Weaving together history and fashion, Vimor Museum of Living Textiles is Bangalore’s ode to textiles. The museum, located in Austin Town, opened in July this year and houses a collection of 50 rare sarees. The structure, done up tastefully with a red brick facade, is an initiative of Pavithra Muddaya—a textile connoisseur and a champion of handlooms. Along with her late mother Chimmi Nanjappa, she cofounded Vimor, a 45-year-old heritage saree store, which today shares space alongside the museum and her home in their residential complex.
“These designs and techniques can easily serve as inspirations for the next generation to recreate and revive. Hence, the name living textiles.” Pavithra speaks of creating a space to encourage artists from various walks of life. Draped in a crimson silk chequered saree, the 61-year-old adds, “Most of the sarees here are either your grandmother’s or great grandmother’s age. So it is something everyone can be identify with.”
The museum boasts of an impressive collection—some passed down as family heirlooms and some donated by family and friends. A tour of the space brings visitors face-to-face with handlooms from the country and the world over, which have also secured a spot behind glass cases and in chests. On display at the entrance is a bright pink annam jarithari saree woven in Tamil Nadu with motifs of the famous gandaberunda—a mythical bird with two heads which is also the emblem of Karnataka. The exclusive datthi seere, which were woven for children, has a length of just 3.15 metres. The devi sarees are woven on much smaller looms to suit the size of a goddess’ statue. There is also a rare Chanderi saree that has a width of a whopping 64 inches. A cream tissue brocade saree has a fine silk warp that is believed to be in Chinese. The design and weave of Simhasna Nankappa saree traces back all the way to Cambodia. While most of the pieces are supplemented with anecdotes of their history—which include the weaving process, techniques, materials and documented designs—some pieces lack information. Pavithra is happy for visitors and experts to fill in these gaps.
Artefacts of family heirloom such as the head scarf or vastra belonging to Pavithra’s grandmother, Subamma, add a personal touch to the museum’s textile collection. A weaver from Benaras is said to have recreated her hand-drawn design that consisted of a peacock on a branch and a beaded necklace in its beak. Embroidered in 1909 by Nanjamma Ballachanda, Pavithra’s paternal grandmother, is the kuri polla—a template made by young Kodava women while they learnt needlework. Splattered with 20th century motifs that include detailed vintage cars, biplanes and gramophones is another saree worthy of a mention.
There is a special section that depicts fabrics and textiles that are exceptional in terms of design and pattern. This includes the rare kasuti embroidery motifs of Hubli and Dharwad, a Naga Shawl whose honour of wearing it belonged to the family who hosted a ‘feast of merit,’ an heirloom phulkari cloth dating back to the time of Indian independence and a kotpad shawl worn by the Miriput community in Odisha. Notable among this is the tangalia shawl whose weave consists of twisting extra weft threads around warp threads, giving it the illusion of beadwork. Called daana weaving, this technique is over 700 years old and is native to the Dangasia community in Saurashtra, Gujarat. Knotting them intricately creates geometric patterns on both sides of the fabric.
Artist or not, innovation thrives in the art space and continues to inspire anyone who walks through the museum’s doors.
Vimor Museum of Living Textiles in Bangalore is open Thursday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; AdmissionRs250 for adults and Rs150 for children between ages 3-15.
Rashmi Gopal Rao is a freelance writer and travel-lifestyle blogger from Bangalore. A strong advocate of responsible and sustainable tourism, she loves exploring all things offbeat including native culture, art, craft, cuisine and local neighbourhoods.