Temple Tents for Goddesses in Gujarat, India is a monograph on printed and painted canopies and awnings used by some underprivileged groups in Gujarat to erect temporary sacred spaces to perform ceremonies invoking goddesses.
The book is based on an exhibition catalogue (in Germen) the author produced in collaboration with Jyotindra Jain and Haku Shah in 1982 for an exhibition at the Museum Rietberg in Zurich.
The first part introduces 52 matano chandarvo textiles that belong to the textile collection of the Museum Rietberg. Production, iconography, function and distribution of these fascinating textiles are discussed in parts 2-7 (plus appendix), supported by photographs which were taken by the author in the late 1960s to 1982.
Dr Eberhard Fischer is an art historian and cultural anthropologist. He was Director of the Museum Rietberg Zurich from 1972 until 1998. Since 1965, when he first went to India on a teaching assignment at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, he has continuously worked in India - from Gujarat to Orissa, from Himachal Pradesh to Kerala. He collaborated with many distinguished Indian scholars including - besides Haku Shah and Jyotindra Jain - B. N. Goswamy, Dinanath Pathy, Balan Nambiar, G. Venu, Vijay Sharma and V.C. Ohri on joint ex- hibitions as well as publications. In 2011 he was the producer of Amit Dutta's film Nainsukh, the 18th century Pahari painter.
He received Padma Shri in 2012.
Jyotindra Jain formerly Director of the National Crafts Museum was Professor of Arts & Aesthetics at Jawahar lal Nehru University and head of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. New Delhi. A Visiting Professor at Harvard University, his publications include Tradition and Expression in Mithila Painting (1996); Other Masters:Five Contemporary Folk and Tribal Artists of India (1998); Picture Showmen: Insights into the Narrative Tradition of Indian Art (1998); and Kalighat Painting: Images from a Changing World (1999).
Exhibition curated by him include Raja Deen Dayal: The Studio Archives ( ew Delhi. 2010-11); Other Masters of India (Paris. 2010); and Indian Popular Culture: -The Con- quest of the World as Picture”, shown in India. Germany. France. Finland. Spain and Japan between 2003 and 2011.
He received the Prince Claus Award in 1998.
Haku Shah is a painter, cultural anthropologist, designer, photographer, curator and a Gandhian. An author of international repute on folk and tribal art, he established a tribal museum in Ahmedabad. He has curated several exhibitions on Indian folk and tribal arts across the world including Unknown India in 1968, organized by art historian Stella Kramrisch at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His collaboration with Eberhard Fischer started at the NID in 1970 with the book Rural craftsmen and their work. He also has films and several children's books to his credit and has taught at various art and design schools across the world including UC Davis as a Regent Professor.
Haku Shah was the first to explore the printing of temple tent hangings in Ahmedabad in 1962 and owns a well- known collection of such textiles.
He has received several awards including Padma Shri in 1989.
It all started many years ago. I was brought up in a family of collectors. When I was a boy of about five, my grandfather, the physical anthropologist Eugen Fischer, showed me proudly "his" collection in the Ethnographic Museum of his home town Freiburg i.Br. He had assembled in 1910 these objects of daily use in Namibia for the then newly founded institution that was linked to the University of Freiburg i. Br. My stepfather, Hans Himmelheber, a renowned German art-anthropologist, collected ethnographic and zoological material in West Africa for various research institutions worldwide, and also gave works of art collected in West Africa in consignment to commercial art galleries. Thus it was natural for me to become a "collector" too - starting with stamps, minerals, snail shells etc. and preparing a herbarium and collecting butterflies. I started to prepare lists and catalogues of my collections when I was still in primary school.
