Kanwarani Nitya Singh, or Bulbul as most in the royal fraternity know her as, is a much loved, exuberant textile revivalist who has made the fabric of Chanderi and its resurrection her raison d’etre. Born in the princely state of Sanand, Gujarat, a place known for its Goddess who blessed many legendary music maestros, including its ruler (her father) who was the guru of Pandit Jasraj, Bulbul grew up to the sounds of music and all things fine.
She got married to Sumer Singh from Garha in Guna, a jagirdari of the Scindia state, enjoyinga closeness to both Rajput and Maratha kingdoms. Bulbul, a true lover of classical music, while residing in her village learnt of the thriving weaves of Chanderi, also knowing first-hand of the rot that was setting in. “So many of the weavers were going off the hook to till land, work as labourers or rush off to the big towns of Bhopal and Indore,” she shares.
She decided to adopt a weaver’s school, inviting the artisans to create a full range of solid toned saris that she then got hand-painted and embellished with vintage borders. She shares, “Chanderi to the royals of our region is what chiffon is to our cousins in Rajasthan. It is the royal families that turned it into such a gossamer textile. I take the rich story a step further, adding vintage borders, embroidery and hand painting the three bastions of refinement patronised by women of noble blood.”
The weaving culture of Chanderi emerged between the 2nd and 7th centuries in the two cultural regions of the state, Malwa and Bundelkhand. The Chanderi sari tradition began in the 13th century. In the beginning, the weavers were Muslims. Around 1350, Koshti weavers from Jhansi migrated to Chanderi and settled there.
The tales of this celestial textile dates back to the times of Lord Krishna when his cousin Shishupal cited the use of Chanderi in the ancient literature. Also, one can find its mention in the old books like Maasir-i-Alamgir where Aurangzeb ordered the use of cloth embroidered with gold, silver and zari for making the khilat (a ceremonial robe or other gift given to someone by a superior). Chanderi textiles are fashioned by interlacing silk, and gold zari in the conventional cotton yarn, which results in the formation of the lavish, glistening texture.
For Bulbul, the weave is simply a canvas. “It is my playground where I create magical designs that we saw our mothers wear.”
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DECODING THE SAGA: MAHARAJA’S LOST DIAMOND NECKLACE RESTORED AND HOW
American YouTuber Emma Chamberlain recently appeared for the Met Gala wearing a ‘very gilded’ necklace around her slender neck. It allegedly belonged to the Maharaja of Patiala and was restored to its original brilliance by the Paris-based jewellery house Cartier.
T he world’s eyes once again got trained on our majestic maharajas and their jewels. All thanks to the appearance of social media queen and American YouTuber Emma Chamberlain who appeared for the Met Gala this year wearing a ‘very gilded’ necklace around her slender neck. Now, the theme of the gala was ‘Gilded history’ and the collar she wore could not have been more historic. Given that it allegedly belonged to the Maharaja of Patiala and was restored to its original brilliance by the Paris-based jewellery house Cartier not so long back. Netizens went to town calling it ‘colonial appropriation’. Popreset, who calls himself the pop culture god and is followed by 11k Instagrammers, claimed, “No shade to Emma since she is the Cartier Ambassador but, this is a very important historic piece that should have been returned to the Patiala royal family and not made into a fashion statement.” In defence of Cartier, leading author and historian Cynthia Meera Frederick claimed, “Cartier never said that it is the original choker or a reconstructed piece. There is no official statement on that.” To which yet another Instagrammer claimed, “There is nothing Indian about the necklace except that it was bought by an Indian potentate.”
Emma Chamberlain and Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala.
