Ajrak, Back in Time

The bust of a king priest dating 2,500-1,500 BC excavated at the site of the ancient town of Mohenjo-daro is deemed by many to depict the earliest possible use of an ajrak.

Early human settlements in the region, which is now the province Sindh in Pakistan along the Indus River, had found a way of cultivating and using Gossypium arboreum ( commonly known as tree cotton) to make clothes for themselves. These civilisations are thought to have mastered the art of making cotton fabrics as early as 3000 BC.

A bust of a king priest excavated at Mohenjo-daro shows him draped over one shoulder in a piece of cloth that resembles an ajrak. What came as a formidable explanation for this observation was the trefoil pattern etched on the person's garment interspersed with small circles, the interiors of which were filled with a red pigment.

This symbol illustrates what is now believed to be an edifice depicting the fusion of the three sun-disks of the gods of the sun, water and the earth. Reminiscent geometry of the trefoil is evident on most of the recent ajrak prints.
The level of geometry on the garment comes from the usage of a method of printing called the woodblock printing in which prints were transferred from geometric shapes etched on the wooden blocks by pressing them hard on the fabric. Block printing is thought to have been first used in ancient China, at least as far as moveable type is concerned. On its way through the populous regions of the Indus Valley, this technique of fabric printing was adopted at Mohenjo-daro.

The tradition still prevails centuries later, and people still use the same methods of production that were used in the earlier days to create an ajrak. So much has changed, yet some things haven't. Not even a bit.

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