The Khatri family of Kutch, Gujarat is on a noble mission – to preserve the dying art of Rogan paintings. Seven generations into the business, Abdul Gafoor’s family continues the tradition of passing the art technique from one generation to the other.
Rogan painting is a 300 year old ancient art form with Persian origins. An alternative to embroidery, it is oil based and the practice requires castor oil as the base. The oil is heated in a vessel for more than three days, till it comes to a boiling point. It is then mixed with the cold water to create a thick residue called Rogan, which in Persian means oil based. The natural colours (stored in earthen pots) are added next and painted on cloth with a wooden stick, or a thin rod.
The more intricate the work, the longer it takes to complete. First the outlining is done, and once it dries up, the colours are added. Drying generally takes two days. While symmetrical designs are preferred, the Khatri family has taken the liberty to experiment with different motifs such as the Tree of Life, paisley designs and Persian minarets. Originally used to decorate the bridal trousseau, it now finds expression on linen and garments, giving the fabric an embellished look. Infact it was Khatri’s work on a sari that won him the National Award in 1997.
Rogan art items are the preferred gift for heads of state, and the art form is being patronized by tourists from all over the world. Says Khatri, “It is perfection that we try to achieve with every painting. It is so perfect that I have to explain that is not printed, but painted by hand!”