Later, while I was an anthropology student at Basel University (1962-65), and was working part-time at the local Ethnographic Museum (now called Museum of Cultures), I imbibed the ideas of my professors, who taught that in this period of industrialization and general "acculturization" of indigenous cultures worldwide, it was of prime importance to collect samples of "material equipment of all traditional cultures", especially all those objects that were under threat of being "lost". We, the students of Prof. Alfred Buhler, understood in the 1960s that the major obligation of our generation of ethnographers was to collect and document all kinds of specimens of human endeavour that, without our generation's efforts, would be lost forever "from global memory". A kind of encyclopaedia of mankind's material culture was not only to be described and photographed but also to be assembled as real sample objects. Similar to biologists, who care today for biodiversity (and build up seed-banks and raise endangered species in zoos), we felt that it was our responsibility to add our share to the recording of the diversity of humanity's cultures by collecting information on various kinds of human achievement. and find them homes in museums of culture. Being specifically trained in rural ergology and technology, it was but natural that we, from the Ethnographic Museum Basel, collected during our fieldwork and trips for our Alma Mater ethnographic objects that had been abandoned or neglected by their owners for whatever reason. Such objects included terracotta, woodwork, leatherwear, household utensils, jewellery, workshop tools and, of course, textiles, especially those types from which costumes were designed, but which by then were on the brink of disappearing.
Prof. Alfred Buhler had been a great collector of ethnographic material in Indonesia and Oceania - like his predecessors as directors, curators and presidents of the Basel Ethno- graphic Museum, the ethnographers Felix Speiser, the Sarasin cousins, and Paul Wirz. All my classmates and friends from the Ethnology Seminar in Basel who received training under Prof. Alfred Buhler and Prof. c.A. Schmitz in the early 1960s have collected ethnographic objects extensively during their fieldwork trips: Reimar Schefold in Mentawai, Indonesia; Christian Kaufmann in New Guinea; Hermann and Annette Landolt in Iran; Marie-Louise Nabholz in Spain; Urs Ramseyer in Bali, Indonesia; Gerhard Baer in Peru; Annemarie Seiler-Foote in South America and Renee Boser in West Africa. All of us were taught that documenting material culture during fieldwork and collecting the same for museums was our duty.
We were not taught to be selective -looking only for outstanding samples, singling out extraordinary pieces - while collecting, though the most perfect, most embellished or most simplified etc. specimens of an "object-type" should certainly not be missed out. We were inspired to assemble groups of works that showed the diversity of forms of a given kind of object that exemplified as a group all the technical details of their production, that showed the entire variety of forms and decorative elements, and that represented the various possibilities of functions, meaning and use etc. Our credo was not to collect "everything" that was available, but to assemble always from specific material genres (be it costumes, utensils like spoons, combs, nets, suspension hooks, votive offerings, architectural parts etc.), the largest available formal spectrum exemplifying their diversity.
Thus it was but natural that I started to collect the textiles that are part of this collection during my first stay in Ahmedabad in 1965-66 and again in 1968-71. (A few outstanding pieces were added in the 1980s.) I intend to say more about the general economic and cultural situation in Western India in those days in another volume in which I shall be presenting the embroidered textiles from Saurashtra and Kutch. Here it may suffice to mention that all the canopies and temple hangings discussed in this volume - except for the contemporary works of Vaghi and his family members - were purchased in Ahmedabad at the shop "Saurashtra Bharat Kala Mandir" (later known as "Saurashtra Handicrafts"), belonging to Becharbhai Madhavji and his nephew Manubhai Chaganbhai.1 passed many a weekend and evening with them, leisurely looking through the goods they had recently acquired, putting aside whatever I found to be interesting for a purchase, discussing their quality and origins. With time, I was considered not only a good customer but also a friend. As early as in the first month of my stay, I was accepted by Becharbhai's relatives (Shivabhai, Chaganbhai, Magganbhai and Popatbhai) as a family friend and was invited to participate in various kinds of family events. I travelled with them to their native place in Saurashtra, was part of their sons' wedding troupes, went with them on pilgrimages or participated at their Swaminarayan arati prayers. Without them and their families, I would often have felt quite lonely in these years.
l was often fortunate to have the first pick of these textiles at Becharbhai's shop. But at the same time, it must be mentioned that Becharbhai's and Manubhais loyalty always remained with their two older customers: any newly acquired piece was always offered at first to Smt. Gira Sarabhai to give her the option to purchase it for the Calico Museum of Textiles (now part of the Sarabhai Foundation). My friend Haku Shah, who had introduced me to them, also enjoyed a very special status in their customer hierarchy. Hakubhai owns a similar, probably even more exquisite collection of figurative textiles than what I am able to publish in the present volume! There was also (as the third rival purchaser) the procurer of a Mumbai-based antiquity firm, a friendly and jovial Muslim, who turned up regularly, and who was a much-liked customer at all the crafts shops in Ahmedabad. Fortunately for me, he did not come very often.
