MANTLES OF MYTH: Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

May 20, 2008

Albert Hall Museum, Jaipur

Mantles of Myth : Narratives in Indian Textiles
13 to 15 December 2008
Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Website: http://www.siyahi.in
Contact name: Mita Kapur

Mantles of Myth will be a two day conference wherein textile experts, writers, poets, musicians, performers, narrators, will bring together the diverse riches and variegated forms of story telling. This conference will provide a forum for discussions, debate and interaction to focus on how essential and integral it is for us to protect and preserve our folk lore, literary traditions and the colours and threads of our culture.

Organized by: Siyahi
Deadline for abstracts/proposals: Not available.

Siyahi’s Translating Bharat comes forward with yet another endeavor to understand, explore and discover Indian literature. We are focusing on the origins of myths and stories that laid the founding stones of its history. These myths and stories have been transformed into oral traditions, bards, songs, rituals, creative techniques/ skills/ works, performing arts and textiles.

Indian textile style has evolved with the development of civilization and its significance is hallowed by traditions. According to the Rig Veda and the Upanishads, the universe is a continuous fabric with a grid pattern upon which cycles of life are painted. In the Atharva Veda, day and night are said to spread light and darkness over the earth as weavers throw a shuttle on the loom.

Textiles with narratives are seen across the country and their range varies from painted and printed textiles to woven and embroidered pieces. These textiles tell us multiple stories and represent myths sacred to indigenous communities across the country. Many have religious and ritual value in the cultures they come from whereas others are folk and tribal textiles that carry narratives of their origins and legends of their ancestors and gods.

These textiles remind us of the riches of material culture in traditional communities and the wealth of accumulated knowledge which is generally ignored. They augment the existing rich verbal and oral literary traditions that record and map cultures. Understanding and translating these is a key element of the translating Bharat project. An understanding of the real India is possible only by fathoming its multiple histories in myriad tongues and forms.

Vrindavani Vastra – Vaishnavite textiles from Assam are like the woven Lampas textiles of the 16th century that were pioneered by the sage Sankerdeva in the Satras of Majuli. These textiles depict scenes from Krishna’s life and the Ramayana.

Satgaon quilts – In the 16th century, Portuguese traders exported embroidered quilts from Satgaon in Bengal to the West. These include scenes from the Old Testament, fables from Greco-Roman mythology and the Matsya Purana.

Sainchi & Dwara Bagh Phulkari – Embroidered textiles from Punjab and neighbouring areas known as the Sainchi phulkar. It abounds in myths and legends such as the story of Sassi & Pannu, Shrawan Kumar etc. embroidered along with images of everyday life such as trains, flowers and birds.

Chamba Rumal – Coverlets from Himachal Pradesh are embroidered in floss silk thread. In this court art, mythological scenes were painted by miniature painters in outlines and the women of the court embroidered and finished them. These textiles depicted mythological themes and stories from the Puranas.

Geet Govinda Ikats – Tie dyed Ikats of Orissa woven in the Ikat ‘tie and dye’ technique show the enormous impact of the Geet Govinda in the spread of Vaishnavite culture. They depict scenes from Jaydev’s Geet Govinda and are sometimes woven with textual references.

The Paisley,Tree of Life & the Shikargah – Narratives in the tree of life depict the axis mundi or the center of the world, with fabulous beats, birds, fruits, flowers and other living beings portraying life forms. The Shikargah was both a woven and printed textile. The motifs commonly show forest scenes of hunts involving people, and animals depicted at different positions within the food chain. Originated from the tribal culture, the Paisley is the most evolved form in the Kashmir shawl.

Mata Ni Pachedi – A painted textile from Gujarat with an architectural rendering of a temple at its center that housed the main mother goddess image. Around this are panels of incidents linked to the myth of the central deity as well as scenes from daily life. Conventionally divided into columns, it evokes the loss of a manuscript format. This was an ingenious solution for members of the lower castes who were barred from entering a built shrine or possessing their own literary collection.

Kantha – Quilted and embroidered folk narratives hailed from Bengal. The Bengali housewife creates a narrative of myths when she embroiders stories on quilted and recycled fabrics. A practice of thrift was converted into high art with an extraordinary range of imagery that depicted characters from myths, legends and folk tales right up to acute observations of daily life.

Naga Shawls – These are woven stories on shawls belonging to Nagaland. Shawls woven on a womb loom; the Naga shawl when worn denoted the community, village and social status of the wearer. However, it is shawls such as the Tsungkotepsu and the Rongkhim shawl, having characteristic patterns that tell a significant story. These shawls are mantles of bravery and were worn only by warriors who have won human heads in war and have offered ritual sacrifices.

Kalamkari – These are beautiful painted textiles comes from Srikalahasti, Andhra Pradesh. The Srikalahasti style of Kalamkari has painted temple hangings, depicting deities and scenes from great epics, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas. Contemporary Kalamkaris also show the Biblical scenes. These textiles were used as backdrops, curtains, and partitions in temples and on temple chariots when the idol was taken on procession.

See event website for latest details.

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