISTRIBUTION OF BHUJORI
Bhujori village has got mainly Hindu population, only
1to 2 Muslim families. The two major caste in the
village are vankar’s and rabbari’s. Around 200
houses of vankar and 100 houses of rabbaries.
Before earth quake villages and had kaccha house but
Today they have all pakka houses with 24 hrs water
Supply .water is fetched from bore wells. Most of the
Houses have proper sanitation facilities.
RAM JI BHAI
Ram ji Bhai the master weaver is one of the six brothers
of the bunker family headed by their father Sri Vanker
Valji Ram ji Bhai started practicing weaving at the age of
13. His educational qualification is till 8th standard (from
the village school only)
Since childhood he used to see his father, and then his
elder brothers doing the weaving work. And this dhabla
weaving always used to excite him a lot as a kid only.
Neither his father nor his brothers ever taught him the
weaving all that he has learned till date is by observing
Because of his firm interest in weaving he decided to
take up weaving as his occupation and as a craft like his
Today this 32 year old weaver has his own family and his
own pakka makan, just behind his father’s house where
he stays with his wife and two sons.
Ram ji Bhai has a very simple life style. Most of the
weavers in the village have same life styles.
Ram ji Bhai gets up in the morning at 6am and then
after finishing his day to day regular activities he starts
weaving at 8am. It is said that 8am -1am is the best time
for the weaver to weave as the weaver is fresh at that
time, more over there is sufficient light all around and
also the temperature conditions are better during early
morning hours so less chances of yarn breaking are there,
as a result of which maximum productivity.
Then the pace of weaving slows down .at 12:30 he leaves
for lunch. All the other weavers too go for lunch during
this time then after lunch he rests till 3pm. His
colleagues join him back at 3:15pm and then after the tea
break they again get back to there work which continues
till 5:30pm. After 5:30 no weaving happens. Then all the
weavers leave for there houses and gets engaged in there
family affairs, children, relatives and friends.
His house has a similar set up like his fathers house.
Ram ji has his own workshop, which again is very open
The workshop is made up of primarily from wood iron
and asbestos sheets.
Though he himself took
up weaving as his
occupation but like any
other parent he has
different plans for his
children he wants them
to study to get good job.
His workshop has six looms, two of which are frame
looms given to him by the government after earthquake.
Rest of four is all traditional pit looms.
After earthquake a no. of weavers lost there houses and
loom so Ram ji Bhai has given work to such
weaves .Most of theses weavers are his relatives only.
WEAVING OF THE DHABLA SHAWLS
THE WEAVERS COMMUNITY
Before the vankar community migrated from Rajasthan
to Kutch the weaving of cotton as well as woolen yarns
was done by the Dhed caste the members of which are
generally considered “untouchables”.
After the Gandhi movement
the use of the term harijan
Today the entire dhabla
weaving is in the hands of
the “vankar” community and
they are transferring it from
one generation to the other.
Wool needles to say is the basic requirement of the
dhabla weaving . It is interesting to notice that despite of
both Rajasthan as well as kutch having a hot climate
most of the time in the year, the weavers were engaged
in doing the wool weaving rather then using some other
lighter fabric like cotton, the reason behind this was the
“availability” factor it reflects that in remote villages
where people don’t have much resources (kutch and
Rajasthan do not produce cotton), they have learned to
make the best use of what they have .
Traditionally wool was extracted from the local sheep’s
reared by the “rabbari” community.
These local sheep’s provides wool twice a year once
before rain and the other during holi(end of winter)
while rearing the season of rearing is decided keeping in
mind the need of the animal like during winters the
animal itself needs a this layer to protect itself.
As already discussed earlier during earlier times the
rabbari women themselves used to do the spinning of
wool and hence used to produce coarser handspun
woolen yarns. But during those days the picture used to
be different as whatever amount of wool used to be
generated it was sufficient enough to fulfill the domestic
But slowly as the craft grew up the demand of wool too
increased. and then the time came when the weavers felt
a need of sourcing the wool from outside as the local
sheep is not of the best quality, one local sheep gives
only around 200-250gm wool.
Today the situation is different, now weavers basically
use 4 types of yarns:
100%marino wool(from ludhiana)
The desi wool is the local sheep wool this wool is
collected from all over the Kutch and the Rajasthan
region, then annually the people from the Rajasthan
Wool Sangh come and they take this local wool to
Rajasthan where it’s processing and spinning takes place.
And this is how the wool is converted to hanks this desi
wool comes in undyed natural state and is used as it is.
Marino wool is brought from Ludhiana annually during
holi season. This is in the undyed hank form then
according to there own color demand they dye it in their
home. This is how they save the unnecessary wastage of
this expensive wool.
Some 25 years back the government tried to import
some Marino sheep and tried to rear them in Kutch and
Rajasthan region keeping in mind the demand of wool
among the weaver community but that plan failed as he
sheep couldn’t survive the hot climate.
Silk too is brought in
undyed state from
Bihar; they use
different varieties like
tussar, raw silk etc.
Acrylic is always in
One hank weight
The cost price of wool is around 800-1000 rs per kg.
And of silk are 500-1500 rs per kg.
But it’s a fact that wool is in less demand in the local
market then the acrylic because the use of 100%Marino
makes the end product very costly for the local market.
DYEING OF WOOL
Traditionally both in Rajasthan as well as in Kutch
undyed natural wool was used the natural color were
black white brown and other natural colors. Slowly as
people learned dyeing they started using natural
coloring material to impart color to wool.
Today as the color demand has increased, people are
using dyed wool, and the wool dyeing is happening using
dyeing they use
dye the wool
like onion peel,
This is the done using synthetic dyes .acid dyes are
sourced from Bhuj and Ahmedabad.
Wool to be dyed
First the water is taken in a huge container and it is
boiled subsequently dye is added, dye could be both in
cake a well as in powder form.
Once the dye bath is ready the wool which is in the hank
form is mounted on two rods. The length of these is
always greater then the diameter of the vessel. As a
result of which the hanks keeps on hanging over the dye
bath. Two men keep on rotating the rods after every 5
min so that every length and section of the hank gets
equal and uniform contact with the dye.
