March, 2019


Unidentified member of the Joshi (fortune-teller) ethnic group

Made in Wai, a village below the “hill station” (resort town) of Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra state
Geeta Khandelwal Collection
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation

Mumbai native, textile artist, and avocational researcher, Geeta Khandelwal has spent decades making and studying quilts. In the 1970s, she learned quiltmaking from an American acquaintance and eventually started her own business employing and teaching local women to create handmade quilts for the Western market. Sourcing fabrics from around India, including her home state of Maharashtra, Khandelwal realized that every region has its own quilt styles. In 2010, she decided to look more closely, and traveled to the Maharashtrian countryside to examine the various formats and functions of the state’s quilts. A three-year project resulted in the acquisition and documentation of hundreds of pieces, including this one. 

Of this piece, Khandelwal writes:

"The woman unlocked the trunk to show us her godharis. One exceptional piece was made using strips of turquoise, red, orange and golden yellow fabric, patched over a printed black sari (wrapped garment). A black sari is rarely worn in Maharashtra—black being regarded as an inauspicious colour—except on the Sankrant festival which always falls on the 14th of January and is considered the coldest day of the year.

"The sari border framed the quilt on all four sides. Small triangular pieces, called kapanis, had been used as decorative edging. At the centre of the quilt the woman had appliquéd a face with eyes and mouth which, she explained, symbolised Surya, the sun. The sun seemed to be her favourite motif, which she had repeated on a tin storage box in her tent."

This quilt is featured in the exhibition Collecting and Recollecting: Contemporary Quilts in Western India