Content Research, Conceptualization and Written by Kaavya Lakshman
The region of Kutch has been famous for its unique use of threads, beautiful beads, and intricate hand-made textiles. Rogan painting the dying textile art and craft deserves utmost appreciation pertaining to this part of Gujarat.
Rogan painting originated in Persia and came down to Kutch 400 years ago. There are no historical evidences justifying the exact origination of this art. In the Persian language, ‘Rogan’ means oil based painting. In the olden days, Rogan art was used on bridal clothing to make beautiful borders on the traditional Ghagras and odhnis (scarf).
Though Rogan painting has no elaborate history or any ritual or religious relevance attached to it the significance of the art lies in the credibility of the work and the painstaking efforts of the artists. The art form is a fabulous example of the rich cultural tradition of India.
Characteristics of Rogan painting
- Use of natural materials : The canvas of this painting is fabric, and the paints used is organic in nature.
- Tedious process : The process of Rogan painting is very time consuming and complicated.
- Colors used : Colors like white, red, blue, yellow, green, and orange are used in the pure form. Locally the colors are called :
- Yellow : Pavadi
- Red : Lal
- Blue : Vadadi
- White : Safad
- Green : Leelo
- Brown : Bhuro
- Products : Rogan painting has found it’s way too many lifestyle products in today’s day and age. These include cushion covers, bed covers, traditional dresses like kurtas and saris, table cloth and wall hangings.
- It is not a printing technique, but a hand made process.
Process of Rogan painting
- Process of making the Rogan paste(colors): The paste is prepared by heating either safflower oil, castor oil or linseed oil to boiling point over a period of three days, thereafter pouring it into water. This paste is either mixed with chalk color pigment or vegetable pigments, as per the choice of the artist, to create a thick dye. This gives rise to bright and lively colors. Castor oil is mainly used as castor is a local crop grown in Kutch, and was traditionally sourced from the farmers.
The pastes are stored in earthen pots in order to keep them moist
- Process of painting on the fabric : The artisan places a small amount of the paste on the palm of his hand. “At first, 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.” (cited from http://gaatha.com/rogan-art-kutch-gujarat/)
The designs made are very fine and detailed, usually geometric and floral motifs are depicted. ‘The Tree of Life’ and Mughal paisleys are also depicted. Though intricacy of the work varies from piece to piece, “if the work is very intricate, then a square foot piece of cloth could take around a month.” (cited from http://gaatha.com/rogan-art-kutch-gujarat/)
Table : A Comparison of the Then And Now of Rogan Art (information taken from – http://www.isca.in/FAMILY_SCI/Archive/v2/i1/1.ISCA-RJFCCS-2013-026.pdf)
|Raw material||Oil||Linseed oil, castor oil extracted from plants||Castor oil(bought from market)|
|Dye||Pigment colour(natural sources)||Pigment colour(natural and synthetic)|
|Stylus||Thick and broad at the tips and 7 inches long made of iron rod||Fine and narrow at tip and 4to 5 inches long, made of iron|
|Preparation of gel||Utensil used||Earthen pots were used||Metal pots are used(Aluminium)|
|Amount of Oil Taken||2kg(because bold design were made earlier so consumption was more)||1kg (designs are smaller and fine.)|
Of Roghan gel
|Medium size earthen pots were used to store the gel with water||Plastic container having 6-7 small bowls to store the roghan gel with water|
|Colour ranges||Limited number of colours were used||Many varieties of dyes are available for good combination.|
|Colour used||Red, black||Red, black, orange, green, blue, etc.|
|Fabric||Material||Cotton(khaddar)||Cotton, silk, polyester, georgette, chiffon|
|Articles made||Ghaghara, odhana.||Saris, Wall hanging, Toran, Tablecloths, Folder, Purses, Cushion cover.|
|Customers||Localities||Mainly tourist and local people|
|A wareness||Limited to local areas||Known at international levels.|
From the above table, it can be concluded that the method has changed to a great extent to cater to the needs of the growing market.
