Seasons Greetings

The annual post on Christmas themed art from India.

nasrani margamkali

First up the Margam Kali from Kerala.  The dance is not Christmas specific though many schools do seem to hold competitions including the dance around December.

The costume is the traditional chattayum mundu (refers to the shirt/top and sarong like wrap).

Artwork from here.

Blue-Madonna frank wesley

Second Frank Wesley’s painting of the Blue Madonna.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Posted in 20th century, Art, Christianity, clothing, Costume, costumes in art, Culture, Dance, indian art, Indian Costume, Indian Women, Kerala, Sari, South India, vintage art, Women | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Dyeing a saree with parijat

The parijat or coral jasmine (also known as prajakta, harsingar, shiuli, shefali, xewali etc) is ubiquitous to Indian landscapes and especially in the autumn the flowers are strewn everywhere in the early morning.


Sarala Devi’s diary (late 19th/early 20th century) records the dyeing of sarees as well as refreshing old sarees by dyeing with shiuli flowers. The dye was also used to colour ritual garments and monks robes yellow (often garments would be unbleached cotton and the like I think and materials like turmeric or parijat would give the needed auspicious yellow).

On to a recent experiment with an old saree that had a few faint yellow stains.

Luckily for me there are a fair few parijat trees where I live and they are in full bloom. The initial part of collecting the fallen flowers in the morning  is the only laborious part of the flower dyeing.  I forgot to measure the quantity of flowers before and after drying (bad scientist) but suffice it to say that it took a few mornings of painstaking collection, brushing away debris and adding to the drying lot to dye just the one saree.

The drying was easy given we have had dry, hot days of late.

Ideally, the stalks should be separated and used for dyeing but I took the lazier route of using the whole flower. The dried flowers were boiled in water (again no measurement, andaaze se) – the process is very sensory given the delicate but heady fragrance of the flowers.  The resulting dye liquor was a deep orange (best exhibited in a wine glass:)). No doubt a stronger and more fast colour can be obtained with mordants but this sufficed for my purpose. A second extraction yielded a pale yellow which I used for smaller items like kerchiefs and threads.

The saree before with stains – it’s a simple Bengal tant (bought right after a viewing of Umbartha:)). And post a 30 minute soaking in the deep orange first dye liquor and through rinsing to remove excess dye. The final colour is a “parijat yellow” that falls more on the buttercup/primrose spectrum than the stronger turmeric/mango yellows.  Happily a faint fragrance remains on the fabric.

The colour fastness is apparently medium so I am expecting a bit of fade with use. But for now I am happy with the results and look forward to wearing the saree!

Posted in dye, Indian Textiles, Indian Women, natural dye, parijat, Personal, Sari, shiuli | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 1910 saree

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Details of a studio portrait of the youngest daughter of the Maharaja of Cooch Behar, Princess Sudhira. Taken in 1910.

Though Gayatri Devi is the most well known, Cooch Behar royalty that preceded her had a distinctive style and you often see a lot in play in their attire that later became the norm.

For example, the saree here is draped much like the present 6 yard saree, even though around 1910 the Bengal drape was quite common in the state.  The saree itself is a light fabric, I am inclined to think a fine muslin but I might be wrong. Around this period you often see sarees (of the very expensive sort) that are beaded/embroidered.  I don’t know the exact term but chiffon gowns in this period often feature beading.  As was common in the early part of the 20th century, the pallu is pinned at the shoulder and draped over the head in some of the portraits, though at least one showcases the Princess’ fashionably short hair.

The blouse has Edwardian details like the lapel like feature as well as the sleeve detail (though the border suggests Indian fabric).  Jewellery is fairly minimal, though the ear danglers are very shall we say “statement”.


