Published By: Nirtika Pandita

Did you know about the VrindavaniVastra textiles from Assam?

One of the oldest weaves from Assam, the work is beyond words

From the lush green mountainous land of Assam emerge not only a unique culture and tradition but textiles that have existed over centuries. While one is aware of Assam silk weaved in the shades of golden and red, giving ultimate fashion goals, there is a textile that has long been an important part of the fabric of Assam heritage. The intricately done silk textile called the VrindavaniVastra or BrindābaniBasra is part of the history of Assam textile. As the name suggests, the Vastra, aka textile dons the tale of Vrindavan.

The quaint history of VrindavaniVastra   

It all started with the Neo-Vaisnava movement with Vaishnavite saint, scholar, and poet SrimantaSankaradeva who lived in present-day Assam during the 16th century. The poet was a powerful force at that time in driving the art of weaving. With a keen interest in promoting the cottage industry, Sankaradeva encouraged weavers to develop weaving techniques and designs.

At one such time, under his guidance, this BrindābaniBasra was weaved by 12 Assamese weavers led by MathuradasBurhaAata during the 16th century. Aata along with the team of weavers illustrated on the large drape the childhood activities of Lord Krishna in Vrindavan. The scenes on the silk fabric also depicted scenes from Bhagavatha and Mahabharatha, but mainly of Lord Krishna’s childhood days.

Present day status of VrindavaniVastra   

First, the VrindavaniVastra was woven between 1567 and 1569. This piece of silk fabric then got carried away to Bhutan, and from there to Tibet. It is believed that the VrindavaniVastra type of silken-weaving artwork was produced up to around 1715 in Assam as well as its neighbourhood, which was then exported to Tibet. In Tibet, a piece of the fabric was brought by European merchants, who took it back to Europe. Post Europe, there are theories that trace the thread of this Vastra being collected by a reporter of The Times in London and has donated to the museum sometime around 1904.

The reason, is there are some similar silk drapes that are held by The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Interestingly, in 2004, a similar piece of silk textile, which may have been designed by Sankaradeva during the 16th Century, was up for auction by Christie's in New York. It was put at a reserve price of $120,000.

In the current scenario, the Vastra is owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the MuseeGuimet in Paris.