The fine art of rogan printing

Rogan printing is one of the most ancient kinds of direct printing. The word Rogan comes from the Persian language and means "oil". It is believed that this art form was brought to India by the Afridis. The craft grew in popularity in the northwestern portions of India and was primarily practised by Muslims. Sir George Watt later observed that an identical craft form was also practised at Lahore, Peshawar, and Pathan. The main distinction was that linseed oil was used in Peshawar and Lahore, whereas castor oil was utilised in Kutch to make Rogan paste. Presently this printing is practised and is seen only in the Kutch region of Gujarat. 

The art of Rogan printing is also referred to as Chapala in Kutch. The distinctive aspect of this art is the elevated appearance which is achieved by the application of thickened oil. The thickened oil-like paste gives an embossed and shiny effect. The major ingredients used in Rogan are castor oil, mineral colours like red lead oxide, white oxide, indigo and mica. The method for making Rogan paste and applying it to fabric is still the same, with the exception that synthetic dyes are now being utilized.

Traditionally, long skirts (ghagra), odhani (veil), bedsheets, quilts were the only products made for the tribes of the Kutch region. Nowadays wall hangings, cushion covers, blouse materials and bedspreads are also being produced to meet the expectations of urban consumers.

The designs of Rogan printing are largely inspired by the Persian motifs. The kutch artisans commonly use geometric patterns and floral motifs in their printings. The tree of life is also an important depiction seen in Rogan printings alongside modern designs.

The Process

  • The preparation of Rogan is a time-consuming process and requires a high level of dexterity and competence. The whole process takes place in an open isolated area because of the emission of toxic gases.
  • The fireplace is prepared and an aluminium vessel is placed on the furnace. Castor oil is then poured and boiled for 5 hours. The oil is continuously stirred to maintain the right temperature. When the oil thickens and is free of contaminants, it becomes a jelly-like substance (Rogan). The Rogan is then cooled for seven hours.
  • The next step is the preparation of colours. A manual stone grinder is used to make the coloured paste. The colours are mixed with a specific amount of Rogan and local clay to get the desired consistency. It is ground until it becomes a smooth jelly paste. These coloured pastes can be stored for up to ten days.
  • Once the colour pastes are prepared, the Rogan printing process begins. Every craftsman has his own pen or suryakalam of the same thickness and dimensions. The fabric to be painted on is stretched flat on the group or the craftsman’s lap. He then takes a few dollops of the coloured gel on his palm and keeps mixing it until it becomes threadlike and elastic.
  • The distinctive feature of Rorgan printing is that just half of the cloth is painted, after which the fabric is folded in half and the design is gently transferred to the other side by exerting pressure. The fabrics are then dried for 10 hours after they have been printed.

Each Indian printed textile is unique and different in its own sense. At Sundari Silks, we take great care to ensure that these beautiful prints are treasured like they ought to be. You can find our collection of block printed weaves at our showrooms in Chennai/Mumbai and our online store.

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