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Indore

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bridging worlds

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This installation showcases the flexibility and universality of the Maheshwari handloom textile by bridging its traditional and contemporary applications. The installation finds its inspiration in the iconic Boutet de Monvel portraits of HH Maharaja Yeshwantrao II and HH Maharani Sanyogitaraje Holkar. The portraits presented the couple in both traditional Indian and European looks. However, the attempt here is to bridge the historic binary of East and West.
the installation
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Notice the resplendent yellow Maheshwari saree on Maharani Sanyogitaraje. It is set against a simple, clean backdrop of ornamental and flowering plants. This saree was recreated two years ago by REHWA Society, a not-for-profit foundation working with weavers in Madhya Pradesh. It was named in honor of the Maharani as the ‘Sanyogita’ saree. The fine fabric used in this installation is made with the age old Maheshwari composition, Garbh Reshmi. With an intricate 2x2 check, the fabric in this design contains a twist, using silk and wool instead of silk and cotton which is the tradition. The sari is paired with a 'Nazneen' Varanasi silk brocade blouse by Sanjay Garg that features all-over 'jaal' of floral motifs.

Meanwhile, Maharaja Yeshwantrao’s portrait in European attire has him wearing a sharply cut white tie tuxedo with an elegantly structured cape.

The second part of the installation is a recreation of Maharaja Yeshwantrao’s cape, designed in collaboration with designer Sanjay Garg, using a lining of 4 pedal textile woven by WomenWeave in Maheshwar. The installation demonstrates the versatility of Maheshwari weaving in more contemporary applications.

a tradition of sustainability
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The exhibits here used natural, undyed yarns with the textile woven on a traditional handloom giving it a beautiful drape and softness.

know the craft
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know the craft
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The Maheshwari Textile

The Maheshwari handloom textile was established and patronized by one of India’s most iconic women leaders, Devi Ahilyabai Holkar, in the mid 18th Century.

In order to create livelihoods and skills in her new capital of Maheshwar, Devi Ahilyabai Holkar invited weaver communities to come teach her people the craft of weaving. The community of weavers that settled there due to her efforts were originally known to be from Mandu - weaving for the Mughals, what was then known to be the finest fabric of Madhya Pradesh. It is said that under her artistic guidance, the craftspeople made light fabrics, detailed with motifs derived from carvings on the Maheshwar Fort - a design directory in stone that they regularly used for inspiration.

Maheshwari sarees were traditionally made in colours like peacock blue, bright yellow, forest green and an Indian red dye called Aal. The pallus were designed with stripes of red, white and gold zari. Borders like Leheriya (wave), Narmada (the sacred river), Rui Phul (cotton flower), Eent (brick), Chatai (matting), Heera (diamond) - were all drawn from the Ahilya Fort and the adjoining river and woven seamlessly into the fabric.

Originally, the classic Maheshwari saris were only woven in pure cotton, 9 yards long, and with pallus at both ends - so when they frayed, the saree could be reversed and worn some more. That was the uniqueness of a Maheshwari sari - its elegant versatility and durability.

Brought to Life at

Maheshwar fort
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Located beside the sacred Narmada river, this imposing structure was turned into a Heritage hotel in 2000 by Prince Richard Holkar, a descendant of the iconic Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar and son of the last Maharaja of Indore. The Maharani ruled here from 1765 to 1796 and built Ahilya Wada, her personal residences, offices, and darbaar audience hall within the fort. Today, the hotel has 19 rooms set in six buildings of the 18th century, with various modern amenities.

Brought to Life with

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  • Cape and blouse designed by Sanjay Garg of Raw Mango and woven by WomenWeave
  • REHWA Society
royal patronage today
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The Holkar family has patronized Maheshwar’s weavers for over 250 years. In the modern era, they have done this through the not-for-profit organizations REHWA Society (www.REHWASociety.org) and WomenWeave (www.WomenWeave.org). A key intervention in keeping the Maheshwari weaving tradition alive has been to push the boundaries of design and application, while still keeping the textile rooted in its history and heritage.

about the designer
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Sanjay, of Raw Mango, grew up in Mubarikpur, Rajasthan. His appreciation for aesthetics began with an understanding of rural Indian sensibilities. His unique textile language was realized through his work in Chanderi, enabled by the Textile Ministry and weavers of Madhya Pradesh.

Committed to experimentation, he constantly engages with established rubric to imagine new possibilities. His innovations are grounded in tradition and suffused with opinions rooted in India's dynamic cultural and political landscape. An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Craft & Design, and the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Garg is a vocal textile advocate whose designs have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and at the Victoria & Albert Museum (London).

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