Morarka Foundation presents Siyahi’s Mantles of Myth: The Narrative in Indian Textiles

Art & textile historians, writers, researchers, scholars, curators, designers and story tellers revisit the many myths of creation depicted as the narrative in Indian Textiles…

About Mantles of Myth
Mantles of Myth – The Narrative in Indian Textiles is Siyahi’s effort to come forward with another endeavor to understand, explore and discover India. This conference will focus on the origins of myths and stories that laid the founding stones of our shared history. Textile experts, art historians, writers, poets, musicians, performers and narrators, will bring together for the first time the diverse riches and forms of story telling as depicted on Indian Textiles. These myths and stories have often been heard as oral traditions, performed by bards and become part of our rituals. They have become creative works in performing arts and are seen on textiles. The conference will provide a forum for discussions, debate and interaction to focus on how essential and integral it is for us to protect and preserve the colors and threads of our rich textile material culture and the unique stories they tell us.

Indian textiles have evolved with the development of civilization and its significance is hallowed by traditions. Textiles with narratives depicted on them are seen across the country and their range varies from painted and printed textiles to woven and embroidered pieces. These textiles remind us of the inordinate riches of stories in traditional communities and the wealth of accumulated knowledge that are a crucial record and map of our culture.

Mythology of the Cloth
Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden when they became aware of their nakedness. They covered themselves with fig leaves. The fig leaf then became clothing made of bark, then animal hide and finally cloth. Each of these shifts and turn reflects a change in culture which then resonates through mythical narratives. In India, Shiva wears animal hide, Vishnu wears only yellow silks, gods are clothed to make them worldly, goddesses are clothed to make them domestic. This session explores the mythology of cloth and clothing in the cultural context of India.

Devdutt Pattanaik, Pramod Kumar KG

Flower Fields to Fertile Landscapes: The Phulkari of Punjab
Phulkari an embroidery technique from Punjab literally means flower working (Phul Kar), and was used as a synonym for embroidery. Shawls sparsely embroidered with floral and imaginative description of a narrative story depicting village scenes from everyday life are essentially Phulkari. Interestingly this highly stylized but clear individual observation of the life of village women are embroidered by women themselves.
Jasleen Dhamija, Alka Pande

Mukand and Riaz (in the lawns of Hotel Diggi Palace)
Mukand and Riaz
is a picture book based on the true story of Mukand’s friendship with Riaz and their subsequent separation following the partition. The unique feature of the book is its visual presentation using the art of women’s appliqu work on cloth, which is common to both Sindh in Pakistan and Gujarat in India. The film was a part of the Big Small People Project, Israel, the Tokyo Broadcasting System, Japan, the Kala Ghoda Festival in Mumbai, the Edinburgh Animation Festival, the International Video Festival, Thiruvananthapuram and won many awards.

Nina Sabnani

Woven Narratives from the North East
The lush and verdant seven sister states from the North East of India have a unique indigenous culture where myths and its depiction on textiles are commonplace. These textiles often woven on narrow womb looms by women are worn by men as mantles of merit and are a cloth of identity, differentiating between tribes and communities. Though many stories of the origins of these motifs and designs are lost, they still continue to be seen in these textiles.
Mamang Dai, Pragya Deb Burman

A film on The Tree of Life by Ritu Kumar
A contemporary view of the classic Tree of Life motif.

Ritu Kumar

Retelling the Ramayana: Two 19th Century kalamkari canopies from Coastal Andhra in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The main function of Kalamkari temple hangings is didactic rather than decorative and the illustrated themes are drawn from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the story of Krishna, and local ballads. A number of centres in Southern India specialized in the production of kalamkaris: This talk will focus on the different pictorial retelling of the Ramayana in textiles from Andhra and Tamil Nadu, now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Anna Dallapiccola

The Tree of Life
The Tree of life is an ancient motif seen in the decorative arts of several cultures around the world. Its portrayal as a flowering plant is meant to depict the axis mundi or the center of the world, with fabulous beats, birds, fruits, flowers and other living beings portraying live forms emanating from its fertile base.
Paola Manfredi

Telling Tales
A performance by Mallika & Revanta Sarabhai

Painted epic of Rajasthan, Pabuji and Dev Narayan
Pabuji Ki Phad
or the epic of Pabuji and Dev Narayan are amongst the most well known picture showman traditions in Rajasthan. Pabuji, a medieval Rajput hero from the desert region around Marwar is widely worshipped as the folk deity capable of protecting against ill fortune. Equally important is the story of Dev Narayan, another folk hero from Rajasthan. Their stories of valour are depicted by painting on textile panels called phads. Bhopa, the bard priest narrates the story during night long singing sessions in front of the painted phad or the scroll textile depicting the sequence of images that retell the exploits of Pabuji and Dev Narayan.
Kavita Singh,
Shreelal Joshi, William Dalrymple
Supported by – Rajasthani Bhasha, Sahitya and Sanskriti Akademi

Stitching Women’s Lives: Sujuni and Khatwa from Bihar
Contemporary textiles depicting a running stitch (Sujni) and appliqu (Khatwa) are immensely popular for their depiction of human and inanimate motifs. These textiles tell stories of the lives of women, their festivals, weddings and daily commerce along with a depiction of more poignant observations on topical subjects such as education, women’s work, nature, environment, social issues, AIDS, peace and communal harmony.
Skye Morrison, Laila Tyabji

