Though the shawl’s entire surface seems to glow with great lustre, it neither uses many colours nor a complex design-scheme. What transforms a plain length into this precious piece of ensemble is a single design-motif : a flowering plant consisting of three branches, one on the right conceived with two large flowers, a leaf and a few prominent stems, that on the left, with a flower, identical to those on the right, and a few shoots, and that in the centre, with three large leaves, two in saffron and one in red and a shoot. A pair of leaves, the larger one in red, and the smaller, in saffron, comprises the plant’s base. Entwined with the branch on the left and across the two leaves radiating from the branch in the centre there rises a slim tall creeper with three flowers atop reaching above the main tree motif. These flowers, red in the centre, and those flanking on sides, saffron, have been conceived with five petals, a form completely different from the flowers on the principal design-motif.
As in a Jamavar length, woven or embroidered, embroidery being the subsequently adopted method of creating patterns as were woven of old into a jamavar length, the entire field has been designed with the repeat of this single motif, a bold one with elaborate details rendered straight without complexity using a few colours : red, saffron, golden and deep maroon. The whole length has been divided into vertical stripes, each about twelve centimeters wide, consisting of eight repeats of the design-motif. These stripes have been so arranged that the linear effect that these repeats create is completely diagonal, neither vertical nor horizontal : the characteristic feature of a twill shawl, a style used initially by weavers but later, also followed by embroiderers for creating the effect. In this piece even if the eye strives to travel horizontally or to move along the breadth vertically, it inadvertently slips into channels which are diagonal. Twill is a design-perspective which drags the eye diagonally. Initially it was a feature of woven textiles but subsequently it intruded also into other realms, embroidery being all the more important; and, this piece is one of its very fine examples.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.