Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – India chapter Gujarat has to say about Rogan Art:
The village of Nirona, 40km northwest of Bhuj, features several distinctive crafts (lacquer-work, bell-making), but none more so than the award-winning ancient art of Rogan painting, brought over from Iran 300 years ago and practised by just one extended family in India in this village.
These delicate, detailed cloth-paintings take months of work and Narendra Modi famously presented one fine piece to Barack Obama during the American president’s visit.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We drove north out of Bhuj and though it was only 40km to Nirona, it took us over an hour because of traffic congestion in the city. We began to pass banners posted along the highway indicating that we were entering the ‘White Rann’. You’ll learn a little later, in other journal entries and their associated photos, why this area was considered ‘white’.
Mr. Singh pulled the van up in front of a small building with an elaborately-carved door. There were some storyboards attached to the exterior walls explaining what Rogan Art was all about, but we didn’t stop to read them. We were here to see the real thing in person, it’s always better to have someone demonstrate a skill, than to read about how it’s done.
We were given a brief overview of Rogan art, and then our host sat himself down on the floor in the centre of the room with a plastic tray filled with coloured paste. I was immediately reminded of the stainless-steel masaldhan (spice box) that I use to keep my Indian spices in back home. It’s virtually the same thing, his was just a plastic version.
Here’s some of what was written on the storyboard outside: “300 years ago, the art called Rogan originated in Persia, and today is practiced only by one family, the Gafurbhais, in Nirona village. The term ‘Rogan’ means ‘oil-based’. Rogan painting is delicately and precisely painted from one’s own creative imagination in a time-consuming process.
The colour pigment used for this particular craft is especially brought from Ahmedabad. They are specific about the pigment that is used for the process, which is why the colours used are limited.”
They don’t mention it on their signboard, but castor oil is used in Rogan painting; it is boiled for many hours and then plunged into cold water to form the paste. After the pigment and a binding agent are added, the resulting paint is thick and shiny. The painting us usually done on dark fabrics so that the colours stand out more intensely. Very often, the painting is done on only one side, and when the cloth is then folded in half and pressure is applied, a mirror image of the design is transferred to the other side. Designs usually include floral motifs, traditional folk art and animals.
This was a completely new art form just waiting for us to see demonstrated and to enjoy. Donna and Duncan were really impressed with they saw a painting of a peacock that was already framed. They were told it was one of a kind, and they were keen to buy it. The only downside was that it was not signed by the artist like some of the other paintings on display. So as not to be disappointed, they arranged for the painting to removed from the frame, signed with the Rogan paint, dried in the sun and then placed back in the frame.
This could not be done while we waited, so we arranged our schedule so that we could return two days later to pick it up on our return trip through Bhuj, on our way to Mandvi on the coast. If you are interested in seeing exactly how this unique style of painting is done (it has to been seen to be believed), please click on this link: