Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Whole nine yards and beyond....!

This a tale of a traditional Indian Sari. The garment, which belongs to my mother, is far more that just a personal clothing item. Its warp and weft weaves together historical value of great significance.
More than a 100 years old, this sari belonged to my mother’s great-grandmother Gyanadanandini Devi who was the wife of Satyendranath Tagore (1842-1923) - the paternal grandfather of my grandmother Jayashree Sen, and elder brother of Rabindranath Tagore.

He was the first Indian to join the Indian Civil Service. He was also an author, song composer, linguist and made significant contribution towards the emancipation of women in Indian society during the British Raj.
After Satyendra Nath Tagore returned to Kolkata from abroad he had to leave for Mumbai for his posting in the civil services. He wished to take his wife (my grandmother’s grandmother) Gyanadanandini Devi with him. But a serious problem cropped up as to the dress the lady would wear while stepping out of her inner quarters. The solution to this problem came from a French tailor. He prepared an oriental dress for the lady.
Later in Bombay, Gyanadanandini ransacked the market for a perfect dress that would be fashionable as well as fit to be worn in the society. She appreciated the style the Parsi women adapted while wearing the saree. She emulated them and also mastered the use of petticoat, the chemise and the blouse. Thus she became the founder of the contemporary Bengali fashion for ladies. This historic sari belonged to her and was a gift from her to my grandmother's mother Sanga Devi, who later gifted it to my grandmother. It was a present to my mother from her mother during her wedding in 1963. The sari is a traditional Bengal Baluchari sari, which depicts scenes from the contemporary political and social life in Bengal through its designs. Baluchari saris, which have been now revived as a traditional handicraft from Bengal, also sometimes depicted scenes from mythology and Hindu gods and goddesses.
When my grandmother Jayashri Sen (nee Tagore) gifted the sari to my mother, she had also shared with her anecdotes about Gyanadanandini and her huge collection of beautiful saris. My grandmother was a favourite grand-daughter and had spent a lot of time with her grandparents and was deeply attached to them before she married my grandfather - Mr Kulaprasad Sen, who was the Post-master General of Eastern India when he retired.
I’m sure there are many other women such as my mother across India, who possess such beautiful saris which have such wonderful bits of history attached to them.

1 comment:

Reshmi said...

You should have written the sari story then... A sequel: what happened to the saree collection apart from the baluchari that your mom inherited? they should probably be displayed in a museum....