Posted in 1910s, 20th century, Accessories, Bengal, British Raj, Dress Reform, Early 20th Century, fashion, Hairstyles, Indian Aesthetics, Indian Dress, Indian fashion, Indian royalty, Indian Women, Photography, Royalty, Sari, Sari Blouse, sari drape, sari history, Studio Portraits, Vintage, Vintage Blouse, vintage sari, vintage women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1980s Indian wear for men

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Though Indian attire has not been common for men, especially the middle and upper classes, post Independence, it is pretty much de rigeur for male politicians.  Usually this is varying permutations and combinations of the kurta/achkan/jacket/dhoti with regional variants (e.g. regional headgear) on visits to states. Each Prime Minister nevertheless has his own individuality – or rather items of clothing that become associated with his persona – be it Nehru’s achkan, Shastri’s dhoti, VP Singh’s fur cap or Modi’s jacket.

Much of this template for male politicians is present in Rajiv Gandhi’s clothing from the mid 80s onwards when he became Prime Minister. Many elements expectedly drew from or found their way into Indian styles of the time. This included the bandhgala of pic 2 as formal wear and the more casual kurta pyjama (as opposed to the chudidar), often worn with sports shoes.

Regional elements are often added to attire by politicians when visiting a state. However, two distinct elements, the shawl with a Bengal drape (pics 3 and 4) and the South Indian angasvastram (pics 5 and 6) were often worn by Mr Gandhi, reflecting the decade of Festival of India which brought together several regional elements as “ethnic chic”.

Pic 1 is the Gandhi cap, long worn in India but rarely seen in present times.

Rajiv Gandhi: 20 August 1944 – 21 May 1991.

Pics Source: X.

On the 1980s go here.


Posted in 1980s, 20th century, clothing, Culture, fashion, Indian Dress, Indian History, Indian men, indian style, late 20th century, Photography, Politicians, Politics, shawls, Vintage Dress | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Indian Summer

I have been away from wordpress for so so long. Travel meant I couldn’t sit down and write a long post. So a collation of several posts on the Indian summer that I did on tumblr.

First up the most ubiquitous of summer (and spring) flowers, the jasmine.

In the east it is highly esteemed, and the Indian women braid it into their hair when they receive it from their lovers, inasmuch as it promises long affection. [X].

Excerpt on the jasmine. The kunda is a spring flower and varieties of jasmine bloom through spring and summer in the subcontinent.

And though symbolic of a romantic bond nothing at all to stop one from a solo enjoyment of its flowers in the hair:)

Artwork: 1. Deepal Kilewala, 2. Rohini, 3. Vilas Chormale.

The bougainvillea is an import, nevertheless ubiquitous as summer blooms.

The bougainvillea girls enter in a flock, like dragonflies at noon. Their sudden laughter peals over me. Warm salt waves that take the breath and pull you to drowning. They float through the musty dark of the store, glittery dustmotes on a ray of light. The Mistress of Spices, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. 

Pics: 1. DOT, Daizy and Tapushi 2. Peach, photographed by me 3. via tilfi 4. Via parama_g

Summer flowers and staying cool in Sanskrit poetry.


A crest of double jasmine nestles in her braid, fresh after bathing;
A necklace made of trumpet flowers pours coolness on her breast’
an acacia blossom, delicate of tip, adorns each ear
The summer offers its insignia
to a woman’s every limb. Madhusila [X]

Pics: 1. Laxmi Chhaya wearing jasmine 2.  bridal photography by Anbu Jawahar (flowers in pic not the Indian trumpet flower but suggestive of trumpet flowers) 3. detail from a Hemen Majumdar painting 4. Still from Kumki.

The fruit of the season, the ubiquitous mango. It’s blossoms appear in spring poetry and the fruiting tree in art and sculpture.

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In Sanskrit, mango has 63 names. Some of them are as follows : Kamashar, Madhavdruma, Bhrungubheeshta, Seedhurasa, Vasantdoota, Atisaurabha, Madirasav. [X]

The most common words in two ancient languages are: amra in Sanskrit and manga in Tamil……. Most languages have words for mango derived from amra or manga. [X]

Pics: 1. Salabhanjika at Sanchi where the tree is a mango tree 2. Detail from a miniature painting with a fruiting mango tree 3. Detail from a Kumaril Swamy painting 4. Snagging a Mango (2017), Aditi Raychoudhury.

