The India International Centre played host to the cultural event, “Parsi Panorama”, organised by the UNESCO Parzor Foundation for Vulnerable Human Heritage in collaboration with the Craft Revival Trust, both based in New Delhi. The event comprised of an exhibition, a seminar, a three day workshop on Parsi embroidery, and a gala evening with renowned ghazal artiste Penaz Masani. This glimpse of Parsi culture was completed and complimented by its unique cuisine – tea and Parsi snacks were served on all the days and the event ended with an extravagant lagan-nu-bhonu dinner.
The exhibition was inaugurated on 12th March 2011, Saturday, by the Chief Minister of Delhi, Smt. Sheila Dikshit. The highlights of the opening ceremony, which was attended by the likes of Central Bank of India Chairman Mr. S. Sridhar, UNESCO Director for South Asia Mr. A. Parasuramen, Shahnaz Husain and Dadi Mistry, was the introduction of the TAPI publication Peonies and Pagodas, the first study of Parsi embroidery, edited by Shilpa Shah and Tulsi Vatsal. Parzor also released a Souvenir commemorating the occasion and providing an overview of its journey over the past decade.
The exhibition was truly a panorama of everything Parsi. Walls were adorned with photographs depicting the religious ceremonies: Jashan and Yasna, interiors of the Meherjirana Library and its manuscripts, scenes of people and palatial houses from field trips to Gujarat and the Deccan, the unique Tanka system of water harvesting and medical Hadvaid tradition, Parsi arts and crafts, and archival pictures from Parzor’s collection. Mannequins draped in majestic garas of every color and motif were peppered systematically across the gallery, with captions explaining their cultural significance. Also on display were a kusti (sacred girdle) weaving loom, a glorious embroidered toran or door frame hanging, tanchoi work, and furniture. The exhibition, curated by Ashdeen Lilaowala, was an embodiment of living tradition: all of the textiles and crafts on display were borrowed from the personal treasure troves of families across Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Jamshedpur, and would be returned after the exhibition to be used again by them. A small area was devoted to the revival work that Parzor has been carrying out in its attempts to create a modern market for the dying art of Parsi embroidery.
Keeping with the theme of living traditions, a seminar was organised on 13th March, Sunday, titled “Living Parsi Traditions: Origins, Fusions, Influences”. The speakers, Dr. Shernaz Cama, Prof Jasleen Dhamija, Dr. Tulsi Vatsal, Mr. Ashdeen Lilaowala and Mrs. Ava Khullar, shared and discussed various aspects, from Parsi crafts and their religious and ecological significance, to Parsi textiles in India and Iran, the practise of kusti weaving and the challenges faced while attempting to revive the art and spread it amongst craftspersons.
The three day embroidery workshop, from 14th to 16th March, proved to be a friendly, interesting gathering where all the participants worked diligently for nearly four hours, and came from different professions and places – from Ahmedabad to Iran! Special demonstrations of the difficult and precise art of kusti weaving and toran making were shown by experts from Navsari. The gala evening on the final day found a large crowd, riveted by the mellifluous music of Penaz Masani, who sang not only ghazals but also some Persian songs, Parsi monajats, a Sufi number and even a Punjabi song on popular demand! Padma Vibhushan awardee Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan was honoured at the ceremony and Mrs. Gursharan Kaur was the guest of honour.
The event thus encompassed a multitude of cultures and people, displaying the syncretic nature of Parsi culture which contributes to the tapestry of India.
To see more images of the Exhibition and Seminar, click here.
To see more images of the Workshops, click here.