Rogan Painting: The Art of Creating Design on Fabrics

According to Gafoorbhai Khatri, the expert Rogan artisan from Nirona, Gujarat, the Rogan art of painting is over four hundred years old. The traditional Rogan flower motifs and designs speak of a Persian influence and the word Rogan itself means oil-based in Persian. Today, Nirona in Kutch is the only place where this work is created.


When oil of safflower or castor oil is heated over fire for more than twelve hours and cast into cold water, it produces a thick residue called Rogan, which may be mixed with oxides or natural coloured pigments obtained from the minerals. With a stylus, the artisan then draws out from this residue a fine thread which is applied to the cloth to create a raised pattern.

Rogan painting is delicately and precisely painted from one’s own creative imagination and is done with total concentration sitting on the floor without using a table-frame or any outline. The roghan-workers carefully work out a quarter of rectangular fabric in thick roghan outline, which when folded from the middle, first vertically along its edges and then horizontally, effectively stamps the design on the remaining three-fourths of the cloth. Using roghan work, the artisans of Kutch traditionally produced coverlets, wall hangings and canopies, skirt pieces and veil cloths which created the effect of embroidery while being less labour-intensive and thereafter cheaper.

The Khatri community residing in Nirona village in Gujarat are expert artisans, practising this art form from ages. The artisans donot go through any formal training, but, the expertise is passed on from generation to generation.

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Most of the other artisans have lost their art as it was not passed on during partition or lost from generation to generation.

When the residue is printed on cloth and subsequently dusted with coloured powder or gold or silver dust, it is known as khari or tinsel work. Jaipur, Sanganer, Mandasor, Ahmedabad and centres in Tamil Nadu are known for tinsel printing with effects on duppattas, saris, turban cloths and dress material.