Rogan painting was traditionally a seasonal craft, utilized to ornament various traditional attire components like Ghaghra, Lehenga, Odhani, Dupatta, Dharajo, Chabla and the household fabrics such as bed sheets, quilts, pillow covers and small pieces of fabrics used to cover dishes, these fabrics were main constituents of dowry fabrics. Rogan painted fabrics were also mandatory during various rituals including rite of passage. Overtime, these fabrics have been put to commercial uses and products like bedcovers, Sarees, scarves and even wall hangings.
The Rogan painting craft stems from agriculture, which is a major occupation of the village. Castor being the major cultivation draws the natural connection to the craft as the main ingredient of the colors that are manually prepared. The raw materials for the craft are easily available and pose less hassle.A unique feature of this craft is that once the outline of the design is painted over the fabric, it can be folded or pressed against another fabric or the fold of the same fabric to get the second impression of the same design. Along with replicating designs easily, this also ensures that the paint sticks well to the surface.
Myths & Legends
Rogan art is yet another example of union of civilizations in beaming history of India. The craft of Rogan painted fabrics dates back to many centuries. It is believed to have come to India from the Afridis, who were from Syria. They travelled around the North-Western regions, namely Persia, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the craft was previously concentrated there. It was mainly practiced by the Muslim descendents of the Afridis, it was known as Afridi Lac cloth or Peshawari Lac cloth. Rogan did not find much recognition as an art form until much later, as castor oil, the primary raw material for the craft was associated with hides and leather and it was also used by the lower castes. The process of extraction too proved to be very tedious. The process slowly spread to the other areas and settled along with the settling down of nomadic tribes. The craft was mostly patronized by the Ahirs in Kutch. It was necessary for their women to wear the Rogan painted Ghaghra during the time of marriage. The patterns and motifs largely resemble their embroidery patterns. Presently this craft is only practiced by one family in Nirona.
The motifs and patterns used in Rogan paintings contain both traditional and contemporary designs. The general features are curvilinear patterns repeated geometrically. The linear forms and symmetry is created by the double impression done by folding and peeling cloth, which leaves a mirror image. Phool (flower), Trikhani (three dots), Vesur (wavy border motif) and Jhad (trees) are the oldest found motifs. Animals, trees, humans and objects like bangles also make artistic appearances in the designs. The contemporary motifs include circular/ concentric patterns, motifs forming architectural elements like the Jalis/screens and the tree-of-life motifs.
Most times the fabric consists of thick and multi-layered borders which are filled with intricate and repeated motifs. This leads up to a large geometric central motif. The wall hangings done in Rogan style also feature instances from daily life of villagers, resplendent with trees, cattle and birds.
Boiling the castor oil is a risky process and has to be done with utmost care to avoid fire accidents. The odor and fumes emitted are harmful to the workers. Two or three of the natural colors used in the painting are poisonous if consumed and requires extreme caution by the person who handles them.
With the onset of screen printing, the demand for Rogan painting has lessened. This has led to a great decline in its practice, so much so that only one family presently carries about the craft.