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Rogan – A rare art of India

Rogan Art

Nirona is a small village in Kutch district of Gujarat. It would seem like a simple ordinary village to an onlooker until they notice the constant flow of tourists every day to this place. Nirona has something so inimitable to offer that people from around the world come here to admire it. What makes this place stand out is an art called Rogan, which is practised only by one family of this village and nowhere else in the world, making this one of the unique destinations of India!

Khatri family of Nirona are the only ones in the world keeping this 300 year old art still alive. This art is like a traditional in the family passed on from generation to generation. Till now they have 11 national and state awards to their credits for this art. Earlier times when printed fabrics weren’t too common, this art was used to make designs on clothes. The texture of this art on fabric closely resembles the printed fabric textures we see today. But after the commercialization of printed fabrics, people were drawn towards it and gradually this art started to die out. Many started searching for other professions for a living. But Gafoor Daud Khatri, the head of the family, took this art to a completely different level. He converted this art to not just another design to be made on clothes to wear, but to an intricate art item which people can buy, frame and hang it on their walls!

Gafoor Daud Khatri
Gafoor Daud Khatri

Rogan isn’t a simple paint and brush art. It is unlike any other art forms one would have come across. It is a free hand painting with no prior sketching done on fabric. The most notable feature about this art is the paint itself and the method of drawing using this paint. Paint is made by heating castor oil for 2 days continuously in a controlled environment by alternate heating and cooling method, until it reaches a sticky – rubbery consistency. This earth colored residue is called Rogan which means “oil-based” in Persia from where it is believed to have its origins. Rogan is then mixed with color pigments specially brought from Ahmedabad to make the paint. As these colors are natural, the range of colors used in this art is also limited.

8. Paints
Color Palette with Rogan in the middle

The method of applying the paint to the fabric is where the complexity begins. A metal stylus is used as brush which is dipped into Rogan first and then into the required natural color. Due to the sticky consistency, the color tend to stick to Rogan easily. This stylus containing Rogan and color is held with the right hand and rubbed vigorously on side of the left palm to blend them together. Now when the paint is ready, the fabric is rested on the lap to begin the art work. The artist holds this stylus with his right hand, while his left hand is under the fabric, making the required finger movement guiding the right hand above to make a particular design. Explaining this sure sounds complicated, but anyone witnessing the demonstration of this art would clearly understand how difficult it is to do too!

In Action
Artist in action

The level of craftsmanship and patience required to make such a unique piece of art is also commendable. Each design takes weeks or even months depending on the complexity of the design. Normally the border part of the design is made first and left to dry for few hours. Once the paint dries, the same process is followed – starting from outer part of the design finishing first and then moving to the inner parts. Once the design is complete and paint is dried, it is claimed that the fabric itself might torn out with time, but the paint on it will never fade in its lifetime!

Neck design of a kurta
Neck design of a kurta

The designs made are usually flower motifs combined with geometrical patterns with a brilliant play of colors making it look so vibrant and beautiful. One such design which has gained a lot of recognition is the “Tree of Life” design created by Gafoor Daud Khatri. This design has even been gifted to US President Mr.Obama by Indian Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi, as a souvenir from India for its intricacy and uniqueness.

Gift to Obama
Gift to Obama

The entire village is proud of Khatri family’s achievements and this can be easily felt in the way guests are greeted. Whenever a guest arrives, there is always someone at the village entrance to welcome them. They are then escorted to the family house of Khatri and seated in the hall. The walls of this hall are adorned with numerous momentous, certificates and awards the family has received for its talent.

Awards and certificates
Awards and certifitcates

Demonstration of this art is given for every guests visiting Khatri house, no matter how many come during the entire day. The items made using this art are also displayed for anyone willing to buy. Items on sale include kurtas, dress materials, purses, and “Tree of Life” designs. The price range varies depending on the design but starts from Rs 500 onwards.

Items on Sale
Items on Sale

India is a pool of art and talent and it would be unfair to compare one with other. But Rogan being such a rare art has surely gained an upper hand over the others in terms of recognition. If anyone wants to add this special piece of art to their collection of souvenirs from India, then visiting Nirona is the only option – as Rogan Art can only be brought from the house of Khatri family, and is not sold anywhere else in the world.

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