The Art of Rogan Painting

India is a diverse country, rich in age-old traditions and culture. Throughout its history, India has witnessed the emergence of many exotic art forms and craftsmanship. However, with the rise of cutting-edge technology of industrial textiles, many traditional craft forms have taken a massive hit. Rogan painting is a classic example of an enthralling yet sadly dying art. 

What is Rogan Painting?

Rogan painting is a 400-year old inherited traditional textile craft of Gujarat. It is considered to be the oldest and most challenging printing art in the history of textile. The word Rogan means oil in PersiaWith origins in Persia, it was brought to India around 300 years ago, even though there is not enough historical evidence to support the statement. 

Preparation of the Ingredients

The chief ingredients required for Rogan painting are castor oil, wood, kerosene oil and dyes. The first step in the painting is the preparation of Rogan paste. 

After preparing a furnace and selecting a suitable aluminium container, the local craftsmen boil a litre of castor oil for a minimum of four hours. The time required for boiling may vary depending upon the quantity of the oil taken. Then, they continuously stir the oil until it is time to remove the container from the furnace to let it cool down. While boiling, the castor oil may catch fire, after which it is immediately taken out and covered with a lid. During this, the impurities present in the oil gets thrown out in the form of fumes. This process is repeated several times until the oil forms a thick, gelatin-like consistency and turns yellowish. 

Traditionally, the dyes used in Rogan painting were derived from organic, natural sources such as stones and plants. But today, synthetic dyes are used too. Red, yellow, blue, white, green, and brown are the primary colours used in the painting. 

A manual stone grinder was used to mix naphthol dyes and white chalk powder and prepare the colour paste. With the gradual addition of water, the required consistency of the paste is reached. The Rogan paste is added to the colour paste and ground until it forms the desired soft, smooth, gelatinous dye paste. 

Process of Rogan Painting

The process of painting is a very tedious and cumbersome task. Initially, the craftsmen lay the fabric to be painted on the floor. Next, they take a lump of the dye paste and put it on the palm of one hand. They hold a suya rod or a metal stylus in the other hand and mix the thick paste till it stretches into a thread-like structure. 

They carefully twist the rod to create beautiful motifs and patterns across the fabric without the rod touching the cloth. After that, they fold the fabric and press it evenly to obtain an identical impression on the other half of the fabric. Lastly, the fabric is left out in the sunlight for about six to seven hours to let it dry.

The intricate motifs that embellish the fabric, such as geometric flowers, peacocks, the tree of life, etc., are inspired by the history and folk culture of the Kutch region of Gujarat.

Originally, the Rogan Art was used to adorn the trousseau of a bride. But due to the limited resources, meeting the market demand has become a challenge. From almost becoming a dying art to gaining worldwide recognition, Rogan Art sure has come a long way.