From: Utpal Borpujari
A man’s dressing gown with a lining made of woven textile depicting the life of Lord Krishna and believed to be of the same origin as the Vrindavani Vastra, one of the most-revered piece of art in Assam created by 15th century saint and social reformer Srimanta Sankardeva, will be on display at a museum in Britain from April 13.
The centerpiece of the exhibition, titled “Hidden in the Lining – Krishna in the garden of Assam” at Chepstow Museum in partnership with the British Museum, is an elegant 18th century gentleman’s dressing gown that is made special by the fact that it is made of woven silk textile from Assam, one of a group of similar textiles known as Vrindavani Vastra.
The Vrindavani Vastra, which the Assam government is trying to bring to Assam from the British Museum for display in a special but temporary exhibition in the state, depicted events related to Lord Krishna. The clothe, which was taken out of Assam by the British, is deeply revered because it is believed to be painted by Srimanta Sankardeva himself.
The exhibition at the Chepstow Museum, located in Monmouthshire, has been curated by its official curator Anne Rainsbury, and will be up till September, according Rini Kakati, NRI Assam coordinator for UK of social organisation Friends of Assam and Seven Sisters (FASS), who has been invited for the launch of the exhibition.
What is remarkable about Vrindavani Vastra is that only about 20 pieces of this type of textile survive today, in collections around the world.
In 2016, the “banyan”, as the dressing gown is described in the Monmouthshire Museums Collections, featured in the exhibition at the British Museum “Krishna in the Garden of Assam: the cultural context of an Indian textile”.
That exhibition focused on the largest surviving example of the Vrindavani Vastra type of textiles, now in the British Museum. At over nine metres in length, it is made up of 12 separate lengths of cloth woven in Assam, which were stitched together later, probably in Tibet, with strips of damask and brocade along the top.
As it was impossible to display the original British Museum textile in Chepstow, it has been reproduced by digitally printing onto fabric.
The British Museum textile and the lining of the Banyan, were probably made in the same workshop and at about the same time. They both have the same brown background colour, the strips of cloth are of similar width, and the same scenes are shown.The textiles are decorated with the same scenes from Krishna’s life that also feature in plays and dance dramas performed to music and with elaborate masks that are distinctive to the region. The exhibition also includes some spectacular masks made in a Sattra (Vaishnavaite monastery) from Majuli in Assam where the dramas are enacted during Raas Festival in late October.
The British Museum Vrindavani Vastra textile travelled from Assam to a Buddhist monastery in Tibet, while the textile that was cut to make the lining of the banyan that stars in the exhibition, travelled a different route to the West.