Wool dyeing takes 10-15 min less then the silk dyeing.
For weft dyeing hanks are used but in case we are dyeing
the warp then first warping is done.For color fixation
they add acids like the sulphuric acid and the acetic acid.
And keep the wool in the bath for 10 min.
So this total, process takes 35-40 min.
Primary colors are directly obtained the other variety of
shades are obtained by mix dyeing.
Shade controlling is done by manipulating the time and
the amount of dye used. Darker shades like maroon and
black takes more time.
Hank is hanged to dry
After fixation the hanks are taken out and are hanged
outside so that the excess of water comes out .
then once its temperature becomes much colder it is
washed with fresh cold water to remove the traces of the
excess of color.
Vankar Nanji Bhai is one of the best dyers of the village.
Every family has a dye master. Nanji Bhai is a very active
weaver he attends all, the major craft fair in India and he
won the national award for this craft in the year 2003.
Talk with Nanji bhai
Traditionally pit looms were used. Even now most of the
families are using there traditional pit looms but some of
the loom were lost during the earthquake.
After the earthquake the weavers got frame looms by the
Above the ground is the large frame consisting the basic
structure of the loom, locally known as goda sar
Under this there is a pit which accommodates the
treadles. The weaver sits in a narrow and shallow
depression in the ground in front of the loom.
Theses looms don’t have the regular warp beams and the
length of the warp is stretched open this makes the loom
quite area consuming so instead of being in the house
the looms are placed outside the house under the shed in
the varandas.Like the floor of the house the floor of the
varanda the pit and the depression are plastered over
with a mixture of clay and cow dung.
The heald shafts are called the ranch in the local
language. They hang from the upper frame tied with the
dori and is connected to the treadle placed in the pit.
The heald eyes are made at home using synthetic threads
by making loops between the bands.
Frame loom (khada sar)
The warp stretches under the loom and is fixed in front
opposite to the weaver to a rod tied by two cords to the
The woven cloth is wound around the breast beam which
is of a square section and has a tenon projecting from
Tenon for tensioning warps
These tenons rotate either in the wooden forks or in
wooden rings let into the ground.
The square shaped breast beam has hole in the right side
of the weaver and an iron rod is inserted through this
rod the function of the rod is to tighten or loosen the
breast beam according to the need.
Warp length is stretched
As there is no warp beam in these looms the warp is
stretched open till the length of the shawl to be
woven .and the rest of the warp is wound on a wooden
log and hung on the top of the roof.(normally the warp
length is equal to the length of 20 shawls).
Fastened to peg
Towards the end of the warp a rope is tied around
This rope runs first around a large peg driven into
the earth and then alongside the breast beam
where it is once more tightly stretched before
being fastened to another peg.
When this bracing rope is loosened the
warp tension is relaxed and the woven
cloth can be wound around the breast.
Relaxing warp tension
Reed made of bamboo
The guiding comb consist of two wooden battons in the
inner longitudinal grooves of which the reed is set, it is
made up of bamboo.
The number of theses bamboo teeth constituting the
reed corresponding to the number of the threads in the
warp.The reed count is 20 dents per inch. And two ends
Healds are made of threads, they don’nt use iron
healds. The above picture is showing warp ends passing
through a thread heald.
Lease rods are also inserted to
prevent warps from entangling,
it also make easy to find out the
broken warp ends and join them.
THE WORKING PROCEDURE
The threads from the hanks are winded in
cones then the warping is done manually.
According to the no of ends in the warp cones
are taken and wounded around the peg stand.
One complete winding in a peg stand measures
1 meter, hence, e.g. warp is to be set of 5 times
around the peg.
Once warping is done, the ends were tied.
Usually warping is done for 20 shawls as a
time, hence after no. of ends and then length is
set, it is ready for starching.
Starched warp is opened lengthwise Warp ends are spread for drying
Ladies of the house helps in starching the
warps, locally, starch is extracted by
boiling wheat grains with water.
Now the warps are soaked in this starch
after this, warps are opened and stretched
for dying under sun. (Very thin layer of
starch is used).
A comb like brush (made up of plant root jharka and
stem) is used to brush up the extra starch from the warp.
This prevents the warp threads to stick to each other.
Starching increases the strength of wool hence resulting
less breakage during weaving.
PREPARING THE WEFT
Winding of spools
The hanks consist of single strand. For shawls they use
single strand weft and for blankets, they use double
The hank (laccha) are loosened and warped, around
the turn stile ( chankhi) or obhana .
Two cords run in a zig zag formation between the eight
corners. Weft for shawls only one turn stile is used and
for blankets weft 2 turn stiles is used to make is double
A hank of wool yarn is wrapped around the,
turnstiles, and set up in front of the
spinning wheel supported by
a rod with a barb against which the axle
the turnstile leans.
A spool is now mounted a spindle axle, and
while the right hand turns the crank, the
left hand places the yarn on the spindle.
When the spool is full the yarn is broke by
an empty one.
Hank is put around charkhi
Thread from hank is winded in spools
A large number of spools are wound at the same time the
full spools are collected and stored in a basket, the
basked is placed beside the cotton loom , so as to be
handy when spools have to be changed.
Winding of yarn in the
spools is a special manners,
the spool is divided into 3
small section , the first
section is winded completely
then second and then the
This is done because while picking, spool will easily in
wind due to small section winding instead of whole spool
For one shawls they need 15- 17 bobbins, 1 bobbin gives
7 inches of plain weave.
In the dhabla weaving, they basically do plain weave and
use four heald shafts.
x x x
x x x
x x x
x x x
Design Peg plan
There reed count varies from 26 -40 reed count
And they do denting of 2 ends per dent.
Denting for body
x x x x
x x x x
Denting for selvedge
Drawn reed and heald shafts
They keep stock readily drawn set of threads equal to the
number of warps. These set of threads are drawn
through 4 heald shafts and a reed separately.
Warp ends are joined to the drawn thread
Hence there is no need of drafting and denting of new
warp ends, they join the new warp ends to the threads
already drawn in the heald shaft and the reed, which is
then attached to the loom and the treadle.
