Ajrakh: A touch of Sufi in its spirit

When the Asian Paints team visited the Ajrakh craftsmen in Kutch, many worlds got unraveled. What is really the essence of Ajrakh? What explains the abundant and myriad geometric patterns? Was it just the connection with Islam or was there something more? What was the significance of stars, that seemed to be a recurring motif in almost all their designs? How important is Indigo to them? And most importantly, why do the Ajrakh craftsmen feel so emphatically that their craft cannot exist without the color Indigo?

All these and more were revealed to us by Dr. Ismael Khatri, the patron of Ajrakpur, a village in Kutch where the ancient craft of Ajrak flourishes even today.‘Ajrakh has a connection with the Universe. The way the Earth looks from above is largely blue because of the oceans. If you look at the sea from above, the deeper parts will appear as dark blue. The sky above is also blue. The theme of Ajrak is the Universe. Inspired by the night sky, Ajrak uses a lot of stars. Black – being the colour of the night sky – and Red – signifying dusk and twilight – are also used in the craft. The thing in Ajrak is that, the greater the shine of its stars, the faster it will get sold. If we have 25 pieces, the customer will look for the one where the stars shine the most, and take away that piece first.’ The name ‘Ajrak’ also seems to have its roots in the Arabic word ‘Azrak’ meaning blue.

The traditional color palette of crimson red, indigo blue, and white is said to represent the Universe: red for the earth, white for clouds, and blue for the sky and the universe.

It is very likely that Sufism might have had a strong influence on the craft and its underlying philosophy, reflected in the passion they have for this craft. The idea of ‘Brahmand’(the Sanskrit term for ‘universe’ and how the Ajrakh craftsmen refer to ‘universe’) also resonates with the Sufi philosophy. As the saying by Rumi goes, ‘The soul of the soul of Universe is love’.

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