Bengali Sarees – A Brief History

Modernity and urbanization has led to the decline of traditional form of clothing, however the saree continues to remain an eternal favourite. While means of production, style of draping, and designs, may have changed markedly over times, one factor remains unchanged: the love for sarees among Indian women.

From a fragment of cotton found on a metal tool in Mohenjo-daro, and silk found in ornaments excavated from Harappa and Chanhu-daro, to the modern synthetic fabrics, mankind’s journey in the arena of textile has been long and colourful. In ancient India, both stitched and unstitched lengths of fabrics, such as cotton and silk, were draped around the body and formed the main garments. While the men wore a turban on their heads, tied a piece of cloth around their waists (similar to a dhoti), and placed a shawl like cloth around their shoulders, the women too draped a cloth around their waists, and sometimes covered their upper torso with a blouse, a tunic, or an odhni / dupatta like cloth. These garments draped perfectly, were made keeping the climate in mind, and catered to the trends and tastes of the time. One look at a woman’s garments and style, and you could guess her caste, marital status, area of origin , and her social standing.

Ajanta frescoes showing women in drapes covering the upper torso and the lower antariya. Picture source  – Wikipedia. 

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A donor couple – The man is wearing a turban and the antiriya. The woman is wearing a garment that drapes around the waist and below, leaving her upper torso uncovered. Shunga period, 2nd c. BCE, Haryana. National Museum, New Delhi

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Left – A saree like garment with perfect drapes framing a woman, Mathura, 2nd c. CE (Picture source Wikipedia). Right –  Devi Yamuna ( Gupta period, 5th  c. CE, UP)  in a saree like garment that drapes from waist down below, and covers her upper torso, and the aanchal is wound around her arm, National Museum, New Delhi. Notice how both the women are seen wearing a waist band.

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A Matrika figure from Gupta period, 6th c. CE, seen wearing a blouse, while a pleat on her waist shows a garment that would drape below. National Museum, New Delhi.

The word sari/saree is a derivative of the Prakrit word śāḍī, with the original term being the Sanskrit word śāṭī meaning “a piece of cloth”. It is likely that the petticoat and blouse, two necessary accompaniments of a saree in modern India, were later additions during the colonial era.

Draping a saree – Bengali Style

Draping a saree to accentuate one’s figure is an art by itself. There are innumerable references to it in ancient Indian literature like satavallika or pleats with many fine folds, or hastisaundaka or pleats that resemble an elephant, abound in Buddhist literature. It is evident that in the ancient times it was customary to tie a piece of cloth around the waist, and sometimes a cloth would also be draped over the head and upper torso. The uttariya that was used like a shawl over the shoulders can be drawn parallel with the modern odhni, while the stanapatta or kanchuli likely formed the choli or blouse. It is conjectured that the lower garment, which was known as antariya, and the upper uttariya fused sometime between 2nd c. BCE and 1st c. CE to form a long strip of cloth or śāḍī. The long aanchal or pallu of the saree, which hangs free after draping over the shoulder, was used for covering the head.

The intermediary form of draping a saree, which was  shorter in length and worn without a blouse or a petticoat, was prevalent in Bengal until some years ago. It was known as the aatpoure form of draping, and many of us have seen our grandmothers wear saree that way. While aatpoure still remains in fashion during festivities and is a favourite of Bollywood movies when portraying  a Bengali woman, it is now worn with a blouse and petticoat.

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A picture postcard of a Kalighat painting from the 1900s depicting a woman with her saree draped in the aatpoure way, without a blouse or a petticoat. The saree goes anticlockwise first around the waist, followed by a second drape in the clockwise direction. The loosely hanging pallu is then placed over the shoulder, and can be easily draped over the head when in front of strangers or when required as per customs. At the end of the pallu, tied in a knot, from one corner of it would hang the various keys of the household. During those times when women remained within  the four walls of the andarmahal, the keys hanging from the aanchal (pallu) were the symbols of power, denoting supreme control of the woman over her house and household matters as the Grihini. The keys of the larder (bha(n)rar gharer chabi) and almirah keys were deemed the most powerful ones. 

