Originating in Persia around 400 years ago, Rogan Printing is an ancient art which has survived the very brink of extinction. With the advent of technology and fast fashion, the traditional crafts of India are facing the challenge of survival. They are becoming less known by the day. In the case of Rogan Printing, the scarily low numbers have come down to a single family shouldering to keep the art alive.
The process of Rogan Printing primarily involves the painstaking navigation of thick and brightly coloured ink over fine sheets of fabric to create a flawless series of patterns which have usually been inspired from Mother Nature. The craft requires a tremendous amount of calibre and focus to create the immaculacy which it demands from its craftsman. The word ‘Rogan’ is of Persian origin and translates into oil or varnish. It is so due to the paint used in the craft. For over three days, castor oil is brought up to the boiling point and then cooled off while adding vegetable pigments and colours to create an eclectic range of rich and shiny inks. These pigments are then stained over usually dark coloured sheets of fabric to allow the gorgeous paint to stand out. In Rogan Printing, metal blocks are intricately carved to the minutest of details, and are dipped in rich hues to create the most stunning patterns of Rogan Printing.
Earlier, Rogan Printing used to be a seasonal form of art, mostly popular in local tribes and villages. It was during the season of marriages that Rogan Printing would spring to life in order to craft delicate pieces of clothing for the bride to wear on this special occasion. During the rest of the year, the Rogan craftsmen took to other activities for their bread, which was mostly agriculture and farming.
Popular patterns include motifs such as the ‘Tree of Life’ and Mughal paisleys. Moreover, they are heavily used to create elaborate borders on sheets of fabric. Floral patterns using the Rogan Printing technique are created on Ghagras, odhni and bead spreads.
The art continues to lack a sense of awareness regarding itself. It suffers the heavy fashion industry’s infusion from the west and people remaining unknown of Rogan’s existence in the country. It is time that the word is spread about the crafts of India such as Rogan Printing and people can get to know the treasure of craftsmanship this country has had for centuries.