Normally there are two methods of
joining the broken ends the first one
as we know is by doing loop
formation which we know as the
The drawn threads and the new
warps are joined by a special knot in
the following method of joining
shown below no loop formation
takes place rather the ends are
joined by giving a simple twist by
hand to the two broken ends.
Weaver pressing the treadle
For shedding the weaver presses two treadles together.
The treadles here are like heald shafts the lifting of
which give rise to the shed formation. The pressing order
is 1, 2 together followed by the pick insertion and then
the other two i.e. 3, 4 together.
They use the plain weave always so the lifting order
remains the same. Shed formation
Once the shed is formed the fly shuttle is used
for the weft insertion.
This fly shuttle is a wooden device. In the
local terminology the fly shuttle is called
The full spool is loaded on the shuttle and the
thread is drawn from a eye in the shuttle.
The first pick is inserted by hand and then
simultaneously the next picks are inserted by
the fly shuttle governed by the dori, so all
weaver needs to do is that he needs to pull the
dori .if the dori is pulled towards the right
side the weft insertion takes place from left to
right and vice versa.
The reason behind the speedy movement of
the shuttle is that the shuttle box where then
shuttle lies has two small movable
attachments at both the sides of the shuttle
box ,these small wooden boxes like attachments are in
turn connected to the dori .
As the dori are pulled these attachments move and beat,
the shuttle lying in between them leading a very fast pick
A view of dori and the fly shuttle
Beating with the reed
After pick insertion the last pick is beaten up by the
reed so that the inserted pick falls in the right place
during weaving and the woven fabric appears even
and fine throughout.
A wooden stick (made of bamboo most of the times)
tied in a cross form, with nails on both the ends is
used to maintain uniformity in the width of the fabric.
EXTRA WEFT PATTERNING
Crossing of extra weft
Extra weft patterning is the main catch of the dhabla
weaving. The technique of extra weft patterning use by
the vunkar remained the identifying feature of the
dhabla shawl weaving.
The vunkars use 2 strand of extra
weft for the elaborated patterning
both in the body as well as the
Extra weft insertion is all done by
hand. In a fabric of count like
260s after each extra weft 2
picks are inserted. But this is
slightly different in case of
For blankets one pick is inserted
after every extra weft.
The weave in the extra weft could
be plain, rib, twill they also make
floats on the top of the pattern.
In most of the extra weft
patterning the weft is first woven
from one end to the other as the
But in dhabla shawl weaving the
extra weft is first woven from the
After two picks insertion the two ends of the extra weft
get crossed, again two picks are inserted and the loosed
ends of the extra weft is crossed till the pattern
completes. At last to give the final; touch to the motifs
done using the extra weft the weft ends that are
unwanted are removed or cropped away.
The design vocabulary is very traditional. Most of the
motifs have been taken from the daily life of the weaver
and the village.
It is important to notice that with the kind of extra weft
patterning technique used by the weavers only pointed
motifs are possible. No fine curvilinear motifs could
happen using this technique.
So most of the motifs we observed were purely
Some of the very popular motifs the weavers are making
since ages are as follows.
As far as the color palette is concerned, today they are
using very contemporary colors.
Further the color demand depends upon the trend of the
The traditional layout used to be very simple but now
more overall jaal and patterning using the same
traditional geometrical motifs could be seen.
Some of the shawls had warp wise stripes. But all theses
are only the recent development in the dhabla shawl
weaving. Then essence is still the same.
Vegetable dyed wool
Vankar Hamir bhai, elder son of Vankar
Vishram ji bhai got the national award for this
elaborately patterned dhabla in the year 1999
Vankar Vishram ji bhai got his national award
in the year 1974
TRADITIONAL DHABLA MOTIFS
Derivative of Satkhadi
DESIGN LAYOUT OF DHABLA
Extra weft patterning of 11 inch Border
Body 11 inch border
CURRENT SCENARIO OF WEAVING
The craft of the dhabla shawl weaving has undergone a
number of changes and new advancements over the
period of time.
Traditionally as we had already discussed the bankers
used the pit looms, which had the limitation like at a
time only one men can sit and weave.
But now particularly after the earthquake, pit looms are
slowly been replaced by the frame looms.
Similar changes came in the method of weft insertion
today instead of the hand shuttle fly shuttle are used
which has not only made the production of wider fabrics
possible but also the weaving has become speedy today.
The earth quake the villagers believe that was a blessing
in disguise for them though they suffer some huge loss
but subsequently the craft picked up a quick pace toward
the road of development.
Generating warp side stripes
And the credit for this craft revival goes to the joint
efforts of the government, several NGO’s, and designers.
The designers gave frequent visits and spend ample time
with the weavers and in return they gave them some
valuable feedbacks like changing the reed.
Today they use a much finer reed.
Cotton stole with ilk patterning
Also they suggested them to use different material like
cotton and silk.
They also made them aware of the current trends in the
market today the weavers are not just sticking to the
weaving of the traditional shawls but they are producing
a wide range of products using the same weaving
technique like stoles, mufflers, scarf, cushion covers,
hand bags etc.
Even the yarn count has become finer now.
The layouts too have changed. Now we see much
elaborated work of patterning. Today along with the
border the body too has overall work.
Even the yarn count has become finer now.
The layouts too have changed. Now we see
much elaborated work of patterning. Today
along with the border the body too has
The color palate has become too
contemporary. The weaver weaves till the
month of September and from October
onward till the February end they go to all
different regions and states of India. They
attend all the major craft melas like the
“surajkund” and the “virasat”.
Bag made of dhabla
That happens in the northern India.
This gives them a lot of exposure and also helps them in
understanding the market themselves. Today they know
that the market demand new designs so according to the
demand they also keep on updating themselves.
Most of the times the weavers meet the buyers in the
The weavers too are pretty happy with the current
situation of the craft.
Most of the weavers get enough buyers for whom they
can stay engaged throughout the year.
Their major target market is the northern Indian region
like Delhi, U.P, Harayana etc.
Since here the entire village is practicing the same craft,
and all go to the same exhibition they believe in keeping
their work different from the other, as this protects them
from unnecessary competition among themselves.
