Meet the sari historian

Vimor, a store in Bengaluru offers a glorious glimpse of history of saris, the mother-daughter team's endeavour to revive ancient crafts, preserve family heirlooms and revitalise tradition

It is one thing to spot a tag on a sari that explains the technique of its weave, it's quite another to drape a family heirloom, a grandparent's memory, a forgotten generation's story, over your shoulder. Ironically, it was during visits overseas, over four decades ago, that 83-year-old Bangalore-resident Chimy Nanjappa first recognised the immeasurable value in every fold of antique saris that were otherwise destined to be discarded.

Chimmy, Founder of Vimor Saris Store shows the designs and collections
of saris at her store in Bengaluru.  Pic/ Satish Badiger

Recalling the birth of the enterprise that she became part of in the '70s, Chimy's daughter Pavithra Muddaya shares, "My mother used to work for the Cauvery Arts and Crafts Emporium and when she represented the Handloom and Handicrafts Export Corporation at fairs overseas back around 1965, it occurred to her that if foreigners could be made to appreciate the beads of culture that are woven into these garments, then shouldn't one get Indians to recognise their immense value too?"

That's when Nanjappa began experimenting with techniques that breathed new life into antique garments.

"She'd find creative ways to restore and revive old saris and then, eventually, she started selling these - just a small stock of painstakingly restored garments - literally out of a box at our home," recalls Pavithra, who tells us that around the time she started contributing to Vimor (in the 70s), an enterprise incidentally christened with the Indonesian word for Pavithra (Pure), "We started restoring temple saris - saris that people would donate to temples and that temples would eventually auction off - we'd touch up these antiques by patching up a torn border here or concealing damaged embroidery and metal stains there, all the time ensuring that the we stayed true to the traditional style."

Sourcing such garments became something of a challenge in due course however, Pavithra tells us, pointing out that they typically boasted a very traditional aspect, a feature that was representative of a specific period like, for instance, peacock and rudraksh-bead motifs. "Some saris even had the donor's name embroidered on the pallus," Pavithra recalls, as she tells us why they decided to start replicating and reviving these old weaves. "We felt there was a need to encourage weavers to retain the old techniques and to do this we needed to assure them of a steady income. We also felt it was important to instill a sense of cultural pride - to show the weavers that what they're creating is more than just a piece of apparel and that they're contributing to safeguarding a valuable piece of our heritage." Their collection therefore boasts only hand-woven saris with very intricate, traditional South Indian weaves. "We have revival-pieces, that resemble garments one may find at museums today," Pavithra smiles. "There are reproductions of temple saris and also, Cubbonpet, Ganduberunda, Lakshadeepa, Surte, Adike and Ghine saris, in cotton and silk, with prices ranging from Rs 1000 onwards. Heavier saris will be priced onwards from Rs 12,000."

"Years of documenting and studying these garments have earned Pavithra a reputation as something of a textile expert," says Radhi Parekh of Artisans Centre, whose family's association with Vimor spans back two generations. "Since I was a child, we always made a stop at Vimor whenever we were in Bangalore," Radhi recalls. "The workshop's a small space inside their home," Radhi shares, telling us how charmed she was by the framed images of motifs that adorned the walls of the modest space. "Each image bore a description explaining the root and significance of the motif," Radhi tells us, excited to be able to present the products of such passion to this city. "People trust us with their great-grandmothers' saris, so we really have to ensure that each garment, each weave, receives due respect," she adds. "When we sell saris like those we usually include the ancestor's story," Pavithra points out. The Revival collection displayed here won't include these naturally, but what you will get with each purchase however is an analysis of the weave, a small account of the region the style hails from and a private sense of satisfaction for having played your part in the preservation of our tremendous heritage.

Vimor, Number 49 Victoria Layout, Linden Street, old Ashoknagar Police Station,  Bengaluru
Call: 5551514

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