Canopies for the Goddess

Indian Textile Art
  • 13 December 2013 - 13 April 2014

    “Canopies for the Goddess” is the name given to large-scale illustrated textiles inGujaratwhich mark a sacred place for the veneration of goddesses. These printed or painted textiles tell of the deeds of the twenty-armed goddess Vihat, the buffalo-killing goddess Khodiyar, or Bahuchara Mata, who is often depicted riding a giant cockerel.    

    Men of the semi-nomadic community of the Vagri have been producing these beautifully worked illustrated textiles for many generations in the city ofAhmedabad, one of the oldest and most important textile centres in the world. As rag-pickers, seasonal workers, peddlers and ropemakers, they lead a socially marginalised and precarious life. The buyers of the textiles are also underprivileged groups such as street cleaners, donkey drivers or camel and sheep herders, all people who in former times were excluded from attending orthodox Hindu temples. The ‘temple cloths’ are gifts to their goddesses, offered to obtain well-being, children and success, and protection from illness. The Vagri use them to decorate their simple shrines, made from pounded earth and otherwise devoid of religious images, and to make the canopies and tent walls that mark out the boundary of the sacred district, separating it from its mostly inhospitable surroundings. The cloths also serve as invitations to the goddess to come there to perform her rituals.

    The exhibition showed a selection of these extraordinary textiles from the important collection which the former director of the museum, Dr Eberhard Fischer, recently gave to the museum. It offered a glimpse into the techniques and production processes, their religious iconography and ritual use.

    Exhibition in the media

    “Das Foulard der Übermutter”
    (NZZ, Philipp Meier, 23/12/2013)

    Kunst für die Göttinnen”
    (Der Landbote, Angelika Maass, 19/12/2013)

    “Tragbare Tempel für indische Göttinnen”
    (SRF, 12/12/2013)

    “Himmelszelte für die Göttin” 
    (kultur-online.net, 29/11/2013)

  • Highlights of the Exhibition


    Media More»
    Exhibition handout Download (pdf) »