Krishna Janma Ashtami and some sweetness with Vrindavani Vastra

Celebration of Krishna Janma Ashtami, brings into my mind another level of sweetness. It always reminds me of the Vrindavani Vastra, a piece of textile depicting the life of Krishna. I have written about it before also. How I got the chance to witness this historic textile piece of Assam and also the book published from the British Museum.

Here I would like to mention a brief description of the Vastra preserved in the British Museum, London – 

The Vrindavani Vastra which is preserved in the British Museum, London is a 9.37-meter long and 2.31-meter high single cloth. It is made up of twelve woven silk strips stitched together. All the strips are woven with the depiction of the life of youth Krishna, a Hindu deity and the incarnations of another deity Vishnu. There are four different design sequences spread throughout the twelve strips. It is interesting to study the four design sequences. Though some of the themes are same, yet they are designed differently in different sequences. Some patterns depicted along the themes are not clearly understood yet. These may carry some narratives, but yet to decipher. The depictions are accompanied by captions and blocks of text, which are repetitive. The inscriptions weaved into the text are in Assamese. One of the blocks of text represents a quotation from the Ankiya Bhaona (dance drama) ‘Kaliya daman’ story associated with Krishna written by Neo-Vaishnavite saint of Assam Sankardeva. The text begins with the instruction that it should be started with the Rag Ashavari in specific Tal (Ashavari is a Rag under the parent That – Ashavari. It is a melodic structure of the genre Hindustani classical music. A morning Rag associated with renunciation. The notes are equivalent to the Western Aeolian mode). However, it has to be mentioned that the placing of texts is not in order in all the four sequences. Likewise, all the twelve strips are also placed random, they are not in any order. The top part of the cloth has three bands of Chinese damask: yellow, orange and blue. Above the blue there is a Chinese brocade, depicting dragons chasing clouds highlighted with gold thread. Metal rings are attached to this part, probably for suspension. The entire top part seems to be added later. This is probably the reason that the British Museum, London catalogue includes Vrindavani Vastra as Hanging; religious/ritual equipment.

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