Monday, 7 January 2013

Indian bags and continers

A Indian market place. Trader and consumer on the left both appear to be using spherical bags / purses. The women use baskets? This image is from Kamat's Potpourri which has alot of interesting Indian images but usually fails to document them properly i.e. with a clear date and location. Many of the images are ink drawings of sculptures. This is The Kamat of  Social Life in Medieval Karnataka, a pretty good book for it's time. This image claims it is "Illustration from a Jain Monastery" but as to the date I don't know. Given the garb and turbans, I would suggest during the Mughul times, long after the period I'm interest in.

Now I've done a chunk of research I'm finding simple medieval sari's are rather easy to find. The hard bit is the accessories. With a kingdom level A&S competition coming up for 'containers' I've decided to make a period bag for my persona. I have a lot of trouble with carrying things at events. At local events I typically have an armour bag to stash things in, or (gasp, horror) a fabric reusable shopping bag. Either way, these are not ideal solutions as I don't feel comfortable lugging them around. I have started bringing wicker baskets with my handsewing.I goto a number of camping events each year but I typically fly (except Rowany Festival) which means I can't bring wicker baskets as they just take up too much room. Baskets aren't always a good option either if I want to lug around more modern objects like water bottles. So, what I need is a period bag for carrying around my wallet and larger objects which can be compacted easily OR be used when flying as a carry-on bag. For preference, this should be a fabric bag as I don't have sufficient leather at this point, and it's significantly less squishable.

There are a number of problems with fabric bags. The chief problem is that I have yet to find a surviving fabric item prior to the 14th C from anywhere in India. Since I'm looking at the 11th C at the moment, there will be no extant items to copy from. This said, fabric was exported and there are some fabric remnants of the Mamluk period in Egypt that may have been made in India. These however will be covered in Egyptian embroidery and made into Egyptian objects. So, I turn to sculpture as my inspiration. Sculpture suffers from the same problem any art does, it's an interpretation of the real world. As such items become stylised to different degrees. Problem two, the accurate rendering of items depends on the artists ability and interest in that object. Problem three, the ability to impart detail to sculpture depends on the medium, sandstone is courser than limestone so won't be able to hold finer details. However, sandstone tends to weather less, so might retain details longer.

I've found a beautiful collection of sculptures at the Khajurajo Group of Monuments. These are a group of temples constructed from 950 to 1150 (according to wikipedia anyway, accessed 8/1/13) and are one of the seven wonders of India. Many of the temple sculptures feature gods but 10% show common people involved in various positions of the Karma Sutra. Unfortunately this is the 10% that is easily found with a Google image search. I waded through a number of images and have found a few examples of containers:

The central figure holds what appears to be a urn / vase / amphorae wrapped in a rope net.

The Lady in this image is looking at herself in a mirror. Her attendant on the right appears to be carrying a largish satchel. (Pinched from this site, as were the one above and below)

Woman applying makeup. Attendant to the right has a shoulder bag which appears to have a flap or circular decorations on the side. This is exactly what I want to make. Something that can bulge to hold items or lie flat. The satchel / messanger bag seems to have a reasonably wide strap, longer enough that the bag rests on the attendants upper thigh.

Same statue as above, but from a different site (here) with a different angle and sun direction. This highlights different detail. The bag does have a flap as it's carved proud of the bag and is different from the incised circular decorations noted earlier.

Finally,  the small attendant in the center seems to be holding a circular bag, possibly a simple drawstring affair.

One of the problems I have with Khajuraho statues is that they were carved from sandstone, have been exposed to the elements and haven't been protected for long. So many of the details that I'm interested in (i.e. drawstrings and toggles) may not have been rendered as they were too fine or may have weathered away, Alternatively, they might not have been used at this time. Thus for construction ideas I'm turning to another European sculpture to give me an idea of what to make.

Pilgrims, 1120-1130, carved in limestone. Cathedral of Saint Lazare, Autun (Burgndy, France)

This sculpture is from an entirely different continent and culture however the figure on the right seems to have exactly the bag I want to make. A wide-ish strap and a circular flap with no apparent toggle. It seems these style of bags have been a thing for quite a while. As this sculpture was done in limestone, (and is, i assume, inside), it has a lot more detail and I can see the strap runs all the way to the bottom of the bag, giving it more structural integrity. I can't see this on the Indian sculpture, but I may run the strap to the bottom of the bag on the inside to provide strength.

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