Get glimpses of Tagore family fashion, art

New Delhi: A showcase of the rich sartorial tradition of Rabindranath Tagore`s family in Jorasanko and a display of the digital print of his art works will mark celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of the Nobel laureate May 9.

These will be brought to the capital by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

The fashion dance theatre production, "The Sartorial Fashions of the Tagore Family or Thakurbarir Saaj Poshak", by dancers and mime artists showing the changing fashions in the last 150 years spearheaded by women of Tagore`s family will be inaugurated by ICCR president Karan Singh at Azad Bhavan Friday.

Singh will also unveil an exhibition of digital prints of Tagore`s works, a statement issued by the ICCR said Wednesday.

According to Suresh Goel, the director-general of ICCR, "the production will pay homage to the Tagore family for liberating women and making them at home in the world".

In 1858, when India was formally brought under the British Crown, western ideas received renewed vigour. There was already a decided Persian influence on the culinary, sartorial and aesthetic style of the Tagore family, which lived in a sprawling 18th century mansion, the Thakurbari in Jorasanko, an old residential neighbourhood in north Kolkata.

The Tagores revolutionised Indian aesthetics and fashion. The family included progressive members of the Brahmo Samaj, a liberal spiritual order founded by Raja Rammohan Roy.

The Brahmo influence allowed homemakers to find a place in the world outside, building the foundations of society, while maintaining their dignity and grace.

Rabindranath`s father, Maharshi Debendranath, designed dresses for young girls of the family, which combined tight pyjamas and loose tops in a blend of Western and Muslim sartorial styles. They were worn to school or to play.

In a book, "Women of the Tagore Household" (Penguin-India), writer Chitra Deb says, orders for the "peshoaj", a multi-layered Mughal outfit, were placed at a French shop and an "oriental" dress was stitched for Jnanadanandini, the wife of Tagore`s older brother. But the dress proved cumbersome.

The current style of wearing the sari with the shoulder drape and pleats also evolved from the experiments made by the ladies of the Tagore family who were inspired from styles of various parts of the country as well as Western fashion.

Kadambari Devi, wife of Rabindranath Tagore`s older brother Jyotirindranath, was the first woman in the household to ride a horse to the "maidan" in full riding habit, Deb says in her book.

The erudite woman, who was a skilled actress and musician, brought performing arts - especially theatre - to the household. The family made up the cast and plays were usually staged in the courtyard of the Jorasanko home.

Jyotirindranath Tagore also wanted to change the overall fashion trend of Bengali men. Most of his experiments were disastrous, like the fusion of the dhoti and trousers - nobody dared to wear this comical dress, except Jyotirindranath himself. Rabindranath Tagore was a trend setter too by adopting for himself a long loose robe influenced by the Sikkimese Baku and the Japanese Kimono.

The colourful dance theatre production, "Thakur Barir Saaj Poshak", has an accompanying audio-visual presentation, which captures the historical evolution of the Indian dress in the 19th and early 20th century Bengal.