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'British Museum authority to think of sending Vrindavani Vastra back to Assam'

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  8 Jun 2016 12:00 AM GMT

From a Correspondent

Tezpur, June 7: “If the Assam Government takes the responsibility of safety and security and the insurance of the Vrindavani Vastra, the British Museum authority will send it back to Assam,” said T. Richard Blurton, Head, South Asian Section, Department of Asia, British Museum on Tuesday while giving a lively power point presentation on Vrindavani Vastra here at Kolaguru Bishnu Rabha Auditorium of Tezpur University.

T. Richard Blurton is the head of the South Asian section in the Department of Asia. He has curatorial charge of the late medieval, early modern and modern collections from both South and South East Asia who carries research on these collections and has a special knowledge of the department’s collection history. Richard has conducted active programmes of contemporary collecting, most notably in eastern and north-eastern India.

In his one-hour long illustrated presentation-cum-talk, he said that Vrindavani Vastra was a drape woven by Assamese weavers during the 16th century under the guidance of Vaishvite saint Srimanta Sankardeva. The large drape illustrates the childhood activities of Lord Krish in Vrindavan. Parts of the origil Vrindavani Vastra are owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and Musee Guimet (the Guimet Museum) in Paris. The piece of cloth demonstrates the skillful weaving methods developed during medieval times and such complexity is rarely seen in present day Assam.

“Assamese silk weavers depicted scenes from Bhagavatha, Mahabharata, mainly of the childhood days of Lord Krishalala on silk clothes under the supervision of saint, scholar, and poet Srimanta Sankardeva and his disciple Madhvadeva during 16th century. First woven between 1567 and 1569, it was taken to Bhutan and then later to Tibet, where European merchants brought it back to Europe. The present, it is owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Musee Guimet in Paris,” he said.

Blurton added that the Vrindavani Vastra piece was collected by a reporter of The Times (London) and doted to the museum around 1904. Similar silk drapes are also held by other museums like the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 2004, a similar piece of silk drape, probably designed by Sankaradeva during the 16th century, was put up for auction by the auction house of Christie’s in New York, with a reserve price of $120,000. This type of silken-weaving artwork was produced up to around 1715 in Assam and its neighborhood and exported to places like Tibet. He also said that the exhibit owned by British Museum, acquired in 1904 from Tibet, is nine and half meters long and is made up of several pieces of silk drapes depicting Krish’s (or Vishnu’s) life. Along with colorful pictorial depictions, it has a portion of a poem written by Srimanta Sankardev woven on it. However, in his presentation he expressed that there were futile efforts by government agencies of India to bring back the silk drape back to India. During 2013, the Assam Government had requested British Museum to exhibit the Vrindavani Vastra in London so that art lovers, researchers, and local people with Assamese heritage can admire the piece of art. This textile is now on display until August in the exhibition ‘Krish in the garden of Assam, the cultural context of an Indian textile’ in Room 91 of the British Museum. Entry is free. “If a decision is taken after discussion with Government of India, Assam Government and the British Government, then the British Museum Authority will think of handing over the drape to Assam or India. It is to be transferred very sincerely since it is more than 500 years old,” Blurton said.

NRI Rini Kakoti, who has been in London for many days, has been trying her best to bring back the drape to Assam but has not been successful “I discussed with the then Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi many times but there was no result,” she lamented. She alleged and hoped that in this regard the new government would take initiative.

The lively power point presentation by the British scholar on the topic christened as ‘Krish in the Garden of Assam’ was followed by an interactive session started by president of Tezpur Sahitya Sabha, Hemanta Baruah. Sharing his views on the matter he said that Vrindavani Vastra was part of the glorious history of Assamese people.

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