(The design layout of one family differs from the other)
To add to this, there are various NGO like Kala raksha
and Abhyan spread all over the Kutch region. This is in
the constant touch with the weavers.
The NGO are in touch with various design colleges like
NID, NIFT and they keeps on inviting their senior
professors and faculties for their valuable guidance.
Theses NGO run short term training programs to train
Like we met a weaver called Bhika Bhai who has
attended the training program at kalaraksha for a year
after he lost his loom in the earthquake.
In the NGO he got the daily payment as well as the
design inputs today he has the understanding of theme
and colors and this he feels is a valuable experience as he
could used it later on in his life as a weaver, he has
developed some new motifs rather then using the same
existing motifs all the time.
Not only are this some of weavers also getting the
opportunities to visit some foreign universities. They go
there and interact and tell the world outside about this
craft they have treasured and nourished over the years.
The weavers estimate the cost of the shawl woven in
terms of quantity of extra weft patterning. More the
pattering, fine and elaborate, there will be more hard
work and needs more days to complete it. The labour
charge of a weaver is Rs. 150 per day.
The products sold in their shop, costs including the
labour charges and the material cost.
ABOUT THE PRODUCT
During our visit to Bhujori we knew that the more the
time we will be spending with the weaver on loom the
better understanding we will be having about the
weaving technique. So right from the beginning we
wanted to develop some product out using the dhabla
weaving technique and giving our own input as a design
student to the weaver.
But while thinking of the product we
had to keep in mind the fact that the
entire conceptualization motif
development on the paper and then the
making of the final product on loom are
to be finished within the timeframe we
had keeping in mind the other
engagements of the weaver Mr. Ram Ji
bhai as we have came to him directly
without any prior information.
As a designer nobody likes to work in constraints. But
here beside the time we had other constraints as well like
We knew that we won’t be getting the color of our
choices here so we had to first of all take a look at all
the available colors Ramji Bhai had.
They had a very limited range of colors as they also
do the dyeing according to there own specific
demand to avoid wastage of yarn. So after looking at
all the colors we finalized a palate which should go
with our theme closely.
Also there were very little chances of exploring in
terms of material. We knew that whatever we are
planning to design it has to come out of the existing
The product we had decided to develop was a
muffler, so we had to choose the yarns accordingly,
since muffler as a product has an essential feature
that it should provide warmth to the user.
So we zeroed down to wool then in wool also we had
to choose between the coarser desi wool and the
Marino wool. But the finer Marino became the
obvious choice then the coarser as the coarser is
heavy and might cause irritation if worn around the
Also then while giving the new designs and
motifs we needed to understand and keep in
mind the essence of the dhabla weaving.
As we already know that the designs have to be
out-and-out geometrical and pointed.
Finer curvilinear designs are not possible with
this extra weft patterning.
So like wise we development motifs and form
that complement the technique.
Then even while the weaving is happening on
loom since all our motifs were new to the weaver
he also took time in understanding the design.
Also in dhabla weaving its important to notice
that once a mistake has been committed then it
becomes very difficult to correct it, because while
redoing there are maximum chances of yarn
breakage as the starch starts coming out .
Moreover committing one mistake in a single
shawl will spoil the weaving rhythm of the
weaver for the next 19 shawls.
Depending upon the kind of colors available in stock and
the kind of theme we were planning to work on, we
selected our color palette which is as follows:
As we had already discussed that the ground of
Kutch has mines of white mud if you dig it deep
inside and also the interiors the floor of the houses
here in Kutch are predominantly done with white
only, the region behind this might be the fact that
white reflects the direct sunlight keeping the place
and the floor cool. So we decided to keep the warp as
white. So that it radiates calmness and give relief to
Greenery and pollution free ambience is a common
characteristic of any village so the color green was a
natural choice moreover here in Kutch one can find
trees in the courtyard of every house as it keep the
house and the weaving workshop cooler during the
day time while the weavers sit outside and weave.
And green in itself is a cool color.
One can’t imagine an Indian village without dust .so
this sepia color was included to give that dull effect
and the earthen look.
Then while we finalized the above colors we realized
that its giving the look of a village but a dull and
lifeless village except for the green so to add a little
bit of life and liveliness we wanted to add a color
which is warm, should show a smooth interaction
with the other colors and at the same time shouldn’t
be out of the palette of the theme the village so we
introduced the color coffee.
Our theme for the product is the village.
FORM AND MOTIF DEVELOPMENT
We knew that we have a theme and we have to now
generate a new design vocabulary and motifs keeping in
mind the constrains of the original dhabla weaving we
knew that even within our theme we couldn’t explore
more in terms motifs and forms.
So like wise we tried generating and simplifying every
form related to the theme into simple geometrical state.
For this first we tried understanding the
original local dhabla motifs
how they have been made
scale and size of the motif on loom etc
Then we developed our own motifs inspired by the daily
life and surroundings of a village like
Four square motif
This motif symbolizes enclosure, boundary and
fence which can be seen around the houses in the
villages. It’s an architectural element.
We knew that triangular shapes are very popular
among the traditional motifs so we have made
another motif which symbolizes village huts and
green trees surrounding the huts.
Cattle and cattle rearing is the trade mark of any
village so we have reduced the cattle’s into simple
geometric form to show their presence in the
Lamp or the ‘dia’ motif
Lighting a dia everyday is a essential custom in
most of the villages so we have included the dia
motif to the scenery.
In the whole body we have shown scattered
female form motif to include a point of feminist
in the design.
1. Four square
AJARAKPUR - THE VIILLAGE OF AJRAK
Ajrakpur is a village which is some 30 km away from the
main city of Bhuj.
We all were very excited since the day we came to Bhuj
because natural dyeing had always excited all of us. And
seeing the ajrak printing (which we had studied is one of
the oldest known printing happening since the Indus
valley civilization) happening right in front of us, we
knew is going to be an amazing experience.
We enquired the local people about ajrak printing and
where exactly it happens in Bhuj.
And we came to know tat there are currently 3 places
(dhamadka, anjar, khavda in kutch and barmer in
Rajasthan)where the printing is taking place with
Dhamadka being the origin the printing now is said to
have spread out in some parts of Anjar as well.