As far as I remember or witnessed, old canopies for the mother goddesses did not appear on the market during the early years of my stay in Ahmedabad, while I was teaching documentation of rural crafts at the National Institute of Design for one year (1965/66). They were, however, being produced regularly by several Vaghri printers, working on the pavement of the street leading to the main post office in Ahmedabad Shahpur. Only in later years, did used or old and abandoned specimens turn up, brought, along with embroideries and textile rags, by Vaghri peddlers from Saurashtra. But in the late 1960s the quantity of "historic" canopies on the market was very scant.
When I arrived in Ahmedabad for the first time in 1965, the brochure Mata ni pachedi, edited by Joan Erikson, had just been produced as a maquette (and was printed in 1968). The brochure was based on studies that my colleague Haku Shah, already then a respectable painter, had undertaken as his first assignment at the National Institute of Design. The time therefore was not appropriate for me also to work on this topic a second time with, hopefully, more, erudite research. Thus I turned my attention to other themes, but could not resist collecting such textile pieces (which are with my entire "first" collection now in the Basle Museum of Cultures). It so happened that one day, having found out that some extraordinary temple hangings in the Calico Museum were not from the Ahmedabad workshops, I did my best to trace their production centre in Saurashtra. With the help of Becharbhai Madhavji, I succeeded in locating the, till then unknown, chandarvo printers in the village Bhingrad (Lathitaluka in Saurashtra) in 1968 and could also photograph such canopies in shrines belonging to the Vaghri community, scattered in surrounding villages. I have never bought chandarvo textiles on my documentary tours - though is was hard not to do so. All textiles photographed in situ remained strictly whith their owners.
Early in 1972 I became the director of the Rietberg Museum in Zurich, a museum of Non-European art with little focus on textile collections (except for a few antique Coptic and Peruvian pieces). I felt obliged to preserve its integrity as a museum of sculpture and painting as it had been conceived by its founder-donor Baron Eduard von der Heydt and maintained by my two predecessors Johannes Itten and Elsy Leuzinger. Therefore I kept my textile col- lection in our own cellar all these years for the time after my retirement, thinking already then that" in myoid age" I would happily take up once again the hobby of my youth, of enjoying the handling and analysis of textiles.
During my first year as the director of Museum Rietberg, I prepared an exhibition "Tribal. folk and classical arts of Gujarat" (Helmhaus, October 1972).ln the following years, my wife Barbara and I travelled regularly to India and often spent time in Gujarat, always visiting the Becharbhai family shop and homes - and discovered with them some of the most interesting chandarvo pieces, which were then available for the first time. As these textiles were less than hundred years old, no restrictions were imposed by the Indian government regarding their export.
By then, I was certain that this splendid group of scantly researched Gujarati textiles should be documented better. In 1973 Haku Shah made it possible for Barbara and me to participate for the first time in a ceremony that took place in a shrine where chandarvo textiles were hung. A few years later, in 1977, when my friend Jyotindra Jain was also settled with his wife Jutta in Ahmedabad as the director of the Shreyas Folk Museum, Jyotindra organized for all of us to participate in another such ceremony in the outskirts of Ahmedabad. ln those years animal sacrifices had not yet been banned by the Government of Gujarat, but already by then, objections were being raised in the neighbourhoods of shrines with such a tradition. We were lucky that there were no interferences and we could witness the rituals undisturbed.
Barbara and I also travelled to various sites in Ahmedabad district and adjacent Saurashtra from where we had information that such temporary textile-shrines existed. In early 1981, when I purchased the first colourfully painted chandarvo from Becharbhai and was told "that it came from Jarnbusar", Haku Shah and I immediately rushed to this town to find out more about this important production centre. We met the two masters working there and saw several shrines where the works from their workshops were kept.