And the jackfruit.


This is April.
The jackfruit tree that shines
like slashed gold at the touch of a chisel,
and the honey-mango tree that always tempts the hand
to carve a toy boat from its trunk,
will be shaking now
with, blossom, with fruit. [G. Sankara Kurup via X]

Though this artwork is related to Deepavali, the jackfruit is also a summer fruit.

Pic: 18th century miniature painting.

And lastly, my personal favourite. Summertime is jamun time. (wiki on jamun). But do not eat it with mangoes says the Sushruta Samhita:).

The luminescent beauty of Lord Krishna’s dark skin is compared to the shiny black fruit; just as a woman’s round, beautiful eyes is often poetically referred to as ‘jamuns’. The God of clouds – Lord Megha incarnated on earth as the jamun and that is why the colour of the fruit is like the stormy monsoon clouds. [X].

Pics: illustration of the jamun tree, Raag Megh Malhar, Jamun Kheer by kharakapas. 

Posted in 18th century, 1930s, 1940s, 20th century, Ancient India, Art, contemporary fashion, costumes in art, Culture, fashion, Flora, Flowers, Flowers in Literature, India, Indian Aesthetics, indian art, Indian Costume, Indian Flora and Fauna, Indian Literature, Indian Women, miniature paintings, Paintings, Seasons, Women, women in art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Folk Jewellery of Pakistan

Folk jewellery of Pakistan, 1973 PIA Calendar. The link for the last postcard is unavailable but from the bandhani dupatta and mirrorwork suggests Sindh.  For pics 1 to 3, the captions are as follows:

1. The punjangla has a ring for every finger attached to a bracelet. It is popular with brides all over Pakistan.

2. Women of the Kalash valley wear the kapas, an ornamental head dress adorned with shells, beads and bells. The silver necklace is tied high on the throat and worn with rows of beads.

3. The ghulbali, a heavy head ornament, is worn by women of the Powindahs, a nomadic tribe in the North West Frontier Province.


Posted in 1970s, 2017 posts, Culture, fashion, Folk, Jewellery, late 20th century, Pakistan, Tribal, Vintage, vintage jewellery, vintage style | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brief Notes from Japan


サリーの女 (Maiden in a sari), 1983. From the Museum publication on the artist Akino Fuku (秋野不矩)).

While in Japan I made a visit to the Akino Fuku Museum in Hamamatsu, Japan. While my favourite work of hers was not on display (the paintings are rotated, insert crying icon), it was still wonderful to be there and see her works..  I did get to see one of the artworks I featured on the blog as well as other rangoli paintings.  You can’t gauge works from pcs at all, e.g. I didn’t realise Fuku’s canvasses are pretty large.

The sari is so similar to a Santiniketan silk I once owned that I am inclined to think this is a similar silk.

Getting to the museum takes some planning as it is a little out of the way so only for those really interested!

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I also dropped by at the kimono/furisode show at the Nishijin Textile Centre, Kyoto. The show is about 10 minutes, free and held every hour at the Centre. If you do visit, factor the show in since it is quite charming. Plus you can see the weavers at work.

The blue kimono in the solo pic has a shuttle motif on the obi (sash) as part of Nishijin 550 (550th anniversary since the area began to be recognised as Nishijin)

The highlight for me was the History Room which displays textiles held by the Centre as well as pattern books and the like that date back to the Meiji era and even earlier. As with our textiles, you can see both continuity and change in the motifs, colours, patterns and the like (my favourite was the 20s/30s).

The rest of the Centre is given over to the gift shop as well as rental kimonos.

Posted in 1980s, 2017 posts, Art, Asia, clothing, Costume, costumes in art, Culture, East Asia, fashion, India, Indian Costume, Indian Women, Japan, Japanese art, Japanese Costume, Paintings, Personal, Vintage, vintage art, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment