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Master Weavers to the World


Ratnadeep Banerji

RAPTURE: THE ART OF INDIAN TEXTILES
By Rahul Jain
Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 2011, pp.244, 0.00

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 3 March 2012

The present artisan posterity in several parts of India still carry centuries-old tradition of decorative motifs, patterns and design ensemble. This book digs out dollops of incognito facts that depicts Indian textiles in the world fora as coveted merchandise. But the parody prevails, 'These fading artistic vocabularies were born of a history of spectacular textile design, about which contemporary craftspeople and their patrons know little', says the author Rahul Jain. The book showcases riveting photos of historical Indian textiles from around three dozen collections at places spread over four continents. Some jinxed onslaught has denigrated India's illustrious stature of textiles that wielded its charm over other nations. The author deplores that 'the record of India's textile production and trade preceding the late medieval period has survived mostly in historical literary works, temple inscriptions, court chronicles and travelogues'. Textile historiography of India unfolds in three ways. Only the first phase is dealt with in the book that streaks across the 15th century to the 17th century of the late Sultanate period. Both Hindu and Muslim craftsmanship evolved in tandem symbiosis. Most of those vintage textiles have not remained in India but are stashed in places like Egypt, Tibet, Indonesia or even Portugal. Readers are bound to realize Rahul Jain's sleuth like ardour in ferretting out Indian textiles stashed in abstruse corners. For instance, the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha has the earliest woven Indian silk made during the 14th or 15th century. It is called, 'Roundels with Reciprocal Birds', with its picture sprawled on one full page. But then Rahul unfolds yet another antecedent to it. 'The fragment was discovered in Tibet, where a number of medieval Indian silks have been found since the late 1980s.' Such high-octane startlers keep up the reading tempo. The way Rahul Jain traces the genealogies of textile motifs makes the account, a comprehensive one. And again, the narratives of textile migration vivify to enliven the textile saga. The tying of the nuptial knot in 1597 between a Bengal princess and an Amber king led to the passage of silk samite in the royal stores of Amber. How did Varanasi throb with fine cotton fabrics? Rahul says, 'In the 18th century, migrant merchants and weavers from Gujarat are believed to have brought with them the drawlooms and silk-weaving skills for which Varanasi later became famous.' The epic pictures render a raconteur's passage through a ...


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