 

During the mid 19th c. CE when women empowerment slowly started taking shape,

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Picture Courtesy – Wikipedia

Jnanadanandini devi, sister in law of Rabindranath Tagore, was the first among Bengali women to move out of her in-laws’ home, defy the purdah system, and travel to Bombay to live with her husband who was posted there as the first Indian member of the Civil Services. It was she who first developed the new style of combining the saree with a blouse and petticoat, to enable women move out of their seclusion in the andarmahal and take part in outdoor activities. She achieved this by fusing the Parsi and Bengali style.  While adopting the Parsi jacket and petticoat, she kept the Bengali style of wearing the pallu on her left shoulder. This style, which lacked the pleats from the waist downward, became popular among the Brahmo Ladies. Jnanadanandini devi, a social reformer and an advocate of woman empowerment, gave classes to women willing to learn the new way of draping the saree.

 

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Three generation of women from the same family in their distinct style of sarees. Top left – Maharani Suniti Devi of Coochbehar. She was the daughter of Keshab Chandra Sen, one of the founding members of Brahmo Samaj in Bengal. The Brahmo Samaj ushered in a new era in women’s freedom and allowed them to appear in public. Suniti devi, here, is seen wearing the attire often chosen by Brahmo women when  they appeared in public, with the pallu in front, a full sleeved jacket worn as blouse, and a laced cloth to cover the head. On her right is her daughter-in-law Maharani Indira Devi. Indira devi was widowed at a young age, and she followed the Bengali custom of wearing only white sarees after the husband’s death. However, she moved away from the tradition of wearing only white “thaan” sarees (cotton or mulmul), to wearing customised chiffon sarees in white with zari/silk borders. This soon caught the fancy of the entire nation, and chiffon sarees became the order of the day, both among royalty and commoners. Bottom – Suniti Devi’s grand daughter Maharani Gayatri devi, is wearing the saree in the modern form with pleats from waist below, and without the customary head cover, unlike her grandmother and mother. 

The modern style of wearing a saree was derived from mixing the style pioneered by Jnandanandini devi with the Nivi style of Andhra Pradesh. In this style, the saree is draped by first tucking one end into the waistband of the petticoat and then wrapping the cloth around the lower part of the body once, followed by hand-made even pleats that are tucked into the waistband, around the navel. After one more turn the loose end is then draped over the left shoulder. Seen on right is Maharani Ourmilla Devi of Jubbal wearing saree in the modern style.

Bengali Sarees

 Jamdani: The word Jamdani is a Persian derivative and denotes the floral designs that adorn these sarees. There are four types of jamdaani: Dhakai, Tangail, Shantipuri, and Dhaniakhali. Jaamdani was woven on fine muslin, a material also known as abrawn (running water) because when it was placed under running water, the fine muslin would turn almost invisible. Alternatively it was also known as shabnam (evening dew) and bafta bana (like a cloud). Muslin finds mention in various travel accounts of the Chinese, Arabic, and Italian traders, along with Arthashastra, as a fine cloth from Pundra and Bangla.

Making a Jamdani saree is extremely time consuming, and requires intense concentration and hard-work.  It is hand woven on a loom by weavers that “place the patterns, drawn upon paper, below the warp, and range along the track of the woof a number of cut threads equal to the design intended to be made; and then, with two small fine-pointed bamboo sticks, try to draw each of these threads between as many threads of the warp as many may be formed. the shuttle is then passed through the shed” (Taylor James, Descriptive and Historical account of the Cotton Manufacturers in Dacca, 1851. cited in Geroge Watt, p. 281).

In Jamdani, the cotton fabric is woven with cotton or zari threads and the sarees have two to four large motifs (mango motifs, known as kolkaa) at the junction of pallu and the border. The body of the saree has butis or small flowers. Often a butidar saree with close set butis would be known has Hazarbuti (thousands of butis), or in case of floral motifs which are connected together as in a jewel like setting it would be known as Pannahazar (thousand emeralds). Floral motifs arranged in straight lines are known as Fulwar, but when arranged in a diagonal line it becomes Tersa. Sarees that were dyed a deep indigo with designs in a lighter shade are termed as Neelambari (blue sky).

Hazarbuti and Pannahazar Dhakai Jamdaani sarees. These sarees are woven on an unbleached cotton base while the design is woven with bleached cotton threads, so that there is a light-and-shade effect. 