Indeed Cartier’s official press room has not made an official statement on its originality. It was in 1889 that Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala spotted and bought the seventhlargest diamond in the world, mined a year before in South Africa at the Paris Universal exhibition, gest diamond at the time. Bought from De Beers, it had a 428 carats pre-cut weight, and it weighed 234.65 carats in its final setting. It is the largest cushion-cut yellow diamond and the 2nd largest yellow-faceted diamond in the world. In 1925, the Maharaja travelled to Paris, bringing with him numerous trunks of precious stones: diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, pearls and rubies of the highest quality set in antique Indian settings, which he decided to have reset at Maison Cartier. The Maharaja commissioned Cartier to turn the De Beers diamond into an heirloom piece and make a ceremonial necklace with the diamond being its centrepiece. It was finally completed in 1928. The necklace has five rows of platinum chains embellished with 2,930 diamonds, including as its centrepiece the world’s seventh-lar. The necklace also contained seven other large diamonds ranging from 18 to 73 carats, and a number of Burmese rubies. This was the most expensive piece of jewellery ever made in history and it would have cost some US$ 30 million dollars today in its original form. The necklace disappeared from the Royal Treasury of Patiala around 1948. In 1982, at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva, the De Beers diamond reappeared. There, the bidding went up to US$ 3.16 million, but it is unclear whether it met its reserve price. In 1998, part of the necklace was found at a second-hand jewellery shop in London by Eric Nussbaum, a Cartier associate. The remaining large jewels were missing, including the Burmese rubies and the 18 to 73 carats diamonds that were mounted on a pendant. Cartier purchased the incomplete necklace and after four years, restored it to resemble the original. They replaced the lost diamonds with cubic zirconia and synthetic diamonds and mounted a replica of the original De Beers diamond. The fate of the choker worn by Emma though remains unknown. And, no one knows whether it disappeared with the necklace or if it was sold. It was the collar that Emma wore and what would have seemed like a proud moment for the Maharaja era, turned into another reason to scowl at ‘Imperialist Europe’. History has it that the Maharajas came out into the durbar flaunting the family jewels that were not just objects of desire but also a way to reflect the Princely state’s affluence and political well being. The Patialas were known for this practice and like their coffers, many toshakhanas went empty post-independence, especially when the privy purses got banned by the then government. As Cynthia admitted, “So many royal pieces were either sold or dismantled. This is, unfortunately, a sad reality which cannot be denied.”
Unveiling Vijaydan Detha’s ‘Timeless Tales from Marwar’
‘I’ll tell you a secret . . . A writer’s own experience, craft, imagination and thought have a limit, but the stories heard from the mouths of men and women have neither a limit nor a boundary. Neither a limit to storylines nor to the collective thought processes. Neither a boundary to the imagination nor to experience.’ – Bijji
A chronicler of Rajasthani culture and fondly known as Bijji, Padma Shri Vijaydan Detha’s collection of Rajasthani folk tales, the classic Batan ri Phulwari, have been produced as retellings in Timeless Tales from Marwar. Batan ri Phulwari, meaning ‘Garden of Tales’, is a fourteen volume collection of folk stories collected and written over nearly five decades. The literature of Rajasthan is usually thought of in the binary of khyaat and baat. Khyaat are the chronicles and praises of kings and rulers, while baat are imaginary tales that need not be historical. This collection falls into the latter category.
Vijaydan Detha was born in 1926 in Borunda, Rajasthan, in the Charan caste of bards and poets. One of the country›s most prolific and celebrated voices, his writings include more than 800 short stories, several of which have been translated into multiple languages. Detha’s timeless classics have also been adapted into major plays and movies, some notable ones being Paheli, Charandas Chor and Duvidha. Bijli collected all the stories in Batan ri Phulwari from Borunda and its surroundings. They were told by men who would sit around at the village chowk after nightfall, chatting and telling stories to one another.
In the book›s introduction, social activist Aruna Roy talks about this rich ‘oral tradition’ of storytelling in Rajasthan—one whose “every retelling adds textures, from one generation to the next for hundreds of years”. Vishes Kothari, who has translated the stories from Rajasthani to English, has attempted to conserve as much of the text›s regionality and orality. He has also sprinkled several Rajasthani words throughout the prose to keep it as close to the original as possible—for instance, mandana (a type of rangoli or mural art made on floors or courtyards in Rajasthan), choorma (a traditional Rajasthani dish made of crushed wheat flour dumplings with ghee), khejdi (the state tree of Rajasthan) and jharokha (an enclosed, overhanging balcony—a common feature in Rajasthani homes).
