Wrapped in elegance and beauty

The sari’s radiance, vigour and variety, produced by a single length of cloth, should make the West pause and think twice about the zipper, the dart and the shoulder pad.”

Surprisingly, this thought did not come from any American statesman but our very own Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik. After all, who can be left untouched by the beauty of the sari? Its colour, patterns, unique drape and soft touch enchants all.Down the years, India has developed a million ways of weaving a sari – all with the unique flavour of the region and the culture it is nurtured in.

At some places, it is masterly stitched together; in some, embroidered; and in yet others, tied‘n’dyed.

Of course, all these are almost impossible to encounter in a single household. For a sar(i)torial tour, come to the Sanskriti Museum of Indian Textile, Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road. From Bengal to Gujarat and the pre-Independence era to the present times, its collection will take you around the six-yard beauty in its full length and breadth. The museum does not begin with the sari but gives you an introduction to the various fabrics and dyes of India. There are seeds of Indigo – the blue dye, and Madder – the herb which produces the red pigment Alizarin.

Then there are cotton buds, silk cocoons of three varieties – Muga, Eri and Tusar, and even a spinning wheel ala Mahatma Gandhi.

Next come the richly embroidered ritual panels and temple hangings of India. Large Nathdwara and Pichhwai hangings embrace the walls just as they would in a Krishna temple of Rajasthan.

One Pichhwai spread even portrays the map of Shatrunjay temple of Gujarat. It is said that even obeisance to this spread equals a visit to the temple.

A large hall then welcomes you to the world of Indian embroidery. Life-size panels open up to showcase the craftsmanship of Punjab’s phulkari, West Bengal’s Kantha stitch, the Kani shawls of Kashmir and the Chamba rumal (napkin) of Himachal Pradesh.  The stitch-work of Thar and Saurashtra make for a memorable sight with their depictions of life in a desert.

The resist-dyed textiles remind one of tie‘n’dye workshops in school – though much more sophisticated here.  There are block-printed and painted fabrics of Gujarat and Ikat fabrics from Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. These are said to be world’s oldest forms of textile decoration.

And the best are reserved for the last: brocade techniques: Paithani silk of Maharashtra, Banarasi of UP and Baluchari of Bengal.

Many of these Banarasi zari saris were rescued by Sanskriti Kendra founder OP Jain before they could be burnt for a handful of silver or gold. We also discover a Jamdani of pre-Independence time with Vande Mataram written all across its border.

Apparently, singing the national anthem was prohibited those days, so the patriotic expressed their sentiments in this way. Truly, every sari bears the stamp of its history and culture.

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