Guwahati, March 22: The Assam government today expressed its inability to bring a historically important tapestry back to the state owing to certain preconditions imposed by its current owner, the Victoria and Albert museum in London.
Skilled Assamese weavers had woven the unique tapestry, Vrindavani Vastra, in the sixteenth century under the supervision of Vaishnavite saint Srimanta Xankardeb.
Replying to a question raised by BJP legislator Ranjit Kumar Das, cultural affairs minister Pranati Phukan told the Assembly that the state government did not have detailed information about the current owners of Vrindavani Vastra pieces. “But it has come to the notice of the government that the Victoria and Albert museum in London and another museum in Paris have it. Though the government had made an attempt to acquire the Vrindavani Vastra a few years back through Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra, the initiative could not bear fruit because of strict pre-conditions set by the London-based museum,” she said.
“It seems even getting a glimpse of the vastra is tough, as the museum has imposed rigid pre-conditions regarding security and insurance on any damage,” she added.
She said she had also written a letter to the central government on May 29 last year on the issue but was yet to get a response.
Vrindavani Vastra is the name given to silk textiles from Assam that depict scenes from the lives of avatars of Vishnu along with scenes from the Ramayan and Bhagvad Purana. These textiles were first woven between 1567 and 1569 under the supervision of Xankardeb and the cloth depicts scenes from Krishna’s childhood home of Vrindavan.
According to researchers, the Vrinadavani Vastra was first taken to Bhutan and then to Tibet before being shipped off to Europe by European merchants. There are reports that the Vastra is also kept in Musee Guimet in Paris.
Replying to a question on whether the cabinet had taken any decision to put pressure on the central government on the issue, Phukan said the government had not thought about it. She, however, said if genuine pictures of Vrindavan Vastra were made available, the government would preserve the same in all district museums of the state.
Das, who had raised the question, said Phukan’s reply had been very casual. “The minister was expected to be serious on such a serious and sensitive issue,” he said.