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From Stethoscopes to Sarees: Pritha Dasmahapatra's Journey Through India's Textiles

Pritha Dasmahapatra is an inspiring figure whose passion for Indian textiles has led her on a remarkable journey of discovery and advocacy. Born in Kolkata and currently based in London, She is a gynaecologist by profession and a dedicated traveller and content creator in her spare time. Her deep-rooted love for textiles began in her childhood, influenced by the vibrant sarees her father brought home from his work trips, especially the Sambalpuri and Ikat sarees from Odisha!

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to refocus her travel interests towards India, exploring the rich heritage of Indian textiles. Her travels have taken her to places like Murshidabad, Varanasi, Bishnupur, Kashmir, and Manipur, where she has connected with local artisans and documented their intricate crafts. These journeys have not only deepened her appreciation for the art of weaving but also highlighted the critical role textiles play in the rural economy of India.

Her work goes beyond mere appreciation; she actively promotes the craftsmen she meets, helping them find patrons both within India and internationally. When asked about her goals, she says, “I would like to be sort of a conduit in ensuring that the artisans of our country get more exposure and highlight their craft.

She emphasizes the cultural narratives embedded in various textile patterns, such as the agricultural motifs in West Bengal's Dhaniakhali sarees or the temple architecture-inspired designs of Kanjeevaram sarees

One of her notable contributions to textile heritage is her lecture on muslin, a fabric renowned for its delicate, almost ethereal quality, historically described as "woven wind" or "evening dew." In her talk, she explored the historical significance of muslin, its decline, and potential revival, advocating for greater recognition and support for traditional textile crafts!

She also addresses the contemporary challenges faced by Indian textiles, such as the need for better marketing and global outreach. She believes that extra efforts from both the government and private sectors are necessary to make Indian handlooms more accessible and appreciated worldwide. “I don’t think too many people realise how important textiles have always been to the fabric of the country- pun intended! It is not just a historical artefact, it is also something which brought change. I don’t know of any other country which used textiles for their freedom movement. It is such a powerful instrument,” she notes.

Her vision for the future includes organizing international fashion fairs to showcase Indian textiles and collaborating with embassies to promote these crafts globally. Through her work, she hopes to revive the glory of Indian handlooms and ensure that the rich legacy of these crafts is preserved for future generations!

Written by Manya Sheth

Manya wrote this article as a participant of the Media-Makers Fellowship's April'24 cohort.

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