We were also told that now most of its practisers have
switched on to synthetic dyeing. As vegetable dyeing
costs a lot so it’s not suitable for an ordinary artisan.
But we as students had always had never imagined ajrak
without natural dyeing so finally we decided to go to
In the morning at 9:30 we went to the local bus stand its
important to enquire about the convenes facility as
otherwise there might be chances of you being exploited
by the local autowalas. So we decided to go there by bus,
Bhuj has a bus station which was at a very convenient
distance from the
place we were
boarding. At the
enquiry counter in
the station we came
to know that there
is a straight bus
facility for both
Ajrakpur as well as
Dhamadka is some
60 km away from
Ajrakpur and the
bus leaves daily at
10 am in the
We boarded in the
bus and after some
45 min the bus left
us on the road.
There was a tea stall where we enquired the owner to
make sure that we are standing at the right place or not.
Then the owner directed us that we just need to walk a
distance of 10 min and we will reach the destination.
And soon after walking through a distance of 10 min we
saw men washing and beating some fabrics in
community washing area.
Water pump for running water supply
Drying in sun
As we move forward all the doubts and question marks
we had came to an end as we saw men drying some
wonderful fabrics the one we popularly know as ajrak
We asked them to guide us to someone who can help us
in understanding this craft and they guided us to
Dr.Ismail Bhai house.
As we entered the house we saw a late middle aged man
sitting and interacting with a foreigner.
As we joined the discussion we came to know that this
gentleman is from England and has come to India to
learn and research on natural dyeing and fixing. Then
late in the afternoon Mr. Symond left and then we
interacted with Dr. Ismail Bhai and asked him about
He told us that the origin of ajrak is
Dhamadka but later on with the drying up
of the river they started facing the
deficiency of water.
Now he said that thy were left with only
two options either they need to leave
practicing the printing or they need to
search for some other place which should
have the availability of 24hr mineral free
fresh water. So they formed a committee
which was assigned the job to look for a
land which should have all the required
facilities. They saw many locations
including areas surrounding Anjar.
While fixing the final deal of the land they
needed to keep in mind the following
Kind of land water supply
Every day they used to go with powder of harad in there
hands to test the water incase the water turns black after
adding harad it symbolize the presence of iron and other
On 22march 2001 they brought the land and on 29
March 2001 all the deals were finalized.
This is how finally on April 2001 they got the land on
which the village Ajrakpur stands today.
The village has a school till 8th but the village doesn’t
have any hospital the villagers have to rush to Bhuj for
BIRTH OF AJRAK PUR
Dhamadka is the village of ajrak, where only the ajrak
makers dwelled. Now only few ajrak makers are there,
rest shifted to making of only prints.
This craft was struggling because of main reason,
scarcity of water. With passage of time the safa river that
flowed from near Dhamadka, has slowly dried up.
Khatries tried to
fulfill the need of
bore wells, but the
mineral content of
the under ground
water was not
suitable for dyeing.
Hence the khatries decided to change their place, where
water is available in plenty and no minerals in under
ground water, Ajrakpur 40 km from Dhamadka suited
Now Ismail Bhai and his family has sifted to ajrak pur,
slowly other villagers of Dhamadka are shifting to
DR ISMAIL BHAI
Ismail Bhai was merely 13 when he started helping his
father in the job of printing .his father used to work for
the rabbari’s people. When there family migrated from
Pakistan they were almost bank rubbed they had no clue
as to how are they going to start an entire new chapter of
there life again.
When they initially settled in Dhamadka there financial
condition was very bad they borrowed utensils from the
kumhars. And had no permanent shelter of there own.
But as time went by their condition improved and his
father again stepped into there traditional family
business of dyeing.
During those days his father used to dye fabrics with
Naphtol dyes .they used to source the fabrics from Anjar.
As a child he studied in the village school but he was
always interested in there traditional family job.
Earlier he and his family in Dhamadka was into
synthetic dyeing but later on they realized that this craft
is much in demand in natural dyeing.
Today he is a master ajrak manufacturer he himself is no
more into printing now he is more like a mentor to his
other family members.
His son Juned Bhai has stepped into the care taking of
Dr.Ismail Bhai got the doctorate from the University of
Britain in the year 2003 for his immense contribution
towards this craft. He pays frequent visits to various
universities in abroad on there invitation. He is also one
of the key members responsible for the making of the
village we recognize today as Ajrakpur.
Khatries means dyers and printers.
Khatries were invited by king Bharmel from Sindh to
Kutch ruled by him. They were allowed to settle down
any were in the Kutch region. As khatries by profession
are dyers and they need good supply of running water
for dyeing purpose. During that time river safra flowed
from near Dhamadka. This place fulfilled their need and
hence they settled in Dhamadka. King Bharmel excluded
khatries form paying taxes under his rule.
Khatries then were not only craftsmen but were also
men of values, who were treated with great respect. They
had the privilege to enter the ladies court where no other
men were permitted. Khatries is also called mahajans
whose word were valued and trusted.
During that time, if a girl child born was
immediately killed which was against the rule of king. If
the girl child died due to a natural cause, khatries had to
be a witness to it and only his words were taken to be the
RELIGION AND CASTE
The village has an all Muslim population. Initially some
40 houses migrated from Dhamadka. 60 more houses
still are in Dhamadka and they also will have to migrate
once all the yet available water deposits will finish off in
The villagers have an estimation of 10 years after 10
years the entire village will migrate.
Today the village acquires a land of 75 acre some of the
land related deals are on the final stage. So needless to
say in the midst of disappointments and problems the
birth of Ajrakpur came as a huge relief for all the
artisans who have patronized this craft since ages.
The family origin is from sindh in Pakistan, where they
were Hindu Brahmins (kshatriyas). “Jhinda”, their
forefather who came from sindh, he had two sons. One
remained Hindu and his family get settled in Siddhpur
in Gujarat, while the other brother converted to Muslim
religion and his family settled in Dhamadka.