The stories range about everything from fortresses to castles, havelis and mansions, landlords, farmers, kings, constellations, trees, ghosts and animals. Each story begins with a quote talking about Bijji›s foray into the world of Rajasthani literature, progressively tracing his journey—from the time when he decided to start writing in his mother tongue, went back to his village and nurtured the craft and what he learned from his gurus. The book is also sprinkled with quotes by folklorist and oral historian Kamal Kothari providing his personal insights on collecting folktales.
Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of ‘Wanderlust for the Soul,’ an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world.
All her published work can be accessed on her blog www.nehakirpal.wordpress.com
STAYING HIP WITH KAMAKSHI SINGH
Meet Kamakshi Singh, the hip and fit scioness from the house of Trilokpur in Himachal Pradesh. A few years ago, this Himalayan princess adorned the arid sands of Rajasthan with her jovial charm as the kunwaranisab of Pokhran and is the mother of a beautiful little boy. The intense transition caused by her familial and maternal responsibilities gave Kamakshi a special impetus to renew her twin passions of fitness and culinary indulgence. Not only has she redefined the meaning of a healthy life, but has done so while retaining unapologetic food indulgences within her fitness routine. Rajputana Collective is honoured to feature the diva in her own words:-
“The two things that I couldn’t do without were sweating it out in the gym; and eating delectable restaurant-quality food. For more than two years, I had been working out consistently and was able to derive progressive results without switching to supplements or starving myself out.
I followed the simple technique of creating a caloric defict, not by eating less but by burning more. This way, I was eating whatever I wished to, and my affinity towards hitting the gym increased by manifolds.
In this pandemic scenario, I, like many others was devastated to be barred from the gym and eating out. In time, I realised that keeping priorities at bay and being ‘aatmanirbhar; was the best way forward. Hence, I began a home workout program with the online support of my fitness trainer. I also educated myself about callisthenics and was surprised to learn the scope of what I could achieve at home with minimal or no equipment.
Alongside this, my knack for experimenting in the kitchen made me try new recipes at home that were received very well by my loving family. I churned out an increasing range of treats under the label of EatWeaveLove and am motivated to share my handiworks with my friends and family. My husband is delighted to be at the receiving end of rich, fudgy brownies that he complimented me by equating with Theobroma!
Thus, it is the subtle art of health and wellness that has enriched my lifestyle and kept me driven throughout the lockdown.
Kamakshi readily shares one of her seasonal favourites for us all to try out in the kitchen and more importantly, to share the fulfilment that she derives out of baking:-
Mix 200 grams of ground Digestive biscuits with 100 grams of melted butter, and refrigerate this mould as a base. For the filling, mix 3 ground mangoes with 200 grams of cream cheese, 200 grams of whipping cream, 150 grams of powdered sugar and 15 grams of gelatine. Pour this filling into the biscuit base and refrigerate overnight!
ACTOR CHANDRACHUR SINGH ON HIS SPLENDID COMEBACK WITH ‘AARYA’
In 1996, he virtually made an entire generation groove to the pulsating beats of Chhappa Chhappa Charcha Kare in his debut film, Maacchis. His portrayal of a disillusioned, soft-hearted terrorist in the same film received many accolades including the Filmfare Best Debut Award. His second release, Tere Mere Sapne also proved to be a box office hit, and there was no looking back for Bollywood’s new chocolate boy ever since. A string of stellar performances followed, such as Daag – The Fire with Sanjay Dutt, Josh alongside Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan and Kya Kehna in tandem with Preity Zinta. It would be no exaggeration to state that each one of these films gained the status of cult classics, and what was once a new face had, within the span of four years, evolved into Bollywood’s teen sensation and heartthrob. And thus, Chandrachur Singh had arrived.
However, just when the young star was gliding upon his wave of success, a serious shoulder impairment, coupled with a series of box office setbacks relegated the critically-acclaimed and commercially lauded actor into an indefinite sabbatical. But Singh knew in his heart that a true actor must know how to sustain hiatuses in his/her career as long as he stayed true to his art. And just like the unyielding fizz in a cauldron of uncertainty, Singh would continue to rise.