“With cutting edge technology defining the pace and the taste of today’s world, our age old tribal crafts are finding it difficult to maintain their identity. Rogan painting is an example of a spell binding yet dying art, with just six people from the same family shouldering this tradition today.” (cited from http://gaatha.com/rogan-art-kutch-gujarat/)
As per The Times of India on October 3, 2014 : “The 400-year-old Rogan or oil-based art in India is the sole preserve of a Khatri Muslim family based in Kutch region of Gujarat. The paintings, which have a heavy Persian influence, are by Gafoorbhai Khatri, the head of the family and a national award winner.”
- Abdul Gafoor Khatri
Image Source: http://nazariya.in/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/01-2-3-generations-back-the-kind-of-workC.max-1400×1120.jpg
At the age of nine Abdul Gafoor Khatri left his formal school education, choosing to work with his family on this art form. He would keenly observe his father for hours, learning the process of Rogan art. However, when he was a young adult, he pursued other options to earn a living. In 1983 he got a call from his ailing grandfather, asking for Abdul’s help to execute a complicated order. It was his grandfather’s wish to pass on this special set of skills to the next generation, and not let it die with him. “So, I went back and picked up the brush again…and haven’t put it down since…”, said the talented artisan.
In 1988 Khatri won the State award, and in 1997 he won the National Award for an intricate sari that took over an year to complete.
As cited from http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2004/09/14/stories/2004091400601800.htm , on September 4 2004, “ There are all of four persons well-versed in this form of painting, says Arabbhai Khatri, who was in the city to participate in Paramparik Karigar, an exhibition of traditional art and painting. Apart from him, his three nephews, Abdul Gafoor, Jumabhai and Sumerbhai, have been trained in this form of art. “
As per The Indian Express, on 28 September 2016, “In the 1980s, Rogan painting was almost extinct. Only two craftsmen, Abdul Ghafoor and Rashid, were practising the craft in Gujarat’s Nirona. One could never have expected that 30 years on, the craft is still alive and growing. But, in 2016, there are many more young craftsmen in Nirona who have been trained in the craft and are doing well — which is evident in the variety of Rogan paintings on offer at state emporiums throughout India.”
On the site http://khamir.org/crafts/rogan-painting, a brief introduction is written by the artist :-
- Khatri Arab Hasam
“The Rogan art of painting is an ancient art, over 300 years old. I learned from my father, and my father learned from his, and so on. My village is the only place where this work is created. We use to make pieces for our community, but now we make it for the market. It is such a rare and beautiful craft; but still it does not sell well. Most families gave up the craft to find other jobs to get more money. But not us, we continue the craft. We are the only Rogan Art family left.
Rogan art is not well known, even in India. Most of the artisans before me lost their art because they did not pass it down to the next generations. I will make sure that this practice stays alive. I am ensuring that my entire family learns and practices Rogan art. I am also in the process of opening a school that teaches Rogan art to children from different families in this area.”
Rogan Art in the News
October 3 2014, The Times of India : “TOI has learnt that Modi gifted a couple of exquisitely handcrafted Rogan paintings to Obama.
July 8 2016, The Better India : “ Artist Papiya Mitra, who is also the founder of the Maker’s Club India, works towards uplifting Indian traditional art forms. In an interview to Sakaal Times, she said:
“Even though there is a huge market for Indian art and crafts abroad, the means to sell them are very limited. The Rogan artists have limited themselves to the Kutch region and the next generation is not willing to carry forward the legacy as there is no future in it. If they travel to different parts of the country and teach the techniques to others or if art enthusiasts go to them and learn it and help spread its richness, only then will the awareness about Rogan art increase.”
To help Rogan art reach more people, the government has started incentivizing Rogan artists. Many startups and NGOs are also helping to create a market for them. Other than preserving traditional designs, the artists are being encouraged to experiment with new motifs and colour combinations. This will create products that have a different appeal, are affordable and have a wider reach.
In an interview to Travel Knots, Gafoorbhai 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.”
For a long time, this rare craft was not well known even in India. But with a growing fan following that includes Amitabh Bachchan, Waheeda Rehman, Shabana Azmi and, of course, Narendra Modi, Rogan art is now getting the recognition it deserves.