KHATRI MOHAMMADBHAI SIDDIQUE
RAZAR BHAI ISMAIL BHAI JABBAR BHAI
11 CHILDREN 3 CHILDREN 3 CHILDREN
ELDER SON DAUGHTER JUNEID BHAI
Khatries community strictly follows the norms and rules
of Islam, they keep head covered, men’s were topi’s or
safa(turban),while women wear dupatta’s on head. They
wear very simple cloth women wear gowns and men
wear jhaba –kurta.
They practice,5 times prayer “namaz” a day
during Ramjan and keep religious fasts “Rojas” ,in which
intake of food and water is prohibited for the day time.
Children after age of 10 are made to keep Rojas.
The family believes in the art of giving and no
hungry or thirsty from their doorsteps.
EVIDENCES OF AJRAK FROM PAST
Traces of ajrak can be seen back in the period of Indus
valley civilization. The famous statue of priest king from
Indus valley, a fabric’s draped around the body. It is
believed that the fabric is ajrak. Though it is not known
that whether the shawl in printed or embroidered.
Later on ajrak was made in sindh in Pakistan which
historically has been trade oriented. Similar printing
technique were practiced in Iran and according to Ismail
Bhai, it was practiced in a village called ajrak in Jordan
Ajrak as a theme means universal. So subsequently it is
believed to have a color palate that compliments the
universe. The colors like red is said to symbolize the
“zameen”, the color black symbolizes “darkness”, white
is for “clouds,” and above all is the own color of the
“universes” that contains everything and that’s the color
The literal meaning of the word ajrak in Arabic is blue
In the local Kutchi language however the word ajrak
means “aj” “rakh” meaning keep it for today.
As it is said that the more you will keep it for longer time,
the much better color result you will achieve.
Some motifs are strictly not ajrak, but could be
combined with traditional designs to form are-rupiya
bhat, gudli, and suraj and mukhi rekh.
Motifs completely out of ajrak tradition and jhimadri,
hairdo, that are used in ghagras, the chunino bauoto
border motif used in odhnies earlier.
The main ajrak motifs are hanso, taviz, koyaro, kungri,
ecko, kharek, gini, chokdi.
SQUARE MOTIFS WHO’S PATTERN IS BASED ON
DIAGONAL AND MEDIANS
Kharek, date. This is the only motif which is done
solely in red against a blue background.
Jileb, a kind of sweetmeat. The presence of a
central cross and square is exceptional.
SQUARE MOTIFS WHO’S PATETRN IS BASE ON TH
REDUCTION OF THE DIAGONALS
Daduli, a round jewel box or cakki millstone;
this motif is organized around a central
Chap, literally meaning print this is the only
instance when the name refers to the artisans
work and not to an exterior object
Ishq peh, meaning a love affair symbolized by
plants from the family of convolvulus, such as
the morning glory and the bindweed.
Chalo sarkari, government seal; this refers
probably to a ring with a seal and seam to go
back to the time of British rule.
Coman, garden; traditionally used only for
bedspreads, this motif is borrowed today for
some types of ajrak.
Ghalica, carpet; another motif borrowed from
the printed bedspread decors.
There are two kinds of ajrak those printed on
one side only, ekpuri, and those printed on both
sides, bipuri. The latter of course, takes more
skills and time and is therefore costlier. The
most famous ateliers produced only bipuri
ajrak .or so their owner claims. On the other
hand, ateliers facing financial difficulties are
compelled to produce ekpuri ajrak.
Almost all the ajrak are printed against either a
blue or a red background. If one describes them
when mounted, the disposition of pattern is as
At both ends is the cross border, palad,
restricted by these two cross borders are two
borders that run length wise.
The center is a rectangle, the ground,
surrounded by one or more frame. Line of
separation is printed between all these parts.
Thus there is great variety of patterns. Some of
them are very old while others are of recent
The simplest type of ajrak is called Naro vari
ajrak. At both extremities one finds a cross
border with to registers, separated and aligned
inside by a line consisting of triple white stokes
and called naro. The border consists of a plain
red stripe enhanced on the inside by a triple
The central rectangle is decorated with one of the ajrak
The most elaborate type of ajrak is called thi hashe-ji
ajrak(ajrak with three borders).the cross borders, always
with two registers, are emphasized by a line of
separation named after its pattern , sadi vat, and which
is found again on the inner side of a plain stripe to mark
the longitudinal borders . Thus a rectangle is formed
surrounded by three frames, each one separated by the
same line, sadi vat and printed inwards with the
following motifs: parai hasho, seleimi hasho and again
with pari hasho.
The angles are carefully executed so that there
may be no over lapping or blank space but a perfect
joining of motifs. The ground is decorated with the
seleimi hasho motif or some other ajrak motif such as
ARCHITECTURAL INFLUENCE IN MOTIFS
The design and motifs used in the making of an ajrak
have a strong influence of architecture. The design in
ajrak always has a perfect symmetry. They were never
asymmetrical. They don’t use human or animal figures
in the designs and consider the use of such figures a sin.
More of geometrical shapes and floral motifs like the
Even the bandhanis made by the wives and
daughter have floral motif or the geometric shapes. They
were more influenced by the natural beauty surrounding
The ajrak technique is also used in making malir and
It is similar to ekpuri ajrak geometrical, floral print,
indigo and madder dyed. Mainly worn by young boys as
lungi and meghwal groom wear a red malir with out
which a marriage cannot take place.
It is worn by women. It has delicate floral center in deep
blue with red background.
Ajrak is worn by men of Muslim, meghwal, Jat and the
gypsy community. Men wear safa, a shoulder cloth and
Lower income people wear
ekpuri ajrak, higher
income community would
wear the bipuri ajrak,
double side printed, which
was expensive and also a
status of symbol as well.
It is also a ceremonial
dress, on wedding men
wear new ajrak lungis and
as shoulder hanging
PROCESSING OF AJRAK
Grey cloth for washing
Grey cloth is used for making an ajrak, cotton or
silk .basically ajrak is done on cotton.
A bundle of grey cloth is purchased from the market.
They tear the grey cloth by hand and the length of
each material is 5 ½ meters
The grey cloth is washed ,squeezed and beaten up to
remove the impurities, the cloth is folded into 4-6
layers and then beaten up with a wooden mallet
made up of babul (acacia nilotica indica)wood.
