Rogan Paintings of Gujarat

Origin: Once upon a time, Rogan paintings adorned bridal clothing of regional tribes. Rogan paintings embellished borders on Ghagras, odhni and bead spreads. In the by gone era, lower caste women purchased Rogan crafted fabric for their wedding. This ensured this was a seasonal craft only during wedding time and rest of the year artisans dipped their fingers in agriculture. 

Ravishing Rogan art finds its roots in Persia. The word Rogan is inspired from a Persian word meaning varnish or oil.  Around 4000 years ago, this traditional art established its footsteps in Kutch. One theory states that this craft came with Khatris, who moved to India from Sindh, Paskistan. On the flip side, the name Rogan hints Iran origin.  Traditionally, only male members of Khatri family held exclusive rights to the craft making process. However, recent times witnessed women folk take up this craft. 

Present Day: Cheaper machine-made textiles stole the limelight from Rogan painted products. Fortunately, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries brought about a renewed interest in Rogan art. The fan club of this rare craft reads Amitabh Bachchan, Waheeda Rehman, Shabana Azmi etc. 

In 2014, The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, gifted a couple of exquisite handcrafted Rogan paintings to the former US president, Barack Obama.  Since then, this dying craft has generated curiosity. Today, it adorns the walls of the White House. Government has adopted copious steps to promote this craft such as give incentive to Rogan artists. In addition, many startups and NGOs are creating a market place for artisans.  

Talented artisan Gafoorbhai Khatri is head of the Khatri family and he is keeping the art alive. Gafoorbhai is opening a school that teaches Rogan art. Today contemporary products are made using this art form such as bags, cushion covers, table cloths, wall hangings, and pillow covers.

Procedure: The first step of making Rogan painting is to procure castor crop from local farmers.  Then, paint is derived from thick and vibrant castor seed oil.  For the same, castor oil is heated in a vessel stirring it continuously for hours till it catches fire.  This step needs to be carried with extreme care so that the paint does not burn. 

Next step, is mixing the residue with cold water until it thickens into a sticky elastic paste called Rogan. Later its mixed with bright natural hues and immersed in water and stored in earthen pots. This step ensures the paint retains its malleable texture. The artist sits on the floor and place a small amount of paint paste on their palms. Next, they oversized blunt needles or rods are used to gently stretch some strands, which they place on the fabric in elaborate patterns. 

The artist places his fingers under the fabric this help the paint spread and shape the design. Designs are created towards one edge of the fabric. Later, the cloth is folded to create a mirror image on the other side.  An interesting facet of this process is that the blunt needle never touches the cloth. 

Bring Home Rogan Art: You can buy these stunning pieces from exhibitions. 

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