If there is one thing you learn as you walk the mystical ghats of Banaras it is inclusion. A veritable Sangam of people, cultures, emotions, and lives come together by the Ganges defying every written and unwritten law of discrimination. People of every shape, status, caste, creed, or nationality immerse themselves in the beauty of the Assi Ghats.
If there is one thing you learn as you walk the mystical ghats of Banaras it is inclusion. A veritable Sangam of people, cultures, emotions, and lives come together by the Ganges defying every written and unwritten law of discrimination. People of every shape, status, caste, creed, or nationality
Reliving this spiritual beauty is Shanti Banaras, a conscious weave-driven brand, based out of Varanasi and committed to speaking a socially conscious language of design. They handpick eight bold and vibrant master weaves to dress eight brave transgender people from Coimbatore in a photo essay called Akathya or inexplicable in Sanskrit. Each a celebration of colour, craft, and the rich culture of inclusion that the mystical city of Banaras is renowned for.
Fashion today is not just about all things pretty. A younger, socially aware shopper appreciates activism, inclusion, and a socially conscious story. LGBTQ and their world is becoming an important issue to speak up for. There are generous references to the transgenders in mythology. Shikhandi the warrior whom Devdutt Patnaik refers to as, “All those here there and in between,” in his book Shikhandi. There is Mohini the tempestuous temptress whom Raja Ravi captures in a stunning canvas. And Ardhanareshwar or Half male, half female or simply two dimensions of life longing to meet – outside as well as inside. As Jaggi Vasudev or Sadhguru likes to call Shiva in this avatar.
The team at Shanti Banaras travelled to the silent city of Coimbatore where thrives a movement of change brought about by an NGO The Change Trust led by Taslima Nasreen who is not just working to empower transgender people but training them in vocations that will ensure them a deserving place in mainstream life. She is also working with the NGO Small Differences that employs transgenders to run their food program for the poor and the sick.
“It’s incredible how each of these feisty people has risen above the ordeals of rejection to find a life of dignity for themselves. In our city co-existence is a way of life which this photo essay reflects,” shares Amrit, Creative Director of Shanti Banaras.
“Each texture of their life is as rich as our loom, handwoven in our atelier, and each shade of their life as bright as our weaves. It was incredible how they did such immense justice to the vibrant ochres, aubergines, and sunshine yellows we handpicked for them to wear,” adds Swatee Shah of Shanti Banaras.