Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
In primary school one school teacher talked of the ‘bottom drawer’ in which a girl puts in all the things she wants to take with her to her second home. That was the first seed of the thought of a dowry.
The concept was introduced through the channel of the things we collect and not through the channels of the prince or the state of being in love or through the promise of a new life. Things. Good old material things.
And so the idea of a dowry took shape in a materially romantic way, while alongside the media shaped the idea of the dowry in a bad way – presenting the social evils of gender-based power play that prevailed.
So the dichotomy resulted in two separate ideas forming in my head. While I would never allow demands of a dowry in any life connected to mine, I have always enjoyed the concept of all that it stands for. Two faces of my thinking on dowries.
What does a dowry mean to me?
It is the dream of a young girl of a future of her own little queendom. Her territory. Her jurisdiction. Her people. Her babies whose body and soul she would feed and nourish; and teach how to roam the world with freedom and responsibility and joy and laughter; and take joy from their little achievements and cry from their little failures. And her husband and his family whom she would look after and care for. And with all these dreams that would turn into actions, the lives of all her near and dear ones would be interwoven and held together as memories forever. These are the dreams that are dreamt as she makes her dowry. The soul she infuses into those dreams is also infused into the dowry pieces that she is making for use in that future life. And the joy that comes with imagining the fulfillment is perhaps greater than the fulfillment itself.
And maybe it is because of this joy that the dowry pieces we see are more beautiful than all others.
A related note on the subject of the physical effects of mental state:
When I was expecting my first baby, a very learned lady, Mrs. Mazvancehryl advised that I should think happy thoughts, read books of wisdom and surround my mind with intellectual and spiritual beauty.
In a yoga lesson in the same period, I learnt in addition to the act of performing a task it is as important to infuse the intent behind it into the task – the ‘seva’ bhaav or the devotion. It takes just one additional step – thought. It takes a moment to think about why this needs to be done and to extract some love from our bottomless reserve and infusing that act with love. Mrs. Desai of the Yoga institute taught me (1991) how to go about even the trivial act of cleaning a baby’s nappy with love and devotion. That one factor changes everything. EVERYthing.
So I do believe that these dowry pieces come infused with the dreams of soon-to-be-brides.
And I am certain that there is nothing more precious in the world than these dreams….
Here are some dowry pieces:
Even those who know nothing about textiles and art will not fail to comprehend how much love and devotion has gone into making these…
These are artworks to be cherished … and loved and doted upon … just as much as we do our dreams and hopes.
(*That mental imagery can influence the physical state of the body is proven by the largest internet industry.)