- Kendra Hadlock, OWC Member
We were warmly welcomed to the Vimor Museum of Living Textiles by co-founder Pavithra
Muddaya. On the charming terrace, with a lovely tea and cookies spread, Pavithra shared the interesting history of the space.
Pavithra’s mother was once the manager of the Cauvery, Karnantaka State Handicrafts Emporium on MG Road. This opened up many connections to local craftspeople. Another textile connection was a buyer that Pavithra worked with who went around to local temples and purchased bales of excess pooja sarees—sarees that had been made in offering to the temple—which they then re-sold. However there were many old fine sarees included that had some damages, and those were kept and their patterns examined and recreated. This textile buyer also scouted for former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. Her coffin was draped in a saree that was associated with the recreation work that Vimor conducted.
Pavithra’s daughter, Vipra Muddaya, also shared many interesting tidbits of history. Both mother and daughter were dressed in exquisitely crafted sarees. They split our large group in two, and each led a tour through the richly adorned space. There are multiple rooms holding many examples of traditional saree weaves from across India—including even gramophone and automobile patterns! The most beautiful examples were finely detailed with an allover pattern that mimicked snake scales—in shining silk these really gleamed!
Most of the sarees contained fine metallic thread work called zari. What most of us didn’t know though, is that originally that zari thread was made of pure gold! And so when it came time for a wedding, old sarees might be melted down to cast golden matrimonial dishes! These were quite heavy garments. Later zari thread was made from gold coated silver, and eventually other metals. However it is still possible to have a saree made with pure gold zari if you so desire.
Vipra led a saree draping demonstration, and gave us many suggestions for how to wear a saree a little easier. She shared good tips for ease of walking, and flattering drapes. She demonstrated first the most common style, but there are actually dozens more. She then showed us a very unique saree draping style from where her family is from in Coorg/Kodagu (in the Western Ghats mountain range of southwestern Karnataka). Women there wear their saree with the end pulled over their shoulder and then pinned with a decorative brooch. This keeps the saree in place and is easy for free movement.
Throughout the space there were so many historical textiles on view. A personal favorite of mine was a gorgeous old embroidery sampler made by Pavithra’s grandmother—she even included her ABCs! The eight-pointed star patterns reminded me of a more Scandinavian style. The technique was very fine and detailed, and when I asked Vipra about it, she said that there is no one left alive who knows the technique. So it feels very special to see such an object.
The museum shop offers a variety of affordable handlooms, with table runners and towels being favored by many of the ladies in attendance. The museum also offers regular weaving courses. Pavithra encouraged us all to sign up, as our varying backgrounds each offer unique regional patterns that we can share. There are many common and repeated weaving patterns around the world—Pavithra supports a cultural sharing where we all can learn from each other.
About the Author:
I am a Pacific Northwest (US) native who has been in Bangalore for over three years now, happily married to my Indian husband. I’m trained as a librarian, and enjoy travelling, reading, writing and handcraft. My favorite part of Bangalore is all the parks and greenery.