A vast 17th century cloth from India has gone on display in the British Museum, filling an entire wall of the gallery.
The Vrindavani Vastra (literally ‘the cloth of Vrindavan’) was produced in Assam in north-eastern India sometime in the late 17th century. It is made of woven silk and figured with scenes from the life of the Hindu god Krishna during the time he lived in the forest of Vrindavan.
Made from 12 wide woven strips that were later sewn together, this 9-metre long cloth is the longest example of its type. It was also made using a sophisticated weaving technology that is now extinct in India.
Filling the wall of the gallery, the intricate decoration is explained to those less familiar with the faith by a series of boards at the bottom of the display.
Following its use in Assam the textile had a second history in Tibet. It was found there by Perceval Landon during the Younghusband Expedition sent from British India to Lhasa in 1903–1904. Landon, a friend of Rudyard Kipling, was the correspondent from The Times on the expedition, and he gave the textile to the British Museum in 1905.
However, as impressive as the cloth is, it is almost overshadowed by a body mask of the five-headed serpent demon Kaliya which opens the gallery to visitors.
The display is at the top of the rear staircase of the British Museum and will be there until 15th August.