A richly illustrated book Baluchars: The Woven Narrative Silks of Bengal captures the historical context of a unique Indian weaving tradition which underlies intricate figurative and decorative patterns.
Released early this year, an engrossing read, it covers the weave’s design and motifs as a window into the sociocultural set-up of the 18th and 19th centuries. From the Nawabs as local patrons to colonial rule in pre-independence Bengal, the transition can be viewed in its variations. Nostalgia is recreated by reviving for an idiosyncratic textile heritage of the Indian subcontinent in the 21st century.
Baluchar saris' distinguishing features are an elaborate pallu with framed pictorials which referenced the miniatures of Murshidabad School of Paintings. The central Kalka or the original paisley represents the presence of ‘Devi’- an Indian goddess. Woven on harness loom, at the height of their popularity they were woven in Murshidabad mulberry silk which was soft, buttery, lustrous, and so it draped well. And its contrasting warp and weft reflected a chiaroscuro effect.
Conditions, inspirations, materials, techniques and aesthetics travelled from Murshidabad to Bishnupur in Bengal, then to Benaras in Uttar Pradesh, India. Each chapter of the coffee-tablebook is dedicated to coveted private collectors and museum curators of Tapi Collection, Chatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sanghralaya, Musee Guimet Collection, Indian Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum.
Jasleen Dhamija, the author cum editor has documented and revived Indian textile and handicraft traditions for nearly 6 decades, now. Together with stalwarts like Darshan Shah, Eva-Maria Rakob, Radhika Lalbhai, Anamika Pathak, Bijan Behari Paul, Monisha Ahmed, Anita Nathwani, Nita Sen Gupta, Manisha Nene, Shilpa Shah, Ruby Palchoudhari, Siddharth Tagore, B.N. Goswamy and Kavita Singh they’ve shed light on a century old neglected art form.
Edited by Jasleen Dhamija; Niyogi Books/Weavers Studio; Rs.2500