The Anokhi Museum in Jaipur has the distinct privilege of being the only Indian museum that is solely dedicated to showcasing the hand block printing works of India’s renowned artisans. The museum is located inside the Royal Palace (or Haveli) near the popular Amber fort in the pink city of Jaipur, and is spread over 3 floors.
The museum was restored in the 16th century, and was opened to tourists in 2005. It was founded as a centre for tourists and locals to learn about the historical significance and heritage of traditional craftsmanship, rather than just displaying the collection of the works of the Indian block printers. The fabrics created using the Anokhi craft are not just popular in India but are also extremely famous in countries like Japan, Singapore, Britain, Spain and Mauritius.
Until this museum was opened to the public, there was actually no platform for people to observe and understand the craftsmanship of Indian carvers. Surprisingly, there is hardly any literature available to access the information related to Anokhi. If you are an art lover and have a keen eye for intricate designs and artworks, this is a must-visit place for you.
The museum displays the work of several popular block printing communities in India, especially the North Indian styles. The block printing technique is common across India but is most common in Rajasthan, due to its rich culture of hand textile printers. This was hampered by machine printing, which made this art form redundant and stole the livelihood of many of the locals who took to block printing when the weather was not conducive for agriculture.
While Rajasthan’s summers are infamous for their searing heat, the museum itself is cool. The process of hand block printing entails carving designs (floral, paisley or geometric) onto wooden blocks , which are then applied to print this pattern onto cloth. The dyes used are 100% natural, and include like indigo, pomegranate rind and turmeric.
The museum displays the clothes of the ancient Indian Royal Kings, which were the finest works of Indian designers. Apart from the fabrics, you can also find a wide range of tools used by the artisans including chisels, rasps, saws and hammers to create a beautiful piece of cloth.
The museum deserves credit for preserving the craft even today. It took about 2 years to complete the construction of the museum. The current look of the museum owes its design to the French architect Stephane Paumier who was hired to restore the ruins of the building and design the interiors as well as the display cases. This beautiful building won the UNESCO building preservation award in the year 2000.