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Early 19th Century
Place of origin: Kashmir
Materials: Pashm wool, woven
Dimensions: L: 608 W: 46 cm
Acc. no. 59.396
Not mere ensemble, textiles always had in India ritual significance and spiritual dimensions sometimes by implication but more often manifestly expressed. A textile, usually an unstitched sheet: cotton, woolen or silk, but also stitched, though in every case an upper wear, inscribed with the deity names, repeats of one, or multiple, or with some sacred 'mantra', is held in great reverence. Such textiles begin appearing in early 18th century and grew to immense popularity in 18th-19th. A deity-name was more often used motif of such textiles and were hence called variously 'Nama-chadar', 'Namavali Chadar', named after the particular deity such as 'Ramanami-chadar', 'Ganapati-chadar'... The artisans who produced such textiles inscribed the deity-names or the sacred syllables using different techniques weaving, embroidering, printing, painting among others. Such Namavali chadars or shawls were worn by devotees mainly during rituals.
This light green woolen namavali shawl, has been inscribed with words: 'Shri Kashi Vishvanatha Ganga' all over the field. Obviously it belongs to some rich Shaivite devotee, perhaps a king, for the shawl has been woven from 'Pashm', one of the world's softest and richest wools. Amazingly, despite such delicate nature of the medium, the inscribed text is hand-loom-woven. The pallu part, on both ends, has been differently conceived. Instead of inscription it consists of the anthropomorphic representations of Shiva and Parvati and their mounts. They are seated on tiger-skin under a large tree against a huge bolster. The shawl also has stitched on the side borders an additional woven tape. Breadth-wise the field has been divided into three rows length-wise, the space has been divided further into thirty-two small squares making the number, ninety-six. Each square has five repeats of 'Shri Kashi Vishvanatha Ganga'. Museums in India and abroad have quite a good number of Namavali chadars and shawls with names of Lord Siva and Goddess Durga inscribed defining a massive Shaivite tradition.