Forget scarves and dupattas, ajrak is ‘in’ at girls’ schools | Pakistan Today

Forget scarves and dupattas, ajrak is ‘in’ at girls’ schools

Instead of the conventional dupattas or scarves, the girl students in the schools and colleges of the province may soon be wearing ajraks – a trademark of the Indus Valley Civilisation – as districts governments have decided to make the traditional chaddar a part of uniform.
The district administration of Larkana – the native district of slain Pakistan People’s Party leader Benazir Bhutto – made the traditional shawl a part of school uniform for the students of ninth and tenth grades on Saturday after Larkana Deputy Commissioner Abdul Aleem Lashari distributed 4,000 ajraks among students of the Government Girls High School Lahori Mohalla, Larkana in a ceremony.
“To promote the centuries-old cultural heritage of Sindh, the ajrak has been made a part of the uniform at all the government girls’ schools of the district,” he said, hoping that the other district administrations will soon follow the move.
Speaking on the occasion, Larkana education director Syed Rasool Bux Shah announced that ajraks will be distributed among all the girl students of ninth and tenth grades.
Followed by Larkana, the district administrations of Sanghar, Mirpurkhas and Umerkot also announced making the traditional chaddar a compulsory part of the school uniform for girl students.
The ajrak is considered a sacred and prestigious piece of cloth in the Sindhi culture. The colourful shawl is worn by men and women alike on almost all occasions in the Sindhi society ranging from weddings to even deaths – when the relatives cover the dead body with ajrak.
Besides being worn by people, ajraks are also used as bed sheets, decoration pieces and also table covers. Sindhi people offer the traditional shawls to their sisters and guests as token of respect.
The evidence of the use of ajrak dates back to almost 5,000 years. In 1927, archaeologists digging at the site of Moenjodaro or the ‘City of the Dead’ located in Larkana, found the remains of ajrak wrapped around the shoulders of the Priest King statue.
Due to its eye-catching colours and designs, many garment factories have started printing the ajraks, but the original shawls are a product of pure hard work.
Using around 3 metres of pure cotton cloth, the artisans bleach the fabric in a very primeval manner, where camel dung is also used. The cloth is later dyed navy blue and maroon through naturally extracted colours and block printed onto the shawl by patterns carved under wooden stamps.
The original ajrak is characteristically warm during the winter season and cold in summers and can last for several years.
For the past many years, the civil society, educationists and nationalists were demanding the Sindh government to make the traditional ajrak a compulsory part of the school uniform in the province.
The decision to include ajrak in the school uniform may prove to be a blessing in disguise for the poor people of Sindh who find it difficult to even afford uniform for their school going kids and the uniform is a kind of protection to hide their status.

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