Rogan: An Art or Craft? -

The traditional Rogan paintings of Nirona have not yet been explored to its full potential. With every passing moment, the art is losing its value and is on the verge of extinction. The art of Rogan dates back centuries, having its origin in Persia, it descended to the village of Nirona.

Tools, equipment and the preparation process

Traditionally, the equipment was hand made using organic material, which is now replaced by its inexpensive metal alternatives. The original ingredients of Rogan painting were castor oil, dyes, kerosene oil and wood. Preparing a Rogan painting is a tedious process. Its long dedication is the reason for its high cost. Each process is long and independent, handled mostly by skilled artisans. The Rogan jelly is prepared by burning castor oil, which is not fit for humans and produces a foul odour as well. Hence, the artists have to travel to the nearby forests for the basic essentials. Although women of the family are not taught this art, the chulah to prepare the castor jelly can only be lit by them.

(Rogan art by Rizwan Khatri)


The traditional method to procure dye was through natural sources such as stone and plants. The colours like blue (vadadi), green (leelo), orange, red (lal) and white (safed) were used in pure form. The colours were obtained from varied sources – red lead oxide was Figure 2 Rogan paste stored in plastic containers used to obtain red, orpiment was used for yellow, powdered mica for silver, white lead for white, orpiment and indigo mixed for green, silver and gold leaf for metallic effects and indigo for blue. The artists today also use the pigments of colours which are readily available in the market.

Preparation of the colour paste

To prepare the Rogan colour paste, the artisans have to be highly skilled. The main equipment used for the preparation of colour paste is kharal, a manual stone grinder, to mix the colour paste. The ingredients are napthol, white chalk powder and water. It is important that kharal is cleaned thoroughly before preparing the paste to avoid stain of previous colour into the fresh paste. After cleaning, the process of dyeing begins by adding water gradually, till a smooth paste is acquired. A small quantity of gelatinous Rogan paste is added to the dye paste of either chalk colour pigment or vegetable pigment and mixed until a soft, smooth gelatinous paste is made. The rogan paste is generally stored in earthen pots or in plastic containers with water to keep it moist.

Rogan art colours


Traditionally, Rogan was limited to thick cotton fabric or khaddar. However, due to customer demand and availability of variety of fabrics, they are now painted on cotton, silk, wool, polyester and denims.

Process of painting on the fabric

The process of Rogan is tedious and time consuming. Initially, the fabric is spread on the ground; then the artist takes a lump of colour in his palm and mixes with a suya rod held by the other hand, the artist continues to mix the paste till it is stretched to a thread like structure; the paint is then used to paint the fabric with either fingers or suya. The painting is done without any rough sketch or basic outline. It is prepared entirely through imagination and is boundless. The intricacy of the designs varies on the demand of the customer or the imagination of the artist.

When there are many colours in a design, the artist would first finish all work in one colour before moving on to the next. The painting is done only on one side of the folded fabric, which is then folded exactly from the centre. This is again folded from the centre and pressed evenly to get an identical impression. After opening, the final product is kept to dry under sunlight for six to seven hours.


The floral, geometric and calligraphic motifs were traditionally used for the art of Rogan painting. The traditional floral motifs were small, like chauphulla, tik, ghonta( marigold) and keyri (mango). The floral borders included panfarei, single fareei (flower and seed pod), kangsi or phullivel (comb like pattern and phulvels), popat gulvel (parrots and flowers). Fauna was also a common element in stylised forms, haathi, with or without ambadi (Howdah and rider). Other figurative elements are mahiyarin – two women wearing ghagras, chunaris, churning curd and a garud. During ancient times, calligraphy motifs were used in Persian alphabets. The bird motifs were used only by the Hindu Khatri craftsmen of Ahmedabad. Two layouts were used for motif placement – border and all over. The motifs used by the Hindu Khatris were large with broad outlines. However, to commercialise this art form, the artists are now focussed on customer demand – the “Tree of Life” motif.


~ Written by Misha Jaiswal



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