Vrindavani Vastra made of Assam silk to be exhibited in UK

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Vrindavani Vastra made of Assam silk to be exhibited in UK

Guwahati, Apr 11 (PTI) Chepstow Museum in United Kingdom will hold an exhibition on ‘Vrindavani Vastra’ made from silk from Assam.

The exhibition opens on Thursday coinciding with the Assamese New Year Festival of Rongali Bihu, and will continue till September 3, said Rini Kakati, who has been invited by the museum as a guest to the exhibition.

Kakati, who is UK Co-ordinator for Friends of Assam and Seven Sisters (FASS) formed by non-resident Indians across the globe, told PTI that the ‘Vrindavani Vastra’ exhibition is being held in partnership with the British Museum and is being organised by Anne Rainsbury, curator of Chepstow Museum in Monmouthshire, UK.

“The exhibition is centred on a remarkable object, which to outward appearances is an elegant 18th century gentleman s dressing gown known as a banyan. What makes it very special is its lining. This is made from a woven silk textile from Assam,”, she said.

Stating only about 20 pieces of this type of textile survive today in collections around the world, Kakati said as it was impossible to display the original British Museum textile at Chepstow, it has been reproduced by digitally printing onto fabric.”

British Museum which houses the object, which it calls ‘Vrindavan – Krishna in the garden of Assam’.

Measuring over 9 metres in length, the piece of Assamese textile is the largest of its type to survive. It is made up of 12 strips, now sewn together.

The museum describes it as the largest surviving example of an Assamese devotional textile.

The ‘Vrindavani Vastra’ which literally means the cloth of Vrindavan was produced in Assam sometime in the late 17th century. It is made of woven silk and figured with scenes from the life of Hindu god Krishna during the time he lived in the forests of Vrindavan.

“It was made to be used in the Krishna cult which developed following the ministry of the Assamese saint Shankaradeva (d. 1568),” Kakati said.

The Krishna scenes on the textile are from the 10th-century text the Bhagavata Purana and are elaborated in the dramas of Shankaradeva.

A verse from one of the dramas is also woven into the textile using immensely sophisticated weaving technology, now extinct in India.

“Following its use in Assam the textile had a second history in Tibet, where it was found by Perceval Landon during the Younghusband Expedition sent from British India to Lhasa in 1903 1904,” she said.

Landon, a friend of Rudyard Kipling, was the correspondent from The Times on the expedition, and he gave the textile to the British Museum in 1905, according to the Museum which had featured the banyan in its 2016 exhibition.

The British Museum textile and the lining of the banyan were probably made in the same workshop and at about the same time. They have the same brown background colour, the strips of cloth are of similar width and the same scenes are shown, Kakati said.

Combined with a subtle Chinese blue green damask silk, the dressing gown was probably made in Kolkata for a European man who had made his fortune in India to wear in the West, Kakati said adding new light has been shed on the possible identity of the owner and how it came to be amongst a collection of 18th century costume in Monmouthshire.

The exhibition also includes some spectacular masks made in the Vaishnavite monastery on Majuli island in Assam where dramas are enacted during a festival in late October.

A film made on the island during the festival will also be part of the exhibition, she added.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.