On a veranda with intricately carved and

    Filigreed doors,

    Dancing lights and swaying shadows:


    Etched is childhood, at my grand-mom’s in Dehradoon.


    We children watched as the kathputliwala outside

    Made the kathputlis (wooden dolls)

    Swing up and down...up and down...

    Long shadows of tunics and lehengas twinkling

    In beauteous delight - kings, queens, peasants, priests,

    Villagers, horsemen and weavers at work, what a sight!


    How fabric and its motifs

    Flow along with time

    Moving through different stories of life, and

    Segue from play to community markers to

    Cosmopolitan ensembles!


    In Baghru and Sanganer motifs, says Ektaa Jain,

    A babool tree etched the wisdom of an older woman,

    Becoming the motif she carried on her dresses,

    While a lavang or clove that symbolizes fertility

    Was for unmarried women.


    The red bordered lehenga with yellow trim

    Gradually lost its red and the yellow disappeared,

    Representing stages in the wearer's life.

    In those times when women did not show their faces,

    Their identities were conveyed by their attire;

    To leave one's dress behind, was to forsake community,

    And could be ostracised.


    The spaces where these motifs were made using blocks

    Were first the home,

    And later the factories appeared,

    Creating changes in process, organisation and resource use.

    Water was scarce and pollution from printing a concern,

    So, methods changed over time.


    The creation of designs was carried forth

    In ancient oral knowledge

    Handed down from generation to generation,

    And the colours used were natural, not chemical,

    Gathered from plants, foliage, roots in the forest.


    The embedded wisdom and knowledge of centuries

    Is etched in the colours and motifs of our traditional

    Indian textiles and motifs.


    The borea (dangler) that adorns the parting of the hair,

    Was mostly worn by Kumhar women,

    As it symbolises a pot (kumhars were potters)

    The malli motif was sported by gardeners

    While the arrowhead with lines on top

    Were worn by ironsmiths.


    Nowadays, if you visit Baghru,

    You'll see people wearing these motifs

    In contemporary styles and fabric,

    Instead of clearly demarcated community wear,

    Marking a shift towards more fluid identities,

    A more open belonging,

    To communities and expanded social groups.


    *** The poem based on Dr. Ekta Jain’s presentation***


    Kathputliwala – Puppeteer

    Kathputli – puppets

    Baghru, Sangner – names of places in Jaipur, Rajasthan

    Kumhar – potter.  Mali – gardener.



    Poet: Smeetha Bhoumik

    Smeetha Bhoumik is a poet, artist, editor, founder - WE Literary Community, founding editor Yugen Quest Review and author of two poetry collections. Her poetry is going to the moon as part of Dr.Sam Peralta's Lunar Codex (an archive of global poetry, art, music & film), in the Polaris Trilogy anthology edited by Joyce Brinkman & team. As Founder-WE, Smeetha has established several WE Poetry Awards like the WE Kamala Das Poetry Award and WE Eunice de Souza Poetry Award among others. In art her major theme is the Universe Series in oils and mixed media. Her poems feature in national/ international journals, anthologies including The Polaris Trilogy - Poems for the Moon, 2023, Unlikely Stories Mark V, 2023,  TMYS Review- Stories & Poems on Food & Drinks, (Readomania, 2022), Sunflowers – Ukranian Poetry on War, Resistance, Hope, Peace (River Paw Press, 2022), Oxygen – Parables of the Pandemic 2022, Quesadilla & Other Adventures 2019, Muse India 2017, 2018, Life and Legends 2018, Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians– Sahitya Akademi, 2019, among others.


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