Textile crafts in the region of Kutch date back to the Indus Valley Civilization. Archaeological excavations have revealed that indigo was grown and used for dying in Mohenjo-Daro. ‘Ajrakh’ – the ancient art of indigo-dyeing block-printed fabric – was a technique used by the denizens of the Indus Valley Civilization.Until the 1819 Rann of Kutch earthquake, the river Indus flowed through Banni, a grassland reserve bordering the desert Rann. This Banni region is inhabited by a few semi-nomadic, pastoral tribes who have preserved the Indus Valley art of Ajrakh over the last few millennia. Some of these tribes include the Khatris and Maldharis, who typically herd cattle and camels. Ajrakh, derived from ‘Azrak’ meaning “blue” in Arabic, involves a process whereby fabric is first treated, then printed using wooden patterned blocks. Finally, it is dyed in indigo and then, in mordant, along with alizarine, henna, and rhubarb to enhance other colours and hues such as green, red, and brown. The dyed fabric is tailored into clothes, turbans, and shawls. The nomadic herders are not inclined to waste any fabric, so all leftover fabric is patched together to make patchwork quilts, hangings, and even drapes for covering camels.

Our patchwork offering is a combination of myriad Ajrakh – dyed as well as plain – block-printed patterns combined to create a cotton quilt typical of the Banni craftsmen. Creating so many patterns of patchwork is no easy task; each pattern requires at least two wood blocks that synchronize precisely so that a design can be imprinted and then colour can be filled into it. Some patches are exclusively block-printed and not dipped in dyes in the tradition of Ajrakh; those that are, have predominantly blue, red, and green hues. All the dyes are vegetable, eco-friendly mixtures.

Kutch banni patchwork

We have two types of patchwork with two distinct colour schemes:The first is of block-printed patches of numerous designs in red and blue plus block-printed patches dyed in Ajrakh producing a variety of blue and red hues (Red-and-Blue patchwork). The second is of block-printed patches of numerous designs in red and blue plus block printed patches dyed.