As l felt at that time that I would not be able to assemble more information on this group of textiles in the near future, I decided to publish the results of our work and organize an exhibition with an accompanying monograph. Jyotindra Jain, at that time in Germany, kindly transliterated and translated carefully the song-text recorded by Barbara at the ceremonies. He also made the vernacular Gujarati literature on various goddesses available and sent me excerpts of the relevant portions. I was also in contact by mail with Haku Shah for discussions of the" correct" understanding of textual details. All this collaboration resulted in the German catalogue Tempeltucher fur die Muttergottinnen in Indien with the three of us as authors, which was published in 1982 by me to accompany the exhibition organized by the Rietberg Museum.
In the following year, Smt. Pupul Jayakar, then adviser to the Prime Minister and herself a great connoisseur of Indian folk art and textiles, suggested that a translation of this monograph into English be made. She even organized funds for a translation; but, to my regret, a final manuscript and publication did not materialize. Also, unfortunately, the German catalogue remained more or less unnoticed by the international community of textile researchers, collectors and Indian scholars.
Thirty years have passed since Tettipeltucher fur die Muttergottinnen in Indien was first published. Now that all my textiles are in public possession and available on the webpages of the Rietberg Museum (www.Rietberg.ch), a new introduction to this fascinating textile genre is necessary, and I have decided to bring out a new catalogue, this time in English. But the present book is not simply a translation of the 1982 exhibition catalogue. I have reorganized and revised the ethnographic material; the entire collection of textiles has been newly photographed and now catalogued piece by piece; colour illustrations from slides that I took during my fieldwork have been added etc. The focus is now on the Rietberg collection. For comparative material from other collections the 1982 book is still to be consulted. This is the first volume of a planned series of textile catalogues of the Rietberg Museum's holdings.
I wish to express thanks to many persons in India - friends and colleagues for nearly five decades, since the time of my one-year stay in Gujarat at the National Institute of Design in 1965/66.1 am especially indebted to Smt. Gira Sarabhai, who called me to India when I was a Ph. D. candidate in Basel and encouraged me to pursue textile research, and to my oldest Indian friends, Haku Shah and his wife Vilu, with whom I have done many months of fieldwork in Saurashtra, Kutch and Surat regions. It was Hakubhai who introduced me to the Indian ways of life! Furthermore, I remember with gratitude the hospitality and friendship of Anjali Mangaldas, Kamal Mangaldas, Leenaben Sarabhai Mangaldas, Vimal and Sarla Shah, and Becharbhai Madhavji and family. My gratitude is also due to Asha Cariappa, Prem Bery and Gita Bhatia for their friendship during my second stay in New Delhi and Ahmedabad from 1968 to 1971, when I was a representative in India of the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, and, in the years that followed, especially to Jyotindra and Jutta Jain, Brijinder Nath Goswamy and Karuna Goswamy and Dinanath Pathy, all of whom have made my professional work in India in all these many years a joyful and productive experience.
Barbara and I are happy that my textile collection has found a home in the Rietberg Museum, and it is exciting that the chandarvo textiles will be displayed there as the first lot in a special exhibition, coinciding with the launching of this book! We thank my successor as the museum's director, Albert Lutz, and the senior curator of Indian art, Johannes Beltz, for their support of this project. Nanny Boller has inventoried all the textiles for the Museum's website, and has helped me most kindly in many matters concerning this publication. The very large pieces were photographed in the Abegg Foundation, Riggisberg by Christoph von Viragi, for which I thank him and the foundation's president, Dominik Keller. Very fragile pieces were backed by the textile conservator Monika Wieland.
A translation of the German monograph of 1982 was prepared for me by Eddie Walker. My initial drafts of additional chapters in English were made more readable by Chandra Holm, who also detected a couple of shortcomings and kindly corrected them. The final copyediting has been done by Julie Pickard (London). whose professional help I greatly appreciate.
The graphic designer Elizabeth Hefti - with whom to work is such a pleasure - was in charge of the entire book production with Thomas Humm providing us with good scans of the slides and negatives. The book has been printed by Mr Bikash Niyogi in New Delhi for Artibus Asiae and his own publishing house, Niyogi Books.
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