Dhakai Jamdani sarees in modern designs for the highly competitive market of today (Picture courtesy: Gency Chaudhury)

Baluchari:

Murshidabad in Bengal is well-known for its fine silk, which is light and easy to drape. Silk weaving in this region started during the early 18th c. CE and flourished under the British patronage. During the Mughal period, Nawab Murshid Quli Khan moved his capital from Dhaka to a place known as Baluchar, on the eastern bank of the Ganga river. Along with the Nawab came many weavers, and the famous Baluchari weave was born when silk was used instead of the gold and silver threads for weaving patterns. Baluchari sarees came with a long pallu that had distinct kolkaas (mango motifs)  surrounded by themes that varied from showcasing the lives of nawabs, to railway carriages, Europeans and Indians sitting and smoking hookahs or reading books, amorous couples, dancers, animals, and also scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Baluchari sarees focused on reflecting the sociopolitical images of the time, and we see them in the earlier colonial motifs, and later in the nationalist ones where Vande Mataram is woven repeatedly all around in pallus and borders. The basic colour of the sarees were either maroon or purple and the saree bodies had butis all over. In 19th c. CE, flooding of the region by the river Ganga resulted in Baluchari weavers shifting and setting up shop in Bishnupur (Bankura district of Bengal).

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Baluchari sarees on Murshidabad silk with their butis and human motifs (here there are two dancing figures)

Baluchari on Murshidabad silk showing an amorous couple and a traditional motif

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Baluchari on Mushidabad silk – the weave depicts episodes from Ramayana (Picture courtesy – Gency Chaudhury)

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A typical Baluchari pallu with silk weaves showing the kolkaa (mango) motifs

Left: woven theme of a Baluchari saree showing an European riding his horse and his dog going with him. Right: Baluchari saree from the nationalism era, where the word Vande Mataram has been woven on the saree border 

Kantha: 

Kanthas started as small pieces, usually in square or rectangles, that were made from old torn pieces of clothes, such as dhotis or sarees. The salvaged parts were quilted together and threads dyed in indigo and madder were used for sewing fine embroidery, known as Kantha.  Every piece of a Kantha cloth, used either for domestic needs or given as a gift especially for  a newborn baby to lie on,  would show  thousands of running, darning, herringbone and chain-stitch patterns. The patterns on kantha vary from human and animal figures to floral motifs, cars and trains, to fine ornamental patterns. Kantha work in Bengal has always been women oriented work, and it would involve women of the household sitting with their needles, in their long free afternoons, and weaving patterns that often told tales of their yearnings, dreams, aspirations, love, sadness, and heartbreaks. Once the weave of the women from poor households, the same kantha stitch is now patterned on silk sarees and is held  dear by those that wear them.

Traditional Kantha patterns woven on silk

Modern patterns of Kantha work on silk (Picture courtesy: Gency Choudhary) 

Besides these famous weaves, Bengal specialises in both silk and cotton sarees with prints and simple weaves. These are light and comfortable sarees for those sultry summers of Bengal.

Colourful prints on the light Murshidabad silk

Butidaar taant sarees (cotton weave and base with golden zari on the grey one) Pictures courtesy: Gency Chaudhury

Traditional motifs on plain taant cotton sarees. Lightweight and easy to drape these sarees are a comfort wear during the humid summer months. 

 

Author – Monidipa Bose

She can be contacted at monidipadey@rocketmail.com

                                                                                                              or at Moni Gatha

Sanskriti Kendra – Delhi’s Hidden Gem

Growing up in a family where visiting a museum was akin to visiting a religious shrine, it was but natural that when I shifted to Delhi, the first places on my to-visit list were the museums here. The national capital offers many museums, the most well known of which is the National Museum, a great favourite place of mine, as it allows photography with no holds barred. Besides this great storehouse of ancient and medieval relics, there is the National Rail Museum that holds old trains, the National Gallery of Modern Art, and the National Museum of Natural history, which unfortunately is now burnt to cinders taking away with it some of the priceless stuffed animals that were on display there. Then there is the Nehru Memorial Museum, the National Philatelic Museum, the Indian Air Force Museum, the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, Museums at the Red fort and Salimgarh (rarely visited by people) and many more. Among these, quietly tucked away on the Gurgaon-Mehrauli Road (known as the MG Road) is the Anandagram, which houses the Sanskriti Kendra.

Founded by Mr. O. P. Jain in 1990 under the umbrella of Sanskriti Foundation, the museum complex is spread over a large campus with pretty buildings and lovely lawns. The Sanskriti Kendra rarely sees many footfalls, except perhaps on weekends, exhibitions, or during workshops. Yet it houses three well stocked museums: the Museum of Everyday Art, Museum of Indian Terracotta, and the Museum of Textiles that integrate the modern with the traditional, by preserving and displaying our indigenous culture, art, workmanship, different cultural practices, and their functionalities in our daily lives. Unfortunately photography isn’t allowed inside the two museums (a rule that I heartily deplore). There are many old and modern artefacts placed artfully across the campus, and one can easily spend a pleasurable afternoon strolling across the extensive lawns and brightly coloured buildings. Along with the museums, the campus also houses a library, an Amphitheatre, art galleries and studios which run in-house art programs teaching folk art forms to both kids and adults alike.

