Why did Prime Minister Modi choose the "Rogan Painting" as a souvenir for former US President Barack Obama?
We're sure many of you are aware and may even be highly proficient in preparing the mouth watering Kashmiri dish, 'Rogan Josh'. But, what if we told you about yet another recipe, the one which has been in existence for more than 300 years, its technique an absolute secret - and you cannot even eat it!
This hidden gem is known as the 'Rogan Kaam' of Gujarat. The ancient textile art originated from Persia and came to Kutch around 300 years ago. The craft and its glittering patterns were traditionally only used for embellishing bridal clothing belonging to the regional tribes. However with time, the art form having gained immense popularity, has also started being used for bedspreads, 'odhanis' and decorative wall pieces. A Rogan art painting of the size 14x17” can take up to 12 days to be completed.
Practiced in Nirona Village, in the Rann of Kutch, this intricate craft of cloth printing has been passed from generation to generation, belonging to Mr. Abdul Gafur Khatri and his family - the last of eight generations and the only family in the world, to have preserved this artform. Although the prime ingredients are a secret, many artists still gave it a go to try and decode the make of the vibrant paint material, used from castor seed oil (Rogan means 'oil based' in Persian and castor is one of the local crops grown in Kutch) and vegetable dyes, all sourced from the local farmers. Placing a small amount of the paint on their palms, the artisans then use a metal stylus to create painstakingly intricate motifs, barely even touching the cloth and that are just so soothing to trace and to behold.
The exclusivity of this craft is such that it can only be viewed in the museums of Gujarat or at Mr. Abdul Gafur Khatri's very own house and workshop in Nirona Village. The most well known and in demand piece of the Rogan Art is the 'The Tree of Life' motif, also famously presented by India's Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi to former President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama. The painting still beautifully adorns the walls of the white house.
Speaking of the art, Mr. Abdul Gafur Khatri says, "Rogan art is 100% an artist's imagination on a piece of cloth. There is no tracing, no drawings to refer to." Gafur bhai, as he is better known, has strived hard to preserve this craft - the sole breadwinner of the family, a family that has won six national awards and six state awards owing to their talent, and have also had their work presented at numerous celebrity award functions. Gafur bhai has also dotingly taught this artwork to over 200 girls from his village, empowering them to chart their very own paths in life.
Out of Kutch's ever so unique ecosystem, was this artwork reared and has brought India so much pride. India, is a pandora's box, a treasure chest of artisans and the precious legacies of their arts and crafts, that they have dutifully carried upon their shoulders since time immemorial. We salute them all and sincerely hope their recognition continues to expand far and wide, across all horizons of our beautiful planet.