Meet Bhaskardatta Goswami - A Pioneer in Modernising the Traditional Mekhela Chador

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Meet Bhaskardatta Goswami - A Pioneer in Modernising the Traditional Mekhela Chador

Nehal Jain | April 26, 2018 16:55 hrs

A pioneer in modernising Assamese textile and giving a new avatar to the traditional mekhela chador, Bhaskardatta Goswami is a leading designer of Assam silk and a social activist.

Born in Guwahati, Bhaskar did his schooling from Kamrup Academy School and went on to graduate from Guwahati Commerce College (GCC). He then went to Bangalore to pursue masters in Public Relations & Advertising from Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan, Rajendra Prasad Institute of Mass Communication and Management.

Bhaskar’s father, Dr Prafulla Datta Goswami, was a renowned scholar who authored over 60 books. He was also the first PhD from Gauhati University.

Belonging to a family of scholars, Bhaskar was expected to become a doctor or an engineer but his passion in handloom products and artefacts led to the opening of ‘His N Hers’ - a first of its kind fashion store that dates back to 1989.

Speaking to G Plus about the inception of His N Hers, Bhaskar said, “I used to visit a lot of villages with my father, who was a folklorist, and studied the textiles, colours and patterns of different ethnic groups of the region. I guided the textile workers and showed them that they have a huge audience base in the urban areas. So they must start making clothes for the mainland to earn more and survive competitions.”

Over the past 30 years of the enterprise, His N Hers has been visited by the Who’s Who of the fashion world. Hema Malini, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das, Jatin Das and a host of other celebrities have visited and shopped at the boutique.

Bhaskar’s works in the field of fashion has been appreciated and acknowledged by many. In 1994, he was awarded by the Ministry of Textiles. He was also awarded the Axom Srestha Award in 2015.

While Bhaskar was pursuing graduation from GCC, the Assam Agitation of 1979 took place. His education got halted for a year and he moved to Mahatma Gandhi Seva Ashram in Madhya Pradesh. He went there as a voluntary social worker and travelled to many Khadi pratisthans situated across the country. There, he saw handloom products that were not up to the mark and got influenced to work towards maintaining the quality of handloom products. And thus began his journey towards preserving the Assam handloom products.

“While volunteering at the Ashram, I got the chance to travel all over the country and beyond – I travelled from Ladakh to Sri Lanka and Pakistan border to Burmese border. I travelled the interiors of India and got introduced to the different cultures,” said Bhaskar.

Bhaskar has been closely associated with many Gandhian organisations. He has been working in the field of national integration, promotion of primary education and creating jobs for the unemployed since many decades. He is the former president of National Youth Project, of which he continues to be a member. He also served as the secretary of Harijan Sevak Sangha and is a member of the corporate affairs cell of the Indian National Congress.

The fashion scenario of Assam has undergone a drastic change over the past few years. Earlier, mekhela chador was mekhela chador - there was barely any variety. But now, there are various ranges and designs for different occasions. The internet also has a role to play in this. Nowadays, customers walk in with photographs from the internet, asking for customised designs of their own choice.

“The future of handloom industry seems very dark. Machine made products have captured the market. It’s not that Assam’s weavers do not produce quality products or they’ve become very rich and are not into this business anymore. It’s just that they’ve become lazy and have started looking for alternative sources of income. This is mostly because a lot of machine made products are coming in from Bengal. People have borrowed some of our designs and motifs and they’re using these to make very inferior quality mekhala chadors and gamochas. Although they look brighter and shinier, the material is very cheap and synthetic-based,” Bhaskar told G Plus about the current scenario of Assam’s handloom industry.

He further added that the market is flooded with hundreds of new showrooms with young designers opening stores and boutiques. But they have been giving priority to design over material. A lot of these new designers are unable to distinguish pure silk from synthetic ones. They end up buying machine-made clothes and selling them.

Bhaskar’s advice to the young designers is that they select clusters of weavers, educate/guide them, give proper wages to them and sell their products instead of buying power mill products from Bengal and selling them here.

Belonging to a family with over 500 years of legacy, Bhaskar’s family is a collector of antiques. Among his most prized possessions are Ahom coins, his great grandmother’s Dola (Palki) and his collection of utensils made of copper, bell metal, silver, etc.

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