Rogan- The Traditional Textile Painting Of Gujarat! The Not So Popular Art Of Decorating Fabrics Like Painted Canvases Is Dying!

Rogan is 300 year-old inherited tradition that once flourished in Gujarat’s Kutch region. Today, Orignally One Abdul Gafur family of Nirona village practices Traditional Rogan Art. Rogan Art, an ancient skill with its origins in Persia, came down to Kutch around 400 years ago. Traditionally, the craft was pursued to beautify bridal clothing of the regional tribes, beautiful borders and floral patterns on Ghagras, odhni and bead spreads were painstakingly painted.However, it being a dying craft with more people showing interest in it in the form of wall pieces, ‘Rogan kaam’ has gained popularity as Rogan art in today’s time.

The word Rogan means oil in Persian. In Rogan Painting, the paint is made from thick bright colored castor seed oil which is used to paint the fabric. The Castor is basically a crop which is usually grown in the Kutch region of Gujarat, and for this painting the artist source it from the local farmers. Next thing comes is the preparation of the paint.

First, the castor oil is heated in the vessel and continuously stirred for more than 12 hours till it catches fire. But the paint maker takes care that it doesn’t get burnt. After that, it is mixed with cold water until it thickens into a sticky elastic paste called Rogan. The thick paste is later mixed with natural colors and then immersed in water before storing it in earthen pots. By doing this, the paint retains it malleable texture.

The painting is done very delicately and the prints are often created by artists own imagination. The artists usually prefer to sit on the floor while working and put a small amount of patch of paint on the palm. Then they use an oversized blunt needle and stretch some strands which they place on the fabric in an elaborated pattern.

The painting takes quite some time to be done on a small piece of cloth, depending upon the intricacy of the work and the type of cloth. If the work is very intricate, then a square foot piece of cloth could take around a month. The work takes time because first the outlining is done, then the work is filled, then after drying, the colors are added and then the work is done again. Drying generally takes two days. In case of symmetric patterns, to reduce the effort, the fabric is folded from the centre to get the impression on the other half, this also helps in creating effects like the background and the foreground.

Abdul Gafoor Khatri’s family appear to be the only family practicing the little known art in the small village called Nirona in kutch. Khatri abandoned school when he was just nine years old, preferring to work with the family as they worked hard over the intricacies of preparing the castor oil base, in which they mixed vegetable pigments and created vibrant organic patterns. He would watch intently as his father dipped a slim metal stick into the color and used it as the brush.

In an interview Abdul Gafoor said, “The Prime Minister buys our works to give them as gifts to dignitaries. Also, we now get a free stall in handicrafts exhibitions all over India to help us showcase our art to the world. Foreigners coming to Kutch today have Nirona on their itineraries and most of them are enchanted by this rare art.”

Sharanya Alva


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