His decade-long wait ended when Mira Nair cast him in her film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The following year, Kumar’s Zila Ghaziabad showcased Singh’s mettle, which had only strengthened over the years. But before he could heave a sigh of relief, his patience was fated to extend over another seven years before he dazzled his audience in his digital debut as Tej Sareen opposite Sushmita Sen in the currently trending web series Aarya on Disney+Hotstar. Ram Madhwanis ‘Aarya is loosely inspired by the Dutch drama series Penoza by Peter Bart Korthuis and has received tremendous praise for its finesse. Shot on locations in and around Jaipur, Udaipur and Mumbai, Aarya is a multi-layered project which delves way beyond its professed crime-thriller theme.
When asked about his pilot web series, Singh exclaims- “It was a wonderful serendipity! I have always been a huge fan of Ram Madhwani, so when the opportunity arose to be part of Aarya, I instinctively accepted the offer.” He goes on to share that incidentally, Madhvani had designed Aarya much before his signature hit, Neerja, and pictured Kajol in the lead. Singh was to collaborate with Sushmita Sen on three separate projects but all failed to materialize. “So I was rather pleased when I finally got a chance to be her co-star. I am a firm believer of the divine and feel that there is always a right time and place for everything”, he graciously adds.
In tandem, Singh concludes by sharing his perspective on the recent boom of OTT (Over The Top) media services: “Good quality work doesn’t necessarily need to be defined by any one particular medium. The OTT boom has definitely put the focus on stories; there is a lot of content-driven material that is coming out now. It is an interesting time for an actor, for there is no longer any typecasting as was the scenario earlier.
On the contrary, web series enable one with the liberty to enrich a character with multiple dimensions and creatively speaking, that is very fulfilling for an actor”.
A cinematic buff would be able to spot striking similarities in Singh’s account with Sam Mendes’ 1917, which won worldwide praise for its iconic cinematography and its singularly shot narrative, sans any cuts or retakes. Similarly, Anurag Basu’s Barfi! represented the commercial enchantment of Bollywood upon adapting various scripts and commanding them with instinctual spontaneity. Aarya is the understated national variant of a similar style, and displays the tremendous possibilities that artists know not only how to seize, but also create.
STUDIO KISHANGARH HAS BREATHED NEW LIFE INTO THIS MINIATURE SCHOOL
The exhibition opened with much grandeur as several royals made their presence felt.
It is not very often that the much-revered pichwais of Kishangarh find their way into the heart of the Indian, contemporary art scenario. Yet last Friday art lovers saw them unveil their beauty in full splendor at Bikaner House, New Delhi. Whilst Vaishnavi Kumari, the chief creator and curator of Studio Kishangarh has breathed new life into this miniature school.
Princess Vaishnavi Kumari, Aakash Chaudhry, Princess Diya KumariNirvaan Singh with Princess Mriganka Kumari of J&K and Kumar Saaheb Padmanabh Jadeja of GondolThe Portrait of IP, an artwork in collaboration with Mr. Him Chatterjee, who is a sublime Artist and also the Chairman of the Department of Visual Arts, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla.Haveli singersPrincess Sarveshwari Kumari with Their Highnesses Maharani Meenakshi Devi & Maharaja Brajraj SinghPrincess Diya Kumari of Jaipur, Princess Vaishnavi Kumari of Kishangarh and Khushboo BaggaStudio Kishangarh Artwork of Shrinath Ji
HH Maharaja Brajraj Singh & HH Maharani Meenakshi Devi
A forgotten art that grew under the patronage of the royal family of Kishangarh in the 18th century, it bloomed under the era of the two maestros, Bhawani Singh and Nihal Chand. In an era when the Mughals were driving away the practitioners of aesthetics, be it music, art or dance, evolved Rajput kings like Raja Savant Singh, who welcomed them into their court with open arms, giving them and their art a generous residency. The school is clearly distinguished by its individualistic facial type and its religious intensity. The sensitive, refined features of the men and women are drawn with pointed noses and chins, deeply curved eyes, and serpentine locks of hair. Their action is frequently shown to occur in large panoramic landscapes.
