Arts of Asia ‘Decoding Dress’ series at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on Tuesday 31 March 2009 brought Tara Rajkumar OAM back from Melbourne. Tara Rajkumar’s talk ‘Saluting the Gods in Silken Splendour’ received a splendid applause from a hall full of curious Australians. In moving away from her usual topic of Kathakali and Mohiniattam, Tara said she was reaching new horizons. She explored the relationship between ancient Hindu temple architecture and sculpturing to that of the various styles of dance and its dress prevailing in different parts of India. In tracing the history of dance to natya shastra she embarked on the journey of the dress, the jewellery, distinctive to classical dance forms. The minute differences in color, fabric, to the manner in which it is adorned. Not forgetting the jewellery and head gear worn in various styles of dance that uniquely resembled the sculptures of the temples
Tara explained that symbolism of the sometimes gory masks worn in Kathakali. Dancers spend three to four hours getting ready with their make up painted in intense colors at the end of which the dancer siezes to remain a mere mortal transforming in body mind and soul to that of a God, an entire group of entranced audience watched her bring the costume, the fabric, and its beauty to life. The finale came with the participation of Mala Mehta who modeled in a silk saree. Audience participation was sought and a volunteer was chosen to demonstrate the wearing of the saree. How could a simple six yard length of fabric be so imaginatively wrapped around ? The audience perhaps found the answer to this mystery thanks to efforts of the Art Gallery of NSW. To complete this small step in building cultural understanding Tara finished with the picture of the most expensive saree in the world seen above.