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Curated Submission
Orissa, India
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
650 x 117
Materials & techniques
Silk, gold thread; Plain woven, weft ikat, supplementary weft
Gift of Max Allen
Textile Museum of Canada T00.44.11

Indian silk saris elaborately decorated with gold thread are popular among Canada’s over 1 million residents of South Asian descent. In Toronto and Vancouver, where about 70% of the Canadian South Asian community live, there are entire neighbourhoods with shops and markets that sell saris as festive and everyday clothes.
Numerous and beautiful as they are, these saris rarely reach the high quality of the burgundy and gold sari woven by Binod Bihari Meher in the collection of the Textile Museum of Canada. Binod Bihari Meher is a textile weaver from the state of Orissa who, together with other local artisans, continues the ancient tradition of ikat and gold thread weaving. While participating in the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s (now the Canadian Museum of History) exhibition India, The Living Arts in 2000, he visited the Textile Museum of Canada and met Max Allen, one of the museum’s founders, who acquired this sari for the collection. The sari is woven from burgundy and grey silk in weft ikat technique. The grey silk shines like silver against the burgundy ground while real gold thread embellishes the borders.
One of the sari’s ends, the one that would be draped over the left shoulder and the left arm, includes an inscription in Sanskrit, a composition of mandalas (a symbolic representation of the universe) and swastikas (an ancient Indian auspicious symbol). The inscription reads: “Let him praise you Ganesha, Vishnu, Shiva, Durga and Surya; the five devas should not be made separate or one,” underlining the distinctiveness and unity of the five Hindu gods. Saris with such symbols are worn to visit temples for Hindu religious festivals. The sari also has a square undecorated section that would be cut off to make a short blouse to complete the outfit.
With gratitude to Antonija Behan for translating the inscription.

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