This is carried out 3-7 times .This smoothens the
surface and helps dyes to be absorbed in adequately.
The materials are then spread open on the ground
and allowed to dry.
A solution of castor oil, soda-ash and camel
dung is prepared, which is called saaj.
Bundles are made out of the saaj soaked fabrics, the
bundles is then sealed in a sach cloth and left over night
with a heavy stone above it. This ensures maximum
penetration into the fiber of the cloth. The following day,
cloth is laid flat to dry in sun when it is semi dry, it is
returned to the solution of castor oil, soda ash and camel
dung i.e. saaj and the drying stages are repeated 7-4
times until the cloth foams when rubbed.
It is then washed in plain water.
Fresh dung is alkaline which turns acidic on drying.
Dung alkali is a bleaching agent and is absorbed by the
cotton fiber. This process helps the cloth to become soft
and help in printing with uniformity.
At the completion of this stage, the fabric smells like
mango pickle fragrance.
Once the process is over material is washed 4-5 times.
Dye making area in backyard
The cloth is dyed in a cold solution of
myrobalon (powdered nut of the harde tree).
The cloth is then calendared, after which it is
laid flat to dry in the hot sun. If the cloth is to
be printed on both sides, it is turned over
during drying to ensure sun treatment on
both the sides. The mirobalan powder is then
brushed off the cloth.
Washing in mirobelon
The mirobelan treated cloths are then spread flat to dry
For printing, the craftsman uses woodblocks, pur, made
by specialized craftsmen. Earlier, the bring blocks from
Pethapur near Ahmedabad. But now they make their
own blocks. The blocks, from ten to fifteen centimeters
inn thickness, are always made from a hard wood to
keep the contours of the carvings sharp for a prolonged
use. Yet, blocks that are used regularly have to be
changed every year.
Several blocks are needed to
complete the design of cloth
and each block has a
particular name, depending
on the operation for which it
is destined. Thus, one
distinguishes asul, kot, khor,
phuli, mina from the names
of the different impression.
Rough blocks made by the
craftsmen themselves which
are used to cover the
borders lengthwise with
After use, the block are carefully cleansed with a pig-
bristle brush and, eventually cleaned with a pig–bristle
brush and, eventually, an engraver’s point is used to
clean the holes in some blocks. They are oiled before
being stored away.
Different blocks for one design
Printing is carried out on tables of length 6 meters and
width of 1meter and 10 centimeter. The surface of the
table have 15 -20 layers of cotton materials .this creates
the surface soft and pliable.
The chocthes are containers, like trays which are shallow
and made of stripes of wood or bamboo sticks and tied
by threads in placed in the chocthe and floats over the
The Capri is covered by a ladh which in turn is covered
which in turn is covered by a muslin piece.
Cloth is pined up
into the table
The layout is measured on the cloth
Then the layout grid is
marked with blue ink
powder, applied on a
The grids are then
marked using this
Printing is done on the
Gum of Arabic is dissolved in water and left to soak over
night, in an earthenware pot. Meanwhile chunam is
soaked in water chunam is soaked in water separately.
Next day chunam (lime) is added to the gum. The
mixture is then filtered.
In karyanu paste for silk cloth clay is also
mixed with this paste. This is done ,as silk
cloth is finer and thick resist is necessary.
A paste is made by fermenting scrap iron (horse
shoes, rods, etc).
Jaggery (raw sugar cane) and besan (gram flour).
This mixture is left to ferment which takes about
one week in the hot season and two weeks during
the cold season; a yellowish scum on the surface
of mixture indicates that it is ready for use.
the liquid or iron water is drained off and added
to tamarind seed powder. The iron and the
tamarind solution is thoroughly mixed, and then
boiled for 1 hour.
The resulting iron paste is printed
on to the cloth
This color is black (kat).
On exposure to alizarine the black
color becomes a permanent color.
Tamarind seed powder is mixed with alum (aluminium
sulphate) and then boiled for 1 hour to produce a
printing paste for red area of the design.
A small amount of fugitive dye is added to this in order
to aid registration when used for printing.
Traditionally (geru) red clay was used but chemical dye
is now more common.
A paste of alum, millet flower, red clay and gum (gum
from mimosa Arabica, almond gum) is mixed and
printed on the cloth where there is large area of red in
the design. A resist of lime and Arabica gum is also
printed at this time. This combined stage is known as
gach. This is also used to protect the design against
indigo. Sawdust is sprinkled on to the printed areas to
prevent smudging. After gach printing is done on the
fabric, is left to dry naturally for several days. The past
used for gach printing is made from local clay which is
filtered through muslin, Millet flower and alum.
The millet flower is boiled and then red clay and alum is
filtered to achieve the required consistency for printing.
Natural indigo is made out of indigo that grow on wild
trees. Once flowers bloom on these plants. The plant are
plucked of, submerged in water one about the other. as
the water turns blue.
The plants are removed of the water is
stirred vigorously till crystals are formed.
Once the crystals sink down the water is
removed of the crystal are put in a cloth
and squeezed .they are then left on the
sands to dry. Once they are dry, cakes
are made out of it. These cakes can be
preserved for 100 years or even more.
This is how a natural indigo dye is made.
Limestone powder, jaggery, salty clay
and soda ash are added to indigo in
water for a permanent blue color.
Fermentation takes a month when the
water turns yellow and the lather blue.
Indigo is then ready for use.
Natural indigo had been shunned by
orthodox Hindus as it was said that the
head of a pious man which had been cut
by palace guard on behalf of the prince
fell n running indigo water and the pious
man died there, which was considered
as a bad omen.
Thus Hindus not even purchase ajrak
made out of the natural indigo .the
Hindu dyers are called rangari who are
also known as chippas. Chippas, who specialized in
indigo dyeing, were called neelgars. The Muslim dyers
are called rangrez. It is also said that artisans and dyers
worshipped indigo as it was a source of livelihood.
