Nearly a century before fashion advisors trained models how to drape a sari with élan, a newspaper advertisement invited the city’s elite to the Jorasanko Thakurbadi, ancestral home of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, to acquire the fine art of donning the six-yard fabric.

The advertisement was among the ensemble of information on the attires of one of the most influential families of the Bengal Renaissance as revealed at a recent event as part of Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations.

With the Tagore family at its helm, the Bengal Renaissance not only created an intellectual awakening but also influenced contemporary life materially, said Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee, director of Thakurbarir Fashion.

It was Gyanadnandini Devi, Tagore’s sister-in-law, who during her travels to Bombay chanced upon the Parsi style of draping a sari. Alterations to the “Bombai Dastur” style by the women of the household led to the creation of the Thakurbarir sari, which became the archetype for the Bengali way of wearing it. And the men in the family were not to be outdone. China coats, achkans, elaborate headdresses and jobbas became part of their distinctive style.

Once Maharishi Debendranath Tagore was invited to a musical soirée at the house of a neighbouring zamindar at a time he was in financial trouble.

While there was much speculation on what the patriarch would be wearing at the prestigious event, he threw everyone off guard, showing up in a simple ensemble sans embellishment, barring a pair of pearl-studded slippers.

Staged at the rooftop of the Star theatre, one of the first institutions of commercial Bengali theatre, the cultural show brought together two icons of the city’s heritage.

To provide a context to the clothes on display, the show included Rabindrik dances and recitation of a few verses by Rabindranath Tagore.


Successful attemptMay 20, 2010