By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, August 8: The Assam Government has informed the State Assembly that it is contemplating on bringing back Brindabani ‘Bastra’ to the State from British Museum, at least for a period of four months, for display so as to let the people of the State see it. The Director of Museum, Assam has already been asked to send the letter, the draft of which has already been approved by the Chief Secretary, to British Museum.
Brindabani ‘Bastra’ is a 16th century textile created and designed by Great Saint Srimanta Sankadeva following a request from Koch-Rajbongshi King rarayan. The hand-woven pictorial textile depicts events related to Lord Krish and Lord Rama. It was woven by weavers at Tantikuchi in Barpeta district as a gift for rarayan under the instruction of Srimanta Sankardeva.
It was AGP MLA Brindabon Goswami who raised the issue in the State Assembly today when the august House had a valuable discussion on this historic Assam textile. Raising the issue on the floor of the House under Rule 54, Goswami said: “Braindabani Bastra should be brought back to Assam from British Museum and displayed for exhibition so as to let the people of the State see it. We should also let our next generation know what Brindabani Bastra exactly is. If British Museum doesn’t allow its transshipment to Assam, it should be brought to the State at least for a period so as to let the people of the State and the coming generation know it and see it. If that’s also not possible, we’ve no way out but to create a replica of Brindabani Bastra for it is much more than a bastra (cloth). This bastra depicts our culture and 16th century textile. Since it was weaved following a directive of Srimanta Sankadeva, apart from its cultural mosaic, historical importance and textile technology, it has much more to convey to the people of the State for generations.”
Goswami reminded Speaker Ranjit Kumar Dass that the latter had been very vocal on Brindabani Bastra while as an MLA in this House. “Bringing the Brindavani Bastra to the State is one of the responsibilities of the Assamese,” the AGP MLA said.
Goswami soon got support from two BJP legislators – Batadrava MLA Angoorlata Deka and Sipajhar MLA Binda Saikia. Backing the former AGP president, Deka said: “The young generation in the State isn’t au fait with Brindabani Bastra. I represent the young generation in this august House. This apart, I represent Batadrava LAC in this House. When viewed from all these angles, my duty towards Brindabani Bastra is bounden. Dispur should immediately take up the issue of bringing back Brindabani Bastra to Assam from British Museum.”
Angoorlata further said: “In British Museum, Brindabani Bastra on display has written below it as ‘Brindabani Bastra from India’ which should’ve been ‘Brindabani Bastra from Assam’.”
Another BJP MLA Binda Saikia also supported Goswami, and said: “Srimanta Sankardeva’s creative textile technology piece should be brought back to the State.”
In his reply to the House, State Cultural Affairs Minister ba Kumar Doley informed the House: “On June 8, 2016 British Museum’s South Asia curator T Richard Blurton came to Tezpur University to deliver a lecture in a semir on Brindabani Bastra. While responding to a question, the curator said that Brindabani Bastra could be brought back to Assam, but for that the State Government should ensure its insurance. It could be brought back only for exhibition for a certain period, the curator said.”
“The very next day, i.e. on June 9, 2016 the Sonitpur Deputy Commissioner took up the matter with the State Chief Secretary and said that British Museum had a set of conditiolity that had to be met to bring back Brindabani Bastra to the State. British Museum isn’t ready to hand over the bastra to Assam once and for all as it has been well protected and on display there for the world over to see. If Assam wants to bring it for a period of time for display it has to meet the conditiolity attached to it – the bastra has to be preserved under controlled humidity in air condition and good light. If Dispur agrees to the conditiolity set by British Museum, the authority of British Museum will hear Assam’s statement and take the fil decision,” Doley said, and added: “Dispur took up the matter seriously and held a discussion on the issue on July 21, 2016 at the government level. Issues like complex infrastructure that has to be maintained for the preservation of the Bastra here came up for discussion. With the Director of Museum sending a proposal to Dispur accepting the conditiolity set by British Museum, Dispur is contemplating on bringing the Bastra back to Assam for four months and display it to let the people of the State see it. We’ve asked the Director of Museum to send the letter, the draft of which was approved by the Chief Secretary on August 3, 2016, to the British Museum. The Chief Secretary will also send a letter to the Indian High Commissioner, UK in this regard,” Doley said, and added: “I’ll also write to the United Assam Association, UK in this regard. If the Bastra is brought back to the State, it can be displayed either at the new building in Assam State Museum, Guwahati where an area of 1,100 sq ft is vacant or at the exhibition hall of the Museum where an area of 1,850 sq ft is vacant.”
* British Museum is ready to give Brindabani Bastra to Assam for display for a certain period only.
* Dispur set to send a letter to British Museum.
* Raising the issue in House Brindabon Goswami says that apart from its cultural mosaic, historical importance and textile technology, the Bastra has much more to convey to the people of the State for generations.
* British Museum sets conditiolity on the preservation of the Bastra.