Vrindavani Vastra: Vaishnavite Textiles from Assam
Vrindavani Vastra
is a name given to silk Lampas textiles from Assam that depict scenes from the lives of avatars of the Hindu God Vishnu along with scenes from the Ramayana and the Bhagvad Purana. These textiles were first made in around 1567-69, under the supervision of the Vaishnavite reformer Mahant Sankardeva and the cloth depicts scenes from Krishna’s childhood home of Vrindavan.
Rosemary Crill

Pano Bhaju : The Story from Goa
When the Portuguese converted the Hindus, the famed edicts of 1560 and 1736 changed the lives of the Goans completely. Hindu customs and clothing were abolished and replaced by Western Catholic traditions and costumess. The improvised Pano Bhaju seemed the only way out of this dilemma and women began to adopt an embroidered long blouse (bhaju), a pleated wrap over skirt (pano) and a stole draped over the shoulders.
Wendell Rodricks, Mallika Sarabhai

Khadi as a Narrative in the Nation’s Freedom
Mahatma Gandhi’s ability to moot the freedom Movement around Khadi or indigenous handspun hand woven cloth was made possible by raising the issue of cloth to primary economic and political importance. Gandhiji used a ‘symbolically charged moral language’ when speaking of Khadi, reviving the semi dormant ‘magical’ and ‘moral’ belief that has always been attributed to cloth in Indian society. This session will help elaborate on how the universality of Khadi allowed it to transcend the limitation of language in a multilingual country to become a rallying point for Indians during the freedom movement.
Susan Bean

Court Coverlets: The Chamba Rumal from Himachal
The Chamba Rumal (kerchief) a decorative coverlet flourished as a narrative textile in the hill states of Chamba, Kangra and Basholi. The outlines of the designs are believed to have been painted by court painters while the motifs themselves were embroidered in floss silk by ladies of the royal household. These rumals depict religious, historical, and mythological themes such as Krishna Ras Leela, a subject frequently illustrated in the region.
B N Goswamy

The Pichwai’s of Srinathji
Shrinathji, an incarnation of Krishna has been revered by adherents of the Pushti Marg, a Vaishnavite sect from the turn of the 16th century. The temple town of Nathdwara, the main site of pilgrimage is the seat of the idol of Srinathji. The decorative cloth hangings used as a backing to the main idol are known as a Pichwais. Woven, painted, printed or embroidered, these ceremonial and religious textiles depict scenes from Krishna’s life and events in the liturgical calendar of the Vallabhacharya sect.
Kalyan Krishna

The Narrative in Buddhist Art: Tanghka Paintings
Originally popular among traveling monks, a Tangkha is a Buddhist scroll paintings on a flat surface that could easily be carried from monastery to monastery. Images of deities depicted in these paintings are used as teaching tools when explaining the life of the Buddha and describing historical events concerning important Lamas, or retelling myths associated with other deities in the Buddhist pantheon.
Monisha Ahmed

Namavali: The Devanagri Textiles
Textiles in India which depict verses, sacred chants or the Lord’s name across multifarious materials and forms are called Namavali textiles. Literally, Namavali means a row of names, printed, painted, woven or embroidered on cotton, silk and other textiles.  In their role as sacred vestments they are presented and draped on the Gods, and worn by priests and patrons on religious and ceremonial occasions.
Jaya Jaitly, Chandramani Singh

The Morarka Centre SessionConfluence and Continuity of Storytelling Traditions
Storytelling as an art form is one continuous narration of myths, legends and histories that have been embellished and enhanced during their long passage through centuries. In India it is very often spoken, performed or recited as chants, song, dance and by the narration of epic poetry. Its existence as a depiction on textiles is a unique manifestation in our cultural arena. This session will focus on the present state of narrative textiles across the country and the need to have a viable global vision for preserving and perpetuating storytelling traditions in their myriad forms.
Raghavendra Rathore, Namrata Joshipura, Sangita Kathiwada

Narratives of a Nation
The narratives of a nation are not just restricted to the written word but to the many histories of its people recounted in multifarious forms. From oral traditions to myth making and to its rich and varied material culture, human have devised elaborate and diverse methods of communication to pass on their travails and histories to future generations. This session examines other forms that constitute the collective memory of a nation and their relevance as significant markers to be examined and remembered.
Lord Meghnad Desai, Dipankar Gupta, Namita Gokhale

Aye Kuzu LeWeavers’ song by the Sumi Tribe from Nagaland
Aye Kuzu Le is a unique narrative sung and performed by the women of the Sumi tribe of Nagaland. Enacting all stages of work in weaving their traditional shawl, the performers begin with the planting of cotton seeds, to plucking the cotton buds, deseeding, spinning and weaving. This performance is a medium by which women pass on their traditional weaving skills to the next generation, allowing for the preservation of indigenous weaving techniques and its unwritten history.
Togheli, Viholi, Khekoni, Khekatoli, Toholi, Botoli, Inatoli, Mary, Hokhuli, Atoholi, Boholi, Botoli, Atoli, Ato and  Mughato

Mantles of Myth – Conceived & Curated by Pramod Kumar KG