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Braided into the image: ritual depiction and continuous fabrication at Ajmer

Prizeman, Oriel Elizabeth Clare ORCID: 2016. Braided into the image: ritual depiction and continuous fabrication at Ajmer. Presented at: The European Association for South Asian Archaeology and Art, Cardiff, 4-8th July 2016.

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Within a first floor room of a factory housed in the Gangadhar Ji Ki Haveli in the Naya bazaar of Ajmer, India, a loom is restrained by a rope bolted through the centre of a fictive scene painted on the wall to keep the machine in position. The painting has been identified as depicting the “celebration of the ninth or tenth day of Dasahra in Jaipur” and shows a “puja to the royal vehicles of war -- elephants, horses, camels, carts, palanquins, etc”. The paintings are in a Jaipuri tradition, either early 19th or possibly late 18th century. The puncture appears to be sensitively positioned, through a blank middle ground of white. We were told at the factory that their products; “all kinds of Gota Fancy Jari and Metallic Goods” are mainly sold to the many thousands of pilgrims visiting the Dargah at Ajmer annually. Should the relationship between the painted scene and the mercantile activity supported by ongoing ritual traditions be regarded as a poignant overlayering or a serious conservation risk? A ruinous neighbouring site shows the economic threats at hand. Arguably the makeshift canopy over the inner courtyard, erected to facilitate the storage of materials has saved this building from obsolescence. The presence of the machines may even be seen in a positive light; ensuring that the frescoes are not overly impacted by high levels of humidity from modern domestic activity. The pigments are protected from natural light by permanent shades. In addition, its connection with the weaving, the ritual traditions of dress and occasion that surround the Dargah, make a literal thread from past to present, albeit transformed into “Rayon, Nylon and Metallic Yarn”. Nevertheless outside, the indifference appears more concerning, the elephants flanking the entrance are already half rendered in cement. On the face of it, it might be assumed that conservation management must begin and activity be suspended. However, it may also be read as a demonstration of specific path of continuity, an economic business model upheld by the ritual significance and almost unique cosmopolitan spiritual activity of the city itself.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Publication
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Architecture
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
N Fine Arts > NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
Funders: AHRC, ICHR
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2022 10:58

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