A carefully curated collection of stunning art pieces, ranging from pichwais that depict the majestic Shrinathji within the pristine setting of the Kishangarh Fort, verdant, majestic and rich in flora and fauna, to architectural art in hues of green to beige and a stunning installation that decodes every element of the pichwai, the exhibition opened with much grandeur as every royal made their presence felt. With Diya Kumari, the Princess of Jaipur, inaugurating the show, the opening night saw royal families of Jammu and Kashmir, Bhavnagar, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Nabha, Gondol, Patiala, Kapurthala amongst others enjoying haveli sangeet and absorbing the sheer beauty of the art.
Create A Mind or Beautiful Mind
When you have to represent an abstract form like intellectual property it requires metamorphosising the intangible into tangible and that’s just what renowned artist Him Chatterjee executed with his gentle but imaginative brush strokes. It required him to begin research with the help of celebrated IP lawyer Safir Anand, to come up with a portrait that depicts the soul of IP. The result was a painting that captured its nuances, both the genesis of knowledge and the interpretation of monetisation, as the colours reflect its effervescence. Mr Anand believes that IP can be given various means of expression, art, music, and food and should not be limited to just legality. The brain is the most important organ in the body and IP is about nurturing this treasure, thus, Him embarked on a research-based journey to present it through the depiction of the head, brain, eyes and nose, intermingling it with Hindu philosophy and almost humanising grey matter. The Gyan Chakra is placed on the head (circle and eyes), and the “H” and “Sha”, represent how everything will be destroyed in the end. The opposite triangle in the painting is about ‘balance’, an essential ingredient as intellectuality is lost without this potent force. Above the Gyan Chakra, the artist placed wisdom, without confusing it with the mind, as wisdom is not gyan it is the Brahma chakra. The egg in the portrait represents the source of creativity, or the fountainhead of ideas, placed judiciously in 1,000 petals, as IP’s job is to legally protect the brain from which emanates wisdom. Each part of the portrait is soaked in significance, whether it is the two hands holding the “Kalash”, which represents property, or the five leaves representing the five elements. The scriptures show Goddess Lakshmi holding a “pot” in one hand mirroring “property”, but here IP is not Lakshmi but Saraswati. The vibrancy of orange epitomises the power of knowledge as it is undeniably the ultimate deciding factor.
CULINARY INSPIRATION WITH DIVYARATNA SINGH MASUDA
Looking for some culinary inspiration? Look no further. “Cooking is a great stress-buster. Once you get into the kitchen and start cooking/ baking, you forget everything else and when you relish what you’ve made, it gives you a sense of accomplishment and the push that we are all missing in this lockdown”, says Divyaratna Singh Masuda, a 27-year-old who has been enchanting his friends and social media followers with the wonders churned out of his home kitchen in Ajmer. Known amongst his dear ones for his legendary jungli maas, he is a keen explorer of the rich Indian cuisine and enjoys preparing lamb burgers as his all-time favourite recipe.
An ex-Mayoite, Divyaratna completed his graduation from Sri Venkateswara College in Delhi, after which he began working in the field of PR and marketing for start-up restaurants. He then worked in the field of production before launching his own firm, ‘The Indian Roadster Co.’ to scout exotic, off the beaten tracks for inbound crews and those in search of unique travel itineraries around Rajasthan. A motorhead and rally enthusiast himself, Divyaratna has travelled across some of the remotest parts of the subcontinent. He is also a distinguished shooter with an impressive track record ever since he started shooting in 2008.
When asked about the inception of his passion for cooking, Divyaratna says, “my inspiration for cooking came from my food enthusiast father, as well as my own love for food. The satisfaction of feeding your friends and family encourages me to cook, especially for those who appreciate good food. I think my travelling also played an important role- wherever I went. I wanted to try the local food and learn how they made it and what local ingredients they used, which made every dish taste so different.”
