I have been searching for the origins of some of the patterns that are used today in ajrakh printing. As it originated in Sindh, this means looking to within this province for the meanings and stories behind these, and why they are so symbolic of both a Sindhi and Kachchhi person’s identity.
This is one of the ajrak cloths from Sindh, Pakistan, not dated but probably mid 20th century.
In such a simple pattern, there can be seen so many further patterns and shapes – as well as the circles, a four petalled flower can be seen, diamonds, squares and triangles. It is mesmerizing to look at and the fact it continues endlessly is why it has endless connotations and symbols in many cultures and religions. It is considered by some to be a symbol of sacred geometry, said to contain ancient, religious value depicting the fundamental forms of space and time.
The patterns found in ajrakh are made up of symmetrically geometric forms typical of Islamic art. Ismail Mohammed says the patterns come from God, and it is said that the perfect symmetrical patterns reflect the perfection of God’s creation.
The trefoil found on a stone king priest at Mohenjo daro can also be linked with patterns still used today. It is thought by some to have strong religious links to the trinity, the unity of powerful gods of the sun, water and earth.
Having never visited Sindh, I have little knowledge on the province. I do hope to visit there and learn more about its fascinating history, and find out whether old traditions are still in practice, such as the use of these historic patterns in the printed and embroidered cloths. I do hope that, like Kachchh the crafts can continue and provide the world with a positive and hopeful view of the country and its people through beautiful products with important history and fascinating stories.
A wonderfully written book Empires of the Indus, by Alice Albinia, provides a compelling insight into the world of the Indus valley civilisation. While touring the length of the river, she speaks to communities now living along the river banks, as well as giving a historic narrative of who once lived in the same spots.