The cloth is dyed in indigo (bodow). In order to
establish, sagikhar (a salt), lime, casiator (a seed
from kuwada plant) and water are mixed in a clay
vessel, plastic barrel or concrete vat. The dye bath is
left to ferment for about one month sometimes; gag
grey is added to this to aid fermentation. It is ready
to use when the color of the solution is yellowish
(best quality ) or greenish(medium quality ) with an
established indigo vat, indigo, gag grey and water
are added as required to maintain the strength of
the dye color.
Indigo vat (vessel)
A faster alternative is to the above, is to make a solution
of natural indigo is caustic soda and hydrosulphate
which is ready to use in one or two days.
The material the next day is washed for degumming in
the cool water. The water in this process is to be cool and
not warm to prevent any smearing on the materials.
Each one of the materials is beaten 4-5 times to remove
the resist and extra indigo. Cloth is washed in running
water and laid flat to dry in the sun .this stage is known
Natural alizarin is extracted from “al” tree. Al is cut from
root with in 3-4 years. Al tree can be found in forests of
junagarh and porbandar. With time these trees become
scares in numbers, as to get the dye whole tree should be
cut down. Government banned cutting of trees. Hence
use of natural alizarin declined
Scientists made a dye compound molecule by studying
the molecular compound of natural alizarin, now
synthetic alizarin is available in the market.
It got its name from al – jar means root of al, hence
The cloth is boiled in a solution of alizarin, sakun seed
powder. Water is boiled in drum or a copper pot in
which a solution of alizarin and sakun seed is thrown,
after which the cloth is immersed. The operation lasts
over two hours and the water is kept near boiling point
all the time.
The cloth is stirred to ensure a uniform dye while
alizarin and sukan seeds continue to be added. The cloth,
after being taken out, is left to cool until it can be picked
up by hand.
It is then put in water containing fresh camel dung, ut-ji-
gissi, and left to soak for twelve hours. The next morning,
the cloth is taken to the canal and washed in water
containing soda ash and caustic soda.
This process is called tapai. It is followed by an operation
called cat which consist in drying the cloth on a sandy
bank, sprinkling it when it is half dry, five to six times.
The term tapi is sometimes used for this last operation
too. In the evening, the cloth is again washed and left to
Red color can also obtained by dyeing in madder,
madder gives shade of orange red and alum printing is
not required on the fabric for dyeing. So instead of dying
in alizarin, the fabric is directly boiled with madder.
Madder is a root of a plant...
The whole procedure from saaj to alizarin is repeated all
over again. The second submersion of the material in
indigo or alizarin is called minakari. The white designs
may be selectively dyed in red or blue.
The kariyanu is applied in selective areas of white. the
design where kariyanu is not applied, in the area of
white turns light blue .while, the exposed blue portion
turns darker when dipped in indigo.
The resist medium of powdered tamarind seed and alum
is applied to selective areas of white. The white areas
become light red while the red area becomes darker
when dipped in alizarin.
This process of making ajrak is long, tedious and time
consuming. It takes around 15 -20 days, during summer
the number of days required in winter. Ajrak is not a
seasonal product but an all year round product.
Ajrak made of vegetable dyes and natural indigo will cost
more than ajrak made of chemical dye (napthol dyes).
The cost also depends on the design of the number of
color used. A single bed spread will cost 1000/-and
above, a double bed spread will cost Rs 2000/- and
above, and if it is a bipuri ajrak they will cost double the
amount of ekpuri ajraks. A dupatta
costs Rs 500/-and above .a table mat,
napkin costs Rs 70/- and above per
piece. A chemically dyed single bed
spread will cost Rs 250/-and above a
dupatta will cost Rs 200/- and above.
Earlier traditionally the printers
used to use vegetable dye but soon
they realized that it was costing them
too much so they shifted to the use of
napthol dyes and the synthetic dyes
but later on after the revival of craft
today again the vegetable dyes are in
The artisans are introducing new
motifs to there design library now.
Earlier normally the body and the
border used to be same but now
instead of same complementing
borders are in use.
Earlier block used to be sourced from pethapur. But now
blocks too are made in the home itself using all different
machines like driller etc.
Earlier natural water resources were in use but now bore
wells are used. The artisans are also planning to set up a
treatment plant to treat the polluted water.
The craft is influencing fashion which will lead it to its
PROBLEMS FACED BY THE
High cost of the blocks
(one block costs around
Lack of water
resources(there are very
few 1 or 2 bore wells)
Lack of new
artisans(because of lack of
payback and huge amount
of labor requirement the
new generation is a little
reluctant in continuing the
craft for livelihood)
Delay in Land sanctions by
the government (the
government has already
wasted 5 years in handing
over the entire land to the
In the end we would like to conclude that after finishing both our field visit and the compilation successfully we not only
have a clear and complete understanding of the techniques and the artisans practicing the craft in totality but also this
documentation provided us the knowledge of the whole environment in and surrounding the craft, which includes the
history of the craft, raw material sourcing, equipments and sample collection etc.
It also helped us in understanding the fact how social set up and caste system develops under the influence of mutual
dependence. Most of the villages had their own history and story of migration.
Our field visit also threw light on how the craft and craftsmen sustained and evolved over the period of time. It shows that
both ajrak and dhabla has suffered changes in terms of basic motif color palate, material and the end use.
Some where like in dhabla as we had already discussed earlier the color palate has become too contemporary, rather than
a plain body we find over all pattering, etc.
Similarly in ajrak the artisans are experimenting with new motifs designs dyes material etc.
Today the craft is not only getting influenced by the market demand but also they are ready to except and experiment with
new design inputs given by the designers.
In a nut shell we can conclude that, the craft has become much flexible today.
Various NGOs today are working in the direction of the upliftment of the craft by giving new inputs to the artisans. The
NGOs run year long training programs under the guidance of faculties both in and out side India. They lure the artisans
and provide them the financial support by paying them per day during their training program. NGOs also help them in
terms of marketing their products.
but still the number of such NGOs is very less than the number of artisans in need ,so the government ,the NGOs and the
people who have a love for should come forward and try to design and find out a way to help and protect the interest of the
crafts men who have been nourishing the craft since ages.
We think it will be very interesting to notice how the artisans are going to keep the pace with the growing and changing
contemporary world of fashion, keeping the soul of the craft as per as before.
At the day’s end, a beautiful sunset in