1. Adraki Chaapein
10 Lamb Chops
1 Cup Curd
½ Cup Onions, finely chopped
3 Tbsp Ginger, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Garlic, finely chopped
1 cup Tomatoes, peeled & finely chopped
1½ tsp Black Pepper (freshly roasted & coarsely ground) Salt
4-5 Green Cardamoms powdered
1 tsp Javitri powder
1-inch ginger cut into Juliennes
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1. Whisk yoghurt in a large bowl, add all ingredients, except cardamom, mace and lemon juice, and mix well. Evenly rub the chops with this marinade.
2. Arrange the chops in a skillet or frying pan, pour on the remaining marinade, cover and let it sit for two hours.
3. Uncover the skillet/frying pan with the marinated chops, place it on the stove, bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce to low heat, cover and simmer until the chops are tender. Remove the chops and keep warm. Reduce the gravy until of sauce consistency. Then sprinkle the green cardamom and mace powder and stir. Remove, stir in lemon juice and adjust the seasoning.
Garnish with ginger juliennes.
2. Biryani Gulab-E-Nazakat
For the marinated mutton
6 garlic cloves, finely crushed
2½in (30g/1oz) piece ginger, finely grated
3 green chillies, finely chopped, with seeds
1 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder
1 tbsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground turmeric
For the crisp fried onions
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
For the gravy
10 whole cloves
2½ inch piece cinnamon stick
5 green cardamoms
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
Salt to Taste
For the rice
600g basmati rice, soaked in cold water for an hour
2 tsp salt
100g ghee pinch saffron soaked in 4 tbsp warm milk for 15 minutes
2 tbsp Rosewater
2 tbsp Kewra Water
10-12 Rose Petals
1 Chandi ka Vark
1. In a shallow bowl large enough to contain all the Mutton pieces, combine all the marinade ingredients. Toss to coat well and then set aside to marinate for an hour.
2. For the crisp fried onions, heat the vegetable oil in a sturdy pan or karahi over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onions and fry for 10–15 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Set aside.
3. For the gravy, heat Ghee in a Handi, Add the whole spices to the pan and fry for one minute. Add the mutton and its marinade, bring to a simmer, then stir in the tomatoes and salt. Simmer over medium heat until the mutton is cooked through and there is a thick gravy. Keep it warm on low heat while you cook the rice.
4. For the rice, drain the soaked rice and tip into a large pot of boiling salted water for 5-7 minutes, or until the rice is just tender but still firm. Drain well. The rice should be soft and break up at the edges, but stay firm in the middle.
5. Assemble the biryani straight away while the rice is still hot. First pour about three tablespoons of water and half of the ghee into a deep, heavy-based handi, then spoon in a third of the rice. Sprinkle over about a third of the saffron milk and rosewater, then spread with half of the Mutton mixture and a third of the fried onions. Add another third of the rice and repeat as above, using the rest of the mutton. Top with the remaining rice and splash with the remaining saffron milk and rose & kewra water. Set the remaining fried onions aside for now. Drizzle the remaining ghee around the edges of the rice so that it drips down the inside of the handi. Put it on dum for about 30 mins on low heat.
Serve with Raita.
3. Chocolate Fudge Pie
¾ Cup plain flour
¼ Cup butter, chopped into pieces
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
1¼ Cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ Cup butter, melted
50g plain flour
50g cocoa, plus extra to serve
50g Walnuts, chopped
50g dark chocolate, chopped ice cream to serve
1. Knead the flour, butter, icing sugar, cinnamon and 2-3 tbsp water until it comes together. Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 mins.
2. Heat oven to 180°C. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line a deep 9-inch loose-based tart tin. Leave the excess pastry overhanging the edges of the tin. Line with aluminium foil, fill with beans and chill for 15 mins.
3. Bake for 15 mins, remove the foil and beans, then bake 5 mins more until the pastry is crisp.
4. Beat the eggs and sugar together to create a mousse-like texture. Stir in the vanilla and melted butter, then fold in the flour and cocoa. Scatter the nuts and chocolate over the pastry case and pour the filling on top. Bake for 30 mins until firm with a slight wobble. Trim away the excess pastry and leave to cool.
5. Serve at room temperature or warm, with a scoop of ice cream.
Image, content and recipes courtesy: Divyaratna Singh Masuda
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