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‘Baluchars- The Woven Narrative Silks of Bengal’

What happens when you miss one of the most-sought after textile exhibitions? You order a richly illustrated book titled – ‘Baluchars- The Woven Narrative Silks of Bengal’ edited by Jasleen Dhamija and published by Niyogi Books.

Actually, early this year Darshan Shah of  Weaver’s Studio Resource Centre had put together a Baluchar retrospective at the National Museum, New Delhi. It had taken nearly 10 years for her to showcase for the first time under one roof covetable personal and museum collections from V&A in London, Indian Musuem- Kolkata, TAPI collection in Surat-Gujrat, CSMCV- Mumbai, Musee Guimet – Paris, and Delhi’s very own National Museum and Crafts Museum.

In regards to that and the release of this book I met Jasleen, the ex-President of Jury for UNESCO’s Award for Creativity in Textiles and Chairperson of the Handloom Development Working Group of the Planning Commission (12th Plan)  of Indian Textiles and Handicrafts. I felt like a little child eagerly listening to her elusive tales of the Baluchars, and their exoticism.

Bengal’s woven narrative silks

Recounting their story she began, “Textiles have always been a big part of our lives. The Baluchars too elucidate the history of the 18th and 19th century Bengal, in terms of their life-style, and influences of various cultures which came to India in search of textiles. These woven narrative silks point out and evoke an interest in us. Some believe that it was the foreigners who bought these as souvenirs while few think these were gifted to the highly sophisticated courtesans as favours, as those women always wanted to be a part of the aristocracy.”

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Excerpt Changing tastes of India’s elite and the impact of imported cloths threatened to destroy the skill needed to weave complex cloths of this sorts. A few commissions came from the enlightened British officials. The European content of the design reflected this new patronage. A European mounted on an elephant is reading a letter or report – symbols of traditional modern authority amusingly positioned, side by side. Here the European was the patron and the agent and these subtly woven pictorial motifs were intentional.

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The UnBenaras weaver

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My fascination grew when I read online about Hemang Agrawal’s textile journey after seeing his dazzling collection at Vayu, an upmarket concept store. Particularly how as a young lad from Baneras after studying at NIFT, Mumbai, thought it best to give up his scholarship for Masters in Fashion at Nottingham Trent University to go back home and make something of his textile roots(father had a saree business). Apparently this life altering decision was taken after listening to Padma Shri Rahul Jain‘s talk on Safavid, Persian and Mughal drawloom patterned textiles; wherein he explained in depth the sophistication and innovation of Benarasi textiles of the past several centuries. Later this foremost textile historian and revivalist of India became Hemangs guide and guru.

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These are limon not lemon chairs

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Traditional weaves are the talk of the day

At the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, an exhibition of Indian history is being shown through its textiles – The Fabric of India. In India too, at the Amazon Fashion Week, being held in New Delhi, Sanjay Garg and Anavila (both featured by Marigold Diary) were chosen to open it as they are seen as influential designers who have doggedly steered the attention of Indian fashion industry towards handloom and traditional textiles, in recent times.


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2015:thesareefestival

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This year, Red Earth’s Saree festival seems to be making a lot of noise about the whole nine yards and its ‘avatars’. As I grow older the drape’s hypnotic spell has me happily dreaming of a whole new wardrobe filled with different styles of sarees for all occasions just like my mother’s; who lived in it 24×7 till sometime ago.

But for now the person I’m looking out for is  Himanshu – the saree man and the curator of this festival, who can easily put any woman to shame walking effortlessly in his second skin. Here, I’d like to share with you his passion in regards to a Saree festival from 2nd-4th May’15, at Alliance Francaise, New Delhi,  in its second year.

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alternative fashion 2015:raw mango’s jamdani

I wish they’d had electric guitars in cotton fields back in the good old days. A whole lot of things would’ve been straightened out.

-Jimi Hendrix

This American singer echoed my thoughts eons ago since cotton seems to have a similar effect on many. A delicate, shiny, complex weave of superior quality is what defines Indian cotton; so when it was exported during the British Raj, the world was left wonderstruck! Its virtues of being light as the air, strong as the sun, flowing like the wind, soft as dew, opaque as smoke, cool as the moonlight and subtle as running water is what inspired Raw Mango for the summer of 2015.

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Noida’s discerning Indian store

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As a marketing consultant for upcoming brands I had approached Indian August initially to retail a brand. After visiting the store I decided to feature it, as it proudly spelt ‘Made in India’ in everything it displayed; creating a well required niche for itself in Delhi’s satellite town- Noida.

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Saving grace….a saree

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I was visiting my favourite store Kashmir Loom in Nizammuddin East, New Delhi, when I came across Malvika Singh’s first collection of Maheshwari sarees in tussar and regular silk, cotton and tissue. Their checks and horizontal stripes with varied thickness and size looked resplendent when highlighted with silver, gold and copper judiciously on the body, border or patli pleat. The metallics seemed to have passionately held together the original Indian palette e.g. neem (bright green), baigani (purple), pyaazi (onion pink), aasmaani (sky blue), sindoori (vermilion red), haldi (yellow ochre), zafraani (bright orange-red), kantha, neel (indigo), chandani (milky white) and amavasya (black).

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Love thy sari and its loom

I’ve always loved the rituals of a festival, could be of any religion. They are reasons for me to make merry more often than not. So when I chanced upon Jyoti Reddy’s contemporary yet traditional saris during the sari exhibition curated by the Crafts Council of India, a month and half ago, I mentally put together my lookbook for all seasons and reasons.

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