Material World: Inside The Museum’s New Indian Textile And Costume Gallery

A gara sari.

A gara sari.

The Indian Textile and Costume Gallery, which opens inside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya today, Tuesday, May 12, is a repository of materials from India’s various textile-making traditions. The theme of the permanent exhibition is inspired by the couplets of 15th-century saint-poet Kabir, who was weaver by trade and often used thread as a metaphor for life. The items on display are arranged according to the phases of human life.

Childhood is represented by a red zabla (tunic) and cap made for textile baron Jamsetjee Tata  to wear on the sixth-day ceremony held after his birth in March 1839; an early 20th-century navjote coat heavily embellished with zardozi; and a bonnet-like cap with a zardozi border. Marriage is depicted by wedding saris such as a deep red gharcholu, a patterned sari from Kutch. It’s one among the many gorgeous saris in the gallery from all over the country. These include a Sambalpuri Ikat, Paithanis from Maharashtra, and tanchois and Parsi garas, which are saris embroidered with Chinese motifs that became popular in the 19th century.

A number of the exhibits are from the TAPI (Textile and Art of the People of India) collection of textiles that belongs to Shilpa and Praful Shah, who own the Garden Vareli brand of saris. Their collection includes antiquated items of clothing such as an early 20-century rich blue achkan with zardozi from Gujarat and a late 18th-century baju jacket made from cotton from the Coromandel coast, which is one of the oldest items on display.

Led by assistant curator Manisha Nene, the team behind the gallery has tried to make the experience of viewing the exhibits interactive. The final section has games visitors can play such as matching the name of a handloom technique to a picture of the pattern, and drawers that can be opened to reveal illustrated panels with information about textile-making styles.

The gallery is small, but it attempts to address a gap in the documentation of Indian culture in the city. In none of the city’s museums or galleries is textile adequately represented even though Mumbai’s fortunes were powered by cloth mills from the mid- 18th to late 20th century. The state government has for years been talking about setting up a textile museum to document the significance of the industry in the history of Mumbai. So far those plans have remained on paper.

The Indian Textile and Costume Gallery, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Second Floor, Kala Ghoda. Tel: 022 2284 4484. Get directions here.

Open daily, from 10.15am to 6pm. Tickets for Indian visitors are priced at Rs60 per head for adults and Rs10 per head for children between the age of five and 12 years; tickets for foreign visitors are priced at Rs300 per head for adults and Rs10 per head for children between the age of five and 12 years.

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