Call of the cloth from the Pink City

Sathya Saran

DNA, Decemeber 15th, 2008

Jaipur: JAIPUR: Indian textiles, more than any other in the world, come with a wealth of stories… that is the theme of Siyahi’s three-day meet titled Mantles of Myth: Narratives in Indian Textiles.

Doctor and mythologist Devdutt Patnaik unravelled the thread of thought and myth by symbolising cloth as culture. Using scenes from Indian mythology, he explained that the disrobing of Draupadi by a king symbolised the collapse of a society, because by breaking the law of decorum, he was setting an example for others to follow.

On the other hand, the very Krishna who saves Draupadi from nakedness, steals the clothes of gopis… which in fact symbolises that the lord wishes to see beneath our guises, into our real selves.

Cloth, Patnaik added, transformed the hermit (animal skin-clothed Shiva) into the householder (Vishnu), and turned Kali, wild and clothed only in human skulls, into Gouri, dressed and bedecked. Cloth suggests domesticity, and the fact that Rama wore bark in the years of exile but Sita was dressed in silken robes implies he took culture with him, and did not abandon right behaviour.

Jasleen Dahmija spoke of the rich contribution of the Indus, as it came with so many cultural threads from Tibet to Punjab and created background for the variety of phulkari that women of the region created. She showed by example and illustration how the patterns, a mix of fable, mythology, and themes that were pastoral, social or erotic, spoke of everything from daily life to repressed desires and wish fulfillment.

Often the geometric patterns, that worked on using the sacred grid of warp and weft to create more grids, would chart a young man’s life, as his grandmother started a phulkari at his birth and through colour and symbol marked events till the day he married and the creation could be wrapped around his new bride, to welcome her to her new home.

Fascinating stories of impossible feats of courage, of the peacock and his loving wife, the sun, made up the theme of Mamang Dai and Pragya Deb Burman’s talk on woven narratives from the North East.

Anna Dallapiccola spoke with deep understanding of the techniques and motifs in kalamkari, and Ritu Kumar showed a film on the Tree of Life, a subject also expounded upon by Paula Manfreidi, who spoke on the sacred Indian trees and their role in life and in the textile tradition.

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