Thakur bari and its cultural heritage

Kolkata, May 5, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / Kreation Guru) Rabindranath Tagore was the youngest son of Debendranath Tagore who was a leader of the Brahmo samaj. The Tagore family was very rich in its cultural heritage. The women in the family were especially gifted with the talent where as Randinranath Tagore was a poet and a great artist.

His poems and art work are followed and preached till date. Fashion in Bengal was started by the Thakur bari women and kept changing from generation to generation. In the 18th century when India was formally under the British rule, westernization or western ideas were given great importance. But at the same time the Tagore family’s culinary, their way of dressing and aesthetics already had a Persian influence. 

The family lived in the majestic 18th century mansion i.e. the Thakur bari situated in Jorasanko, an old residential neighbourrhood in the North Calcutta. The Tagore’s changed the view and idea of Indian aesthetics and fashion. The family included a progressive, spiritual and liberal leader of the Brahmo samaj. The influence of the Brahmo in the outside world helped the family members specially homemakers to find their identity in the outside world on the one hand as well as maintaining their dignity and grace on the other hand.

Mahrshi Debendranath Tagore used to design dresses for young girls which could be worn either to school or for playing purposes. The dresses used to consist of tight pyjamas and loose tops which was a combination of western and Muslim dressing styles. The women in the Tagore household had ordered for a peshoaj, a beautiful mughal outfit which was multi-layered. This outfit was placed at a French shop. And for Jnanadanandini, Tagore’s elder brother’s wife, an oriental dress was ordered. But both the dresses proved to be cumbersome. Moreover, the current trend or style of wearing or draping a sari over the shoulder with pleats had also gradually developed from the experiments of the thakur bari women who were inspired from the western fashion as well as the styles from various parts of the country.

Kadambari Devi, Rabindranath’s elder brother Jyotirindranath’s wife, was the first woman in the family household to do horse riding. She was an exceptionally talented woman. She had a passion for learning and her display of knowledge regarding things was brilliant. She was a skilled actress and loved music, hence was a skilled musician as well. In fact she was the one who had brought performing arts especially theatre to the Tagore household. Quite often the family made up the cast according to her script and plays were held in the courtyard of their Jorasanko house.

Jyotirindranath Tagore, who was the fifth son of the Tagore household also wanted to change the overall fashion trend especially that of Bengali men. But most of his experiments were disastrous and nobody except of Jyotirindranath himself dared to wear such combinations. Rabindranath Tagore was too a trend setter. He adopted a long loose robe for himself which was influenced by the Sikkimese Baku and the Japanese kimono. Since 150 years their fashion trend has inspired Bengal.