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UK museum may return Vrindavani Vastra

By Correspondent

TEZPUR, June 8 - �If the Assam Government takes the responsibility of safety, security and insurance of the Vrindavani Vastra, the British Museum Authority will send it back to Assam,� said T Ricahrd Blurton, Head of South Asian Section, Department of Asia, British Museum, on Tuesday while giving a power point presentation on Vrindavani Vastra here at the Kalaguru Bishnu Rabha Auditorium of Tezpur University.

During the hour-long presentation-cum-talk on Vrindavani Vastra, he revealed that it is a drape woven by Assamese weavers during the 16th century under the guidance of Vaishnavite saint Srimanta Sankardev.

The large drape illustrates the childhood activities of Lord Krishna in Vrindavan. Parts of the original Vrindavani Vastra are presently owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and Musee Guimet (the Guimet Museum) in Paris.

The piece of cloth demonstrates the skilful weaving methods developed during medieval times and such complexity is rarely seen in present day Assam. �Assamese silk weavers depicted scenes from Bhagavata, Mahabharata, mainly of the childhood days of Lord Krishnalala on silk clothes under the supervision of saint, scholar and poet Srimanta Sankardev and his disciple Madhabdev during the 16th century.

Between 1567 and 1569, the cloth was taken to Bhutan and then later to Tibet, where European merchants brought it back to Europe. He said that the piece of Vrindavani Vastra was collected by a reporter of The Times, London and donated to the museum in around 1904.

Similar silk drapes are also possessed by other museums like The Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 2004, a similar piece of silk drape, probably designed by Sankardev during the 16th century, was put up for auction by the auction house of Christie�s in New York, with a reserve price of $120,000. This type of silk-weaving artwork was produced up to around 1715 in Assam and its neighbourhood and exported to places like Tibet.

He also said that the exhibit owned by British Museum, acquired in 1904 from Tibet, is nine-and-half-metres long and is made up of several pieces of silk drapes depicting Krishna�s (or Vishnu�s) life. Along with colourful pictorial depictions, it has a portion of a poem written by Srimanta Sankardev woven on it.

However, during his presentation, he said that there were futile efforts by government agencies of India to bring back the silk drape. During 2013, Assam Government requested British Museum to exhibit Vrindavani Vastra in London so that art lovers, researchers and local people with Assamese heritage can admire the piece of art. This textile is now on display till August 2016 in the exhibition �Krishna in the garden of Assam, the cultural context of an Indian textile� of the British Museum.

�If a decision is taken after the discussion with Government of India, Assam Government and the British Government then the British Museum Authority may hand over the drape to Assam,� he said.

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