Recently, I learned that the original Vishvakarma exhibition that was held in New Delhi in 1983 had a full 50% of textiles from Tamil Nadu. The remaining states were lumped to the other 50%.
Called Pudu Pavu, these Tamil textiles included the amazing Kodali Karuppur, Sikalnayakanpet, Dharmapuri, Tirubuvanam and other weaves. Listen to Sreemathy Mohan and Anita Ratnam talk about the lesser known weaves of Tamil Nadu on Ratnam’s Instagram account to know more about these weaves.
In contrast, Karnataka’s silk weave, the Molkalmuru, is not even worn by Kannada brides, who prefer Kanchipuram to Molkalmuru. Sure, we have our Dharwad drapes and our khadi weaving clusters championed by Prasanna and others, but Bengaluru lacks a community of crazy-textile-ladies beyond the Crafts Council of Karnataka members.
In Chennai, gallerist Sharan Apparao does the Yarn Club lectures. Here, we have the Registry of Sarees but not (yet) a community around it. We have our annual pilgrimage to Vastrabharana but beyond that the Crafts Council of Karnataka is not a strong presence in the Bengaluru “scene.”
Is it because doyennes , including Vimala Rangachar, Bharati Govindaraj, Chandra Jain, Geetha Rao, Mangala Narasimhan, Uma Rao, and others like them are not “organisers” who are active on social media? These are quiet, elegant women with a ton of expertise. But in the traditional Indian fashion of guru-shishya parampara, you have to interact with them one-on-one in order to gain entry into their world of textiles.
Today, many of us, me included, get our highs from watching women in beautiful drapes post photos on Instagram. There are folks who write about sarees like Kaveri Ponnappa and Anju Maudgal Kadam. The 100-saree-pact originated in Bengaluru. But beyond that, textile talk is a one-off event not a recurring feature in Bengaluru. There is no community of (younger) women who gather to share expertise, listen to speakers, sell sarees and patronise the weaves.
How to change this? One way would be for many of the city’s saree lovers to join institutions like the Crafts Council of Karnataka, which hosts Vastrabharana. The other is for hoary saree brands in the city to create communities around these weaves. Beloved Bengaluru brands including the House of Angadi and Vimor are making attempts in this direction. Vimor has created a foundation and a museum of living textiles. The House of Angadi has created events that foster a community by inviting speakers to its store. Both these efforts need to go further.