Rogan Art from Kutch – A Gift For The Obamas

When Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi met with the Obamas everything that he said, did, ate and gave (as gifts) was carefully scrutinized and widely discussed. Given that India is a country that boasts of a thousand handicrafts, it was interesting that PM Modi presented Barrack Obama with a Rogan painting – an art that is today practiced only by a single Muslim Khatri family in the Nirona village of Kutch.

On my recent visit to Kutch and her villages, Nirona was one of the villages that I visited. At the Khatri household, a young man dressed in jeans and a t-shirt welcomed us and took us to a big room where guests and visitors were entertained. As soon as we were seated on the floor, Sumarbhai Daud Khatri opened what looked like a plastic masala dabba (a circular box that usually holds small containers of spices) with lumps of color in a liquid that resembled water. Sumarbhai deftly dipped a small metal rod into the container of yellow color and began to demonstrate the centuries old art form. Watching him effortlessly create designs on the little piece of cloth that he held, the entire process looked very easy, but the truth is far from it. It takes several years of practice to master the craft and create intricate Rogan art. In fact the end creations are so perfect that most people mistake them to be printed rather than hand painted.

 

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The masala dabba holding different colors and rogan

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Sumarbhai doing a demonstration of the art form


An art form that originated in Persia, it eventually traveled to Kutch given the proximity of the region to the former. Rogan means ‘oil based’ in Persian. Castor oil is heated for over 12 hours and cast in cold water, producing a thick residue called Rogan. This residue when mixed with natural colors forms a paint like substance. The craftsmen dip a 6 inch wood stick or metal rod into the paint and draw out a fine thread that is used to create designs on cloth. Rogan painted cloth is used to make saris, file holders, table cloths, skirts, bags, bed covers and decorative pieces.

 

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A rogan art piece waiting to be completed

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Sumarbhai proudly displays a finished bedcover


A few years back families across villages of Nirona, Khavda and Chaubari used to practice this art form, but as of today only the Gafoorbhai Khatri household in Nirona practice the art. Several generations of this family have been involved in perfecting this craft and today all 8 male members of the family practice it. Several of them have won national awards over the years. To ensure that the art form does not die out, the family is now training girls from their village, in what was otherwise a craft practiced only by men.

 
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To find out more about Rogan art and the Khatris, visit their website here.

I visited the villages with Kuldeep Kolhi who runs a travel company based in Bhuj. A local, Kuldeep knows the place and her people like none other. You can contact him on +91 9327054172 or email him at desert_adventures@yahoo.com

 
 

15 Comments

  • Reply
    Sri Kri
    December 3, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Wow.Looks so beautiful.Happy to know that you visited the artist place.Thanks a lot for sharing.Glad that they give training to girls for their village.

    Cheers,
    Sriram & Krithiga

  • Reply
    rupam sarma
    December 4, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Beautiful

  • Reply
    Chaitali Patel
    December 5, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Thanks Sri Kri! Awareness is what they really need at the moment!

  • Reply
    Chaitali Patel
    December 5, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Thank you Rupam!

  • Reply
    Mridula
    December 7, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Never even heard about it. Looks so fascinating! Great that you saw it.

  • Reply
    Indrani
    December 8, 2015 at 12:51 am

    This is new to me. Glad NM chose the best for O.

  • Reply
    Sumandebray
    December 11, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    I learnt some thing new here. I wonder what makes it distinguishable in the crown of other art-forms.

  • Reply
    Sumandebray
    December 11, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    please read crowd in place of crown

  • Reply
    Charukesi
    December 29, 2015 at 7:06 am

    I visited them in Nirona a few years ago – such lovely work. Thanks for bringing back the memories :)

  • Reply
    Nisha
    December 29, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Rogan art is indeed quite difficult. Never heard about it. I'll definitely contact Kuldeep ji when I go there.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    The Urge To Wander
    January 19, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    A lovely informative account Chaitali. Such a pity that Rogan along with so many of our hereditary arts are under threat from modernisation.

  • Reply
    Prasad Np
    January 26, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    A very interesting art form..and what painstaking slow process… I am glad you shared this unique work with all of us thanks

  • Reply
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    I bookmarked it.

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