I stopped by at Nirona Village while travelling through Kutch in Gujarat. Nirona is about 100 kms away from Bhuj, near Nakhtarana. We walked down through the village lanes to the home of National Award Winning Artistes (Khatri Ghafoor Bhai and family) who are preserving the 300 year old Rogan Art Form. It was often treated as a quick and fast alternative to embroidery. This art form on the fabric gives an embellished look, yet very smooth to touch. While it may appear like fabric painting, the discerning eye will be able to differentiate this form.
Khatri Sumar Daud a National Award Winner himself in the family of winners warmly let us in and patiently demonstrated the fine art form explaining the nuances at every step. The word Rogan refers to oil based in Persian. It is prepared by heating castor oil in a vessel and continuously stirring for more than 12 hours until it catches fire. The preparer has to be extremely careful to prevent getting burnt. It is then mixed with cold water when it thickens into a sticky elastic residue called “Rogan”. This is mixed with natural colours for painting. The colours are stored in earthern pots with water to retain their malleable form to enable painting.
This is a free hand painting style, without using any prior sketched pattern on the fabric. The painting is done with a 6 inch long, thin metal stylus, which is dipped into the colour and carefully turned to wrap the rogan around it. I observed in rapt attention as the master painter went about his art with utmost patience and concentration. Within minutes a perfect flower outline was painted in yellow on the blue cloth. He folded the cloth while the colour was moist to get a mirror imprint on the other side. The detailed work is done on one side of the fabric and then folded into half in utmost precision to get a mirror image on the other side.
This is often not possible when they use more than one colour for painting since there are chances of smudging and they do it on either side separately. Most of their work is geometric and floral patterns designed on stoles, table cloths, wall hangings, saris, dress material, lehengas but the icing on the cake is the “Tree of Life” painted with utmost precision on cotton and silk cloth. In conversation, I realized that this is a gift of choice for state guests in Gujarat. They have also know started training others, specially girls in that area to take up this art form and reach out to the world. The door to their home in open through the year for visitors and they take out time to demonstrate their art with a smile. I quickly picked up a stole that I had set my eyes on as soon as I had entered the room. I am very happy to own a hand crafted piece of rare art. Rogan Art is as delightful as the mouthwatering Rogan Josh. It requires as much focus, love, patience and perfection to create that world class feel. If you are visiting Kutch, do include this small village in your itinerary and you will definitely be glad that you did. Nirona is on the way to Great Rann of Kutch from Bhuj. This is the only place where Rogan Art is now practiced in India. You can also check their website http://www.traditionalroganart.com
Check out the pictures to get a step-by-step feel of this painting form !!