Thursday, February 26, 2009

Indian Saris: Woven fabrics of fantasy and folklore

Indian Saris: Woven fabrics of fantasy and folklore – A new book from NID on the subject of design will soon hit the stands.

Prof. M P Ranjan

Image 01: Vijay Singh Katiyar reviewing pages of his new book “Indian Saris” in his office at NID, Ahmedabad.

Something to celebrate has come up and I will share this with you. A new book is to be launched shortly by one of the faculty colleagues at NID, Vijai Singh Katiyar, of the Textile Apparel Design Faculty is ready to launch the new offering called “Indian Saris: Traditions – Perspectives – Design” which is published by Wisdom Tree, New Delhi. Katiyar has a blog on the subject, which promises to tell us all the details as they unfold in the days ahead and I do wish it all success as we move forward from here. I have not yet had a chance to read the book and post a review but the fact that such a book has been created is a welcome event since so little has been published on Indian design and I welcome all these contributions with an open mind and hope more people will come forward to share their insights and experiences and this would apply to all my faculty colleagues at NID and at other design schools across India. There is much to be done in this space.

Image 02: Glimpses of the new book “Indian Saris” in the hands of the author, Vijai Singh Katiyar.

Vijay Singh Katiyar did his Diploma in Textile Technology at the Central Textile Institute, Kanpur before joining NID in Textile Design as part of the Advanced Entry Programme (AEP). He graduated from NID with the AEP Diploma in Textile Design and then joined the
NID Faculty in 1993 and he has been working at NID since then in a number of capacities including administrative roles and teaching roles that cover education, research and projects as part of any faculty member’s activity at NID. In recent years Vijay Singh Katiyar carried out several sari design and development projects for the States of Tamilnadu and Kerala and these have helped support his deep research into the subject of woven sari production which is the subject of his book. We will hear more about the book after its formal release that is to take place in London at the Nehru Centre on the 20 April 2009 at an evening function that promises to be an intellectual and stimulating social event since the Indian High Commission in London has agreed to host a panel discussion titled “Design for Indian Textiles & Fashion: Tradition to Modernity – A UK – India Deliberation” as a curtain raiser for the evening event and the book launch. More about this event at the blog “Indian Sari”, here. I was told that Wisdom Tree has arranged for pre-orders at a number of online booksellers including Amazon and I hope that the book is well received by the design community.

Image 03: Goddesses and mortals draped in the sari as visualized by Raja Ravi Varma who has influenced India in how we see ourselves and our deities in more ways than we can possibly imagine. Lakshmi, Saraswathi – Hindu Goddesses and mythological characters from the Mahabharatha – Damayanthi and Nala story, as well as the Shakuntala story, all depicted with the sari clad persona as imagined and visualized by the great artist.

The impending launch of the book gives me an opportunity to reflect on the topic of the book, the Indian Sari. A length of cloth, sometimes plain and at others highly decorated, the sari, has been the source of many fables and a fabric of our imagination as a society and a culture. While working on this post I looked up the Wiki on various aspects of Indian garments and the Sari in particular and was amazed at what we can find on the subject online today. I came across Raja Ravi Varma’s depiction of sari clad goddesses and immortal mortals – our mythology is full of their stories - as well as stories of love and intrigue all part of the Indian cultural traditions, some I remembered from my childhood stories told to me by grandmother and also my father. Nala and Damayanthi, Shakuntala, Uruvashi and Puraravas – were all depicted by our visionary painters – as sari clad women and men in draped garments, in their various settings and here Ravi Varma has taken hold of all our collective imaginations of how we see our past through his realistic paintings that got transmitted to us through the rich tapestry of the calendar art from the hot printing presses of Shivakashi and elsewhere, to reach every nook and corner of India, in the tea stalls as well as in the homes. “Bharat Mata” – Mother India – was shown in a sari on matchbox labels and all of these images contribute to our collective imagination of India and the Indian reality, if there is one such singular thing that can be called the “Indian reality”. I do not know how much of these aspects are covered in Vijay’s book but I will look out for it when it reaches my hands, hopefully soon.

Image 04: Images of Uruvashi as visualized by Raja Ravi Varma on the left and by Ramachandran on the right.

The stories of love and life as well as the depictions of Indian women in theatre, film and in print have been in sari mode for the past 5000 years of our civilization. From the expressive depictions of the sari clad goddesses in cave paintings to the realistic images of Raja Ravi Varma and the depictions of the love story of Uravashi and Puraravas by Verma and later by Ramachandran show just a tiny fraction of our visual landscape and story-scapes which has been the images of our mythology on which all of us have been educated in the real world that is India today. The sari continues to thrive in rural India while urban India has adopted various new forms of expression – from the salwar khameeze to the business suit in the BPO’s and IT enabled offices around the nation and ofcourse the jeans and T-shirt of our schools and colleges. New visions of feminine expression have emerged and the sari still plays a role in a number of fashion interpretations and it will be interesting to see how the Indian imagination and fashion will shape the sari of the future.

Vijay Singh Katiyar, “Indian Saris: Traditions - Perspectives – Design”, Wisdom Tree, New Delhi, May 2009

Hardcover: 228 pages
Publisher: Wisdom Tree (May 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8183281222
ISBN-13: 978-8183281225

Wisdom Tree, New Delhi
Link to Amazon - Indian Saris

I have requested the NID Library and Knowledge Management Centre for a full list of original documents in their archival collection which deals with the design of saris and they have promised to give me a list of Craft Documentations, Craft Design Diploma Projects, Faculty Research Projects and Faculty and student sari design projects that were carried out at NID over the years. I am told that there are many and none of these have been published so far so I will bring out a full list as soon as I get the copy from the library, hopefully very soon. I remember several memorable sari design projects done by NID faculty in the past and I do hope that these are also published at some point even as pdf documents that may be available from the web, why not? Gitto, Aditi and Krishna had all done saree design projects and more recently Vijai too has completed his own collections and I do hope that these are all made available through the NID Library soon as a result of my request here.

Prof. M P Ranjan

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