At Whispering Stones, Shilpi from Chennai brings you a collection of saris, each with a unique history

Pssst…pick me. No, look here, I am prettier….you will be sorry if you don’t take me home with you….That’s what the saris are saying to me as I try hard to ignore the voices and go about getting information about the exhibition for an article. Shilpi of Chennai (since 1980) is in town for a two-day show and it seems to have brought with it the prettiest saris ever. And the treat does not stop there. The event is held inside a 100-year-old cattle shed that calls itself Whispering Stones!

A new venue, a new exhibition, but an old, old heritage of Indian textiles and printing processes thousands of years old. Simrat Chadha, director Shilpi, walks me through the collection. The old friends are there —Chanderis, Maheswaris, Ikat, Bagh…And then there are names I have heard for the first time. Kodalikarpur, Telia Rumal, Shibori a Japanese tie-and-dye, Sickinaickanpet… Incidentally, the last one is six yards of drama. These saris are spread out on a river bed and then hand painted. Three basic colours are used — a vermillion, a beautiful yellow and black, and they just scream attitude and style.

“It is techniques like these, less known and in the danger of disappearing altogether that we are trying to revive”, says Simrat. By the way, when you visit the exhibition, do talk to her, she has so many beautiful stories to tell about the saris.

Reviving the saris

“That is what we want. Revive not just the saris, but also awareness about them,” she says. Each sari has a story and a history, and that should be told, feels Simrat.

Shilpi works on revival projects. At the moment the focus is on the Sickinaickanpet, Kodalikarpur and the Ajrakh saris. “Handlooms such as these need patronage, and Shilpi provides the platform for the craftspeople to display their stuff,” she says. The painstaking and intricate Ajrakh block prints come from the Kutch and Bhuj regions of Gujarat. Simrat shares a strange and wonderful fact about the Ajrakh block printers. This printing community perhaps one of the oldest in the country, who create these works of art in intense colours, themselves wear only stark white clothes!

Andhra’s sweep of weaves is vast, and at Shilpi, you can see the entire spectrum. With geographical changes comes a subtle change in the weaves, the colours, the textures. Simrat points out how the arid, dry regions of the country come up with the most vibrant colours. “It is like poetry”, says Simrat, and bashfully adds, “Even after all this time, I am still as doe-eyed as ever about these.”

We are the land of tie and dye, but the Japanese Shibori is as pretty in shades of pinks and blues, on silk Kota, Maheswari as well as cotton. Then there are the eternally pretty Chanderis, stately Gadwals, elegant, elegant, Khadis and a treasure trove of printed silks. Some of the saris are in limited numbers — the more exclusive ones, so reach early. I walk away with two saris, one in shades of grey, the other a gorgeous cream and rust, satisfied that I have been a good patron!

Whispering Stones has plenty of parking place and credit cards are welcome.

The Shilpi exhibition is on today and tomorrow between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. at Whispering Stones, 1 BRCF, Rajalakshmi Mills Road (Perks Arch Road), Coimbatore 641015. For details call: 0422-2574280.