This is a worthy addition to the publications of the National Museum, New Delhi. The novelty of the textile collection in the National Museum is that unlike the Indian Museum, Kolkata and the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum Jaipur, it has no heritage collections upon which it can draw. This has its advantages. The collections based on gifts and purchase offer a heterogeneity which a scholar can utilize while alluding to the continuity between the past and present. As the catalogue is devoted to the master pieces of the costume from the collection, pagris, head gear have not been included and the same applies to the unstitched garment, the sari. However, India has a vast continuum from which it is possible to elicit information and the costume collection mirrors this.
While Lotika Varadarajan, as Tagore Fellow, brings her wide knowledge of textiles to bear on the subject, Sushmit Sharma adds another dimension to the work by his understanding of visual language in its many dimensions. This has opened up further avenues of investigation adding additional depth to the subject. The work has been envisaged keeping in mind the transformation of the role of museum in modern times from being geared to the needs of a research scholar to that of translating works of art into quotidian language.
The illustrations do not serve the purpose of beautification alone but have been carefully chosen to add more meaning to the description of a garment. The details of embroidery and techniques used in assembling and shaping the garments are minutely studied and deconstructed. These have been put together in the form of text, image and the line drawing which collectively aid the reader to achieve a better comprehension on how the garments were created. In many of the garments zardozi as a technique has often played an important role in embellishing the garments. It is not only this aspect which has been treated but how the technique has been built up by using a variety of stitches to hold the gilt, silver and precious stones to form a pattern. Apart from this zardozi enables the creation of engineered textiles for garments in which specific motifs are made to fall along different parts of the garment.
The publication of the book could hardly become a reality without the active support of Shri Sanjib Kumar Singh, known Archeologist and Museologist, Publication Officer who took earnest effort to collect the manuscripts and it's production. Dr. Anamika Pathak, Curator (DA) helped the author at all the stages of research. Dr. V.K. Mathur, Sh.Zahid Ali Ansari, Dr.Kanaklata Singh, Dr. Mohan Pratap, Rakesh Kumar,Smt. Suchismita Giri deserves our appreciation. I congratulate all of them and their team for sincere effort.
This catalogue is a true product of collaboration and hard work and will add to the academic discourse emanating from the National Museum Collections. I am sure that this book will be equally interesting and engaging for historians as it will be for contemporary costume stylists.
It is unfortunate that due to sudden and sad demise Lotika Varadarajan Ji could not see the final publication. Surely this publication will be a tribute to her scholarship.
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