Visual, literary treat for Tagore admirers

Dance theatre "Thakur Barir Saaj Poshak," the Sartorial Fashion of the Tagore Family and Rabindra Taal (Rhythms in Tagore Songs) presented by Odissi Vision and Movement Centre, Kolkata, during Tagore's 150th Birth anniversary celebration organised by ICCR at Azad Bhavan in New Delhi on Friday. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar  

Rabindranath Tagore is taking the connoisseurs on a visual and literary treat in the capital. From his literary skills to even understanding the sartorial fashion of his family, it was all here. The unexpected highlight was brought up by the dance theatre Thakur Barir Saaj Poshak (The Sartorial Fashion of the Tagore Family), presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) at the Azad Bhavan Auditorium on Friday. The production looked at how Tagore's large family made wardrobe choices that got distilled to the modern day. The programme was part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of Tagore, and was staged by artistes of the Kolkata-based Odissi Vision and Movement Centre.

Chronicling of fashion

Krishna Basu, who created the costumes worn by the dancers, stressed that the focus was on the women of the household. Accompanied by an audio-visual presentation, the artistes on stage depicted how the women in a sprawling mansion in Jorasanko in North Kolkata made changes to their dress, the sari in particular — a chronicling of the fashion with regard to India as a whole and Bengal in particular. The presentation recalled how Tagore's father, Debendranath Tagore, once when invited by the ruler of a princely State, went to meet the latter wearing muslin slippers studded with pearls, “wearing on the feet what others would wear around their neck or their turban.”

The women, meanwhile, played around with the sari, which in the beginning used to be a one-piece garment. Soon, the shemij was introduced, taking from the French chemise. Since women stayed only in the antarmahal, few paid attention to how cumbersome this proved, particularly to the younger girls in the family.

It was Maharshi Debendranath Tagore who insisted that women take part in the prayer meetings. While the married women covered their heads with a veil, he designed for the younger girls — who had to meet male tutors in the inner quarters — a kind of frock worn with Rajput-style pyjamas.

Tagore, himself, adopted as his costume what was halfway between a Sikkimese bakhu and Japanese kimono. There were no other takers though — his costume died with him.

The person who is said to have left the most prominent sartorial legacy, however, was Jnanadanandini, wife of Tagore's elder brother, Satyendranath Tagore. When Satyendranath was posted in then Bombay, he took his wife along. When they came back two years later, she brought with her the Bombay dastur, the sari pleated on the shoulder and held in place by a brooch.

Reba Som, Regional Director of Rabindranath Tagore Centre, ICCR, Kolkata, who conceived and scripted Thakur Barir Saaj Poshak, said it was while researching for her book Rabindranath Tagore: The Tagore and the Song, published in 2009, that the angle of his sartorial influence struck.

The production first premiered at the festival ‘Tagore Beyond Frontiers' presented by the ICCR in Kolkata in December 2009.

But isn't it a bit unfair to give so much credit to one family alone? After all, few pieces of clothing are as democratic as the sari. As Basu clarifies, there were other people too, like Maharani Shruti Devi of Cooch Behar and Suchari Devi of Mayurbhanj, who introduced the style of sari wearing that is prevalent now.

“But the women in the Tagore household came out of home and participated in every aspect of life, along with the men.”

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 9:00:53 PM |

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