Chandarvo: Textiles for Goddesses

Prof. BN Goswamy

If one were to come upon, suddenly, a piece of paper with these lines scribbled on it, I wonder what one would be able to make of it even if one knew some Gujarati:
“Vadibhai 24.177
Chandarva navakhanda 72” pano 4 mitar lamba ek pania
Sara rang ma, saama modha ni banyo
Bakra 3, pada 3, sikotar 2
Pava 2, sandhani 2, bethak vihat 2, hadkai 1
Rupaya 31.20 baanaana
Chandarva nang ek no bhav rupaiya 103.”
But things begin slowly to fall into place when one begins to decode it: with help, of course. It is an order placed by a client with a printer/painter, specifying details of what should be depicted on the chandarvo — textile with ritual representations of the goddess — that he is ordering. After recording the client’s name and the date, it says the rendering should be in nine columns/registers, height 72 inches, length 4 metre; everything should be in good colour; the face should be frontal; there should be three goats, three water buffaloes, three renderings of the Mother Goddess Shikotar; two seats with (the goddess) Vihat and (the goddess) Hadkai; an advance of rupees 31.20 has been paid; the rate is one hanging for 103 rupees.

But, as I said, for decoding, one needs help, as virtually nothing in the document is familiar to ‘outsiders.’ The names of the goddesses — Shikotar, Vihat, Hadkai — sound so alien; the need for a specific number of goats and buffaloes to be depicted remains unclear; why the main goddess should be seen strictly as facing the viewer, is unexplained. My own limited understanding of it all came from a relatively slim volume in German that was published some thirty years ago and has remained something of a benchmark. For it broke virgin ground and established fresh standards of research in the field. Tempeltucher fur die Muttergottinen in Indien — meaning ‘Temple Textiles for the Mother Goddesses in India’ — was part of its rather long title, the subtitle adding “rituals, production, and iconography” in

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