The gaily coloured buildings of the Sanskriti Museum. It reminds me of Tagore’s Santiniketan which has similar rustic buildings giving a feel of space and freedom.

 

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A modern sculpture of the head of Buddha placed in the lawns

 

 

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A beautiful  old dresser

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A lovely Jharokha with vertical lattice screen panels in red sandstone and old wooden windows

 

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Old elephant head pieces in wood used as the base for a wooden pillar that in turn supports a large modern birdhouse

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Large birdhouse with a peacock as the wind vane

 

 

 

 

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An old wooden piece (probably a part of some larger furniture)

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A rather looking happy looking crocodile ready to enter the water

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Warli art on the houses inside the campus

 

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Another old wooden artefact on display

 

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The Museum of Indian Textiles

It has 6 galleries. The first one has samples of indigo, madder, cotton and silk, the four basic ingredients of Indian textiles. Indigo and madder are considered among the world’s oldest dyes with a history going back to the time of Indus valley civilisation. The display cards also talk of folklores associated with textiles like silk. Legends say that silk was discovered by accident in China when a cocoon fell into the tea cup of a Chinese empress and the strands separated in the warm water of the tea, leading to the discovery of silk threads. The Chinese fiercely guarded the secret of the making of silk threads and thus reigned supreme in the silk trade for a long time, until the secret was revealed to some non-Chinese traders, some say by a Chinese princess. The other galleries in this museum contain beautiful 18th– 19th c. CE pigmented textiles, phulkari embroidery, kantha work, and kashmiri stitches on pashmina wool. Here the museum gives a very interesting anecdote on pashmina wool. The word pashmina is derived from the Persian pashm (meaning wool). This superior quality wool wasn’t produced in Kashmir, and was actually taken from the Ladakhi goat known as capra hircus langier.  All of Ladakh’s wool production was monopolised by Kashmir hence the pashmina was taken to be of kashmiri origin. Besides these, there are some beautiful 18th and 19th c. Jain tapestries in both silk and cotton from Jain temples made mostly by nuns. The Gujarat and Rajasthan chain stitch and bandhej collections are beautiful, followed by interesting ikats from Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Gujarat.  The last gallery holds brocades from Benaras, South India, and Gujarat, along with baluchari and jamdani from Bengal. It is indeed a textile lover’s paradise, and strolling through the galleries one wonders at the uniqueness of Indian textiles that are each a labour of love.

An ornate brass panel on the lintel, intricate woodwork on the pillars and a wrought iron bracket decorate the entrance to the Museum of Textiles

 

The Museum of Everyday Art

It houses interesting items from daily use like nutcrackers, shrines, spoons, cups, plates, knives, etc, and all of these items that are for basic functional use, have been turned into works of art by the hands of different craftsmen.

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The entrance to the Museum of Everyday Art that houses old utensils, old musical instruments and various other items used in daily lives

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An old wooden bracket placed tastefully at the entrance of the Museum of Everyday Art

 

The Museum of Indian Terracotta

It  displays almost 1,500 artefacts from various tribal communities of India, in its open gallery

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Terracotta horses from various regions in the country

 

Address : Sanskriti Kendra, Anandagram, Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road, Delhi

The nearest metro station is Arjan Garh on the Yellow line

Time to Visit : 10 AM to 5 PM on all days except Mondays and Public Holidays.

 

Author – Monidipa Bose

She can be contacted at monidipadey@rocketmail.com or at Moni Gatha

 

 

Vrindavani Vastra – Travel Across Time, Space and Cultures

Aesthetic sensibility, is nothing but a capacity of wonder more elevated than the ordinary one. An opaque heart does not wonder: non obstupescit.

Raniero Gnoli, paraphrasing Abhinavgupta

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Vrindavani Vastra on display at the British Museum will move the opaquest of the hearts to ecstasy. You stand before it eyes wide open, gaping, trying to identify the motifs stretched before your eyes…. is that a Bakasura, and over there is that a Kalia Daman scene? Scenes look familiar and yet strange because you have never seen anything like this in your life…. ever! The tapestry before you is unsurpassed in beauty, unmatched in vibrancy and vigor in weaving the dramatic exploits of Krishna in warp and weft in a style called Lampa.

