Documenting the nine yards

Vimor is the brainchild of Pavithra Muddaya who believes there’s a story in every saree, writes A Varsha Rao

Sarees at Vimor Museum ofLiving Textiles

In a corner, encased in a wooden box hang two stunningly beautiful sarees whose bright red colour and intricate motifs grab your attention immediately. A description sticker tells you that the saree on the left is an Annam Jarithari saree, a pure silk bridal saree woven in Tamil Nadu. And the one on the right is Arai Tankam, which sports a heritage temple design along with the famed gandaberunda motif.

Right next to this is a table whose drawers are filled with heritage sarees and fabrics fromall corners of the country: there’s a tie-and-dye tissue with meenakari saree, a devisaree, khun blouse pieces, and even a palanquin cover and a carpet. Further ahead,you will find a traditional loom and a basketful of colourful yarns.

In the first floor of a tiny bungalow nestled in the quiet bylanes of Austin Town in Bengaluru is the Vimor Museum of Living Textiles. An extension of Vimor, a famous saree store established in 1974 that has supplied sarees to the likes of Indira Gandhi, this museum is the brainchild of Pavithra Muddaya who believes there’s a story in every saree.

Welcoming me into the cosy setup, she takes me back in time to an age when her mother, Chimmi Nanjappa exposed her to the vast and wonderful world of textiles.

“As my mother was the first manager of the Cauvery Arts and Crafts Emporium, she gained invaluable insights into the world of traditional textiles. So the store, apart from selling beautiful sarees, focused on reviving and documenting traditional handloom saree motifs, techniques and their oral history. I am proud to say that Vimor has had a great success in making traditional sarees marketable,” explains Pavithra.

Pavithra Muddaya
Pavithra Muddaya

Rich heritage

As far as the museum is concerned, Pavithra says that it is her attempt to document the rich textile heritage of India, which is unknown to many people.

Apart from featuring ancient and forgotten weaves of the country, the museum also has vintage pieces donated by friends and family, among which there’s Subamma’s Vastra, a headscarf that belonged to Pavithra’s grandmother, Subamma, who gave a hand-drawn design to a Benares weaver from which he wove the scarf.

There’s also a Twentieth Century Motifs saree that features vintage cars and biplanes and an Islamic Architectural Motifs saree, a 100-year-old saree featuring Islamic-style motifs along with meenakari embroidery.

“These sarees are examples of how arts and crafts reflect the era they come from. These are not just ways of adorning oneself, but also tools of communication. The Islamic motif saree has Indian, Islamic and British motifs on it, so this says a lot about the designer himself. The saree shows how he has assimilated information from his world and processed it,” Pavithra explains.

The museum houses about 50 pieces, which Pavithra plans to change every four months.

She’s hopeful that in the near future, she will be able to curate and feature collections of different people along with organising workshops on traditional textiles and fabrics and talks by experts.

Staying alive

The textile expert further adds, “This is one of the major reasons why this is called a ‘living’ museum. These designs have been handed down to us through generations and they are not from a fossilised era. We are keeping the conversation around traditional textiles alive.” But in today’s age of fast fashion, is it difficult to bring back the spotlight on traditional textiles, I ask Pavithra.

She answers, “This question has always been asked, even during the time when the entire textile industry shifted to polyster and machine-made pieces. But the demand is always more than the production when it comes to traditional textiles.”

 

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