You have read that weaving is classified as craft but this chronicle of Krishna’s stay in Vrindavan woven in a style now extinct, in which every motif seems to jump out of its skein,  can it be classified as  craft?

For you the wonders never cease. The label says Vrindavani Vastra but is it from Vrindavan? No! It is from Assam. And then you feel ashamed about your ignorance. How little do you know about the artistic heritage of your own country?

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You are intrigued by its peripatetic history and wonder how did it find a permanent house in British Museum? You got once in a life time chance to witness this glorious weave in a Special Exhibit organized by the British Museum. The title of the special exhibit is – ‘Krishna in the Garden of Assam: The Cultural Context of an Indian Textile. Is it another tale of colonial appropriation? How did this gigantic woven celestial saga move across time space and cultures?

What is ‘Vrindavani Vastra’?

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Woven in the finest muga silk and in colours that still look radiant, it narrates the story of Krishna’s stay in Vrindavan, where he spent the best part of his life.

Story behind the Vrindavani Vastra

The story behind this divine weave needs to be told. It is unlikely that many in our part of the world would know about it. The British Museum displays not only great textiles but also a whole textile tradition, in fact — that came from Assam some 400 years or more ago. This ancient Assamese textile is over 9 meters long (length 937 centimeters and width 231 centimeters) and is the largest surviving example of this type of textile anywhere in the world.

It is a piece the like of which you do not see now. Its total of 12 pieces hang in few museums around the globe. Those weavers and those times are gone. You try to speculate about those times, those weavers and the underlying faith that inspired men to weave an art so sublime that it transcends human limitations and makes it appear effortless and blessed!

Three things, if it can be simplified so, were responsible for the creation of this heavenly weave; leadership of Srimanta Shankardeva, the socio-cultural factors of 16th century Assam and patronage by a transformed king.

Creative Forces behind the Vrindavani Vastra

If you try to contextualize Shankardeva, in the times in which he was born, then you can understand the inevitability of this divine tapestry. Srimanta Sanakardeva was born into the Shiromani (chief) Baro – Bhuyans family at Alipukhuri near Bordowa in 1499 in Assam. It was a time of conflict and churning. It was also a time of resurgence, revival of simple faith, simple literature and a direct connect with masses through bhakti. This was the time when saints like Nanak, Mirabai, Kabir, Ramananda, and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu were leading the path of bhakti.

Sankardeva was a child of these times. He craved for a simple faith, a simple religion that could heal the Assamese society torn apart by orthodoxy, sectarianism and fanaticism. In the course of his travels he witnessed the Bhakti movement sweeping across the country.

His own inclination towards surrender to a personal God through sadhna and bhakti found resonance with the Neo- Vaishnavite movement. It is said that Jagannath Mishra’s narration of Bhagavatam at Puri opened his eyes to single minded devotion to Krishna.

Sankardeva disapproved of idol worship. In the nomghars, community prayer houses that were set up by Shankardeva, the focus of worship was Bhagvata Purana. Srimanta harnessed art for spreading the message of Eksharana. A devotional song (borgeet) a spectacle of high melodrama (Ankiya Nat) actors traversing the stage in masks, a homely verse for community chanting, a dance portraying the life of the Lord (Sattriya) would all become vehicles for the propagation of his faith. Krishna was the sole worshipful and single minded refuge in him would lead to salvation and bliss was the simple philosophy of Eksharana.

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Dance mask of Bakasura, used during the performance of Sattriya, the monastic dance form that evolved in the Satras and is a recognised classical dance of India.

 In the Nomghars, the Vaishnavite silks were used to cover the manuscript and were draped over the altar on which the Bhagvata Purana was placed. This was the significance of Vaishnavite silk in Eksharna. But the Vrindavani Vastra was no ordinary altar piece.

Story of Royal Patronage

According to Katha Gur Charitra, a chronicle of events during the saint’s lifetime, the genesis of Vrindavan Vastra: It was woven at the behest of the King Narnarayan and his brother, Chairali. During his visits to the Koch Behar royal court, Sankaradeva often regaled Chilarai with descriptions of the fun-filled childhood days of the young Krishna in Vrindavan. The prince was enthralled, and wished he could partake of the experience by sniffing Shankardeva’s lips as he spoke. Sankaradeva replied that, for the prince’s enjoyment, he would have the narrative inscribed on cloth in a graphic form if only the king could assure him of the required quantity of silk yarns of different colours!

The king used his royal prerogative, assured him and appointed Shankardeva as the Bar- Bhuyan (Chief Administer) of Tantikuchi.

Royal Scroll Commences

Shankardeva kept his promise and personally supervised the weaving of the scroll. He conceived the design, worked out the pattern in different combinations and chose the weavers of Tantikuchi to translate the ambitious project in Lampa style of weaving.

Lampa is a very intricate style of weaving in which the base cloth is woven with one set of warp and weft threads, and a design is woven with another set of warp and weft. This method is also known as Dorukha and was done in bright colours like red, black, white, yellow and green. Apart from the primary colours, mixed colours such as kacha-nila and Gaura-syama were also used to breathe life into the sacred textile.

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Shankardeva used his knowledge of the Bhāgavata Purāna to weave the sequence of events of Krishna-lilā. His personal expertise as a painter, artist and dramatist made this Vastra an intensely personal communication.

The weaving of the Puranic tales on a gigantic tapestry 60 yards by 30 yards took almost a year to complete!

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Shankardeva himself delivered the divine vastra to the court. When unveiled the royalty was astounded to see the true-to-life depiction of Krishna’s exploits of Vrindavan in exuberant colours and woven captions. The king exclaimed that the cloth had come from the heavens and the weavers were not human! As a mark of respect and gratitude, Shankardeva was offered Barpeta which he declined graciously. For he had got his reward already. Vrindavani Vastra was a style now and would be used as a divine wrap in Nomghars everywhere assuring steady income to the weavers of Tantikuchi. It would further also help the Satras and their art survive. Alas, this art lasted just 3 centuries, from 1500 CE to 1800 CE.

The scrolls delivered by Sankardeava at Barpeta were separarted and what is on display are  four major design sequences amongst the twelve separate strips of woven silk that were stitched together.

There are four different design sequences amongst the twelve separate strips of woven silk that are now stitched together. 1) the Krishna scenes – from the 10th century text of Bhagavata Purana,  2) incarnations of Lord Vishnu and 3) text – in early Assamese alphabets and is a verse from the drama ‘Kali-damana’ by Srimanta Sankardeva tells the story of the defeat of the serpent-demon Kaliya by Krishna

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 Shankardeva had the verses also woven in the fabric

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Migration from the palace to the Monastery- Lamas and Lampa

The famous textile lost its royal moorings and had a second history in Tibet.

The weave traveled via the route of trade or loot you do not know. How and why did this huge and heavy textile travel so far can be an excellent theme for a whodunit.

The 12 strips were taken to Tibet. They were stitched together and then re-used as a hanging in a Tibetan monastery.  It was now patched with a broad border made from Chinese-style silk material and on the top part of this textile, metal rings were attached to suspend it from the ceiling or the wall. It reincarnated itself as a Buddhist Thangka and was revered because it came from the land of Buddha! Does not matter that it depicts the life and times of Krishna.

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The broad Chinese Silk border

Journey to London

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The Vrindavani Vastra was acquired by Perceval Landon, a Times newspaper reporter covering the British military expedition to Tibet in 1903-04. Landan presented the textile to the British Museum in 1905.

The exile of the Royal Textile

The celestial tapestry was lost to the world, for the next 85 years! It was stored, filed and catalogued under the category of ‘Tibetan Silk Lampas’ by the British Museum – as Tibet was their last known place of origin!.

Finally, by a quirk of fate and persistent efforts of Rosemary Crill, Curator of the Indian Department of London’s Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum, in 1992, the huge fabric at the British Museum was identified as Vrindavani Vastra from Assam.

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Vrindavani Vastra is a stellar example of what glories ordinary mortals are capable of when inspired! It immortalizes the king, the saint, the weavers of Tantikuchi and the spirit of bhakti that made this creation a possibility.

Standing in front of this piece you ponder over its journey. Feeble attempts have been made by the Indian government to get the Vastra back but you know that it is not coming back.

You give a long lingering final look at the exuberant divine saga and step out in the London rain! You know for sure that it is going to enthrall you, haunt you and will appear before your inward eye, as Wordsworth had said! You will see the demon Bakasura being slayed by Krishna, you will hear the tapping of the Sattriya dancers, the humming of a Borgeet will surround you and then there will be no escaping from Shankardeva and his divine Vrindavani Vastra. After all it is Krishna and who can run away from him, more pertinently does anyone want to

Author – Aparna Pande Misra

The author can be reached at aparna.anusha.28@gmail.com

All the pictures used in the post are courtesy Mr. Jay Shankar, who happened to visit the above mentioned exhibition, at the British Museum in London.