Skip to main content
Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

‘The Sacred Image and Daily Dress in Modern India’ topic of Nov. 19 URI Honors Colloquium

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

Winner of major national humanities award part of program

KINGSTON, R.I. – November 17, 2009 – Two Indiana University professors of folklore will speak at the Demystifying India Honors Colloquium at the University of Rhode Island, Thursday Nov. 19.

Henry Glassie and Pravina Shukla will discuss “the Scared Image and Daily Dress in Modern India” at 7:30 p.m. in Room 271 of the Chafee Social Science Center, 10 Chafee Road. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Glassie was just named the American Council of Learned Societies’ 2011 Haskins Prize Lecturer. The Haskins Prize is considered the most prestigious humanities award in the United States.

Glassie will address diversity within Hinduism, an expansive faith, assimilating a vast array of local practices, similar to the religions of ancient Greece and Rome. These practices, while attending to sacred texts, are centered by images of the deities. These deities are worshiped throughout India, but local traditions differ in emphasis, in ritual, and in the incorporation of local divinities. Glassie’s talk, based on field research among the creators of images, the artists who craft the deities for worship, will suggest the patterns of convergence and divergence in art and ritual in different regions of the Indian subcontinent.

At Indiana, Glassie serves as co-director of Turkish Studies, has adjunct appointments in Central Eurasian Studies, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, and American Studies, and is a member of the Advisory Council of India Studies.

Pravina Shukla is an associate professor in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana, where she teaches courses on dress, adornment, and body art, museums, food, and material culture.

Shukla will discuss the sari, which she describes as an unstitched women’s garment from India, six meters in length – which is literally remade every time it is worn.

“The wearer acts as her own tailor every time she drapes, folds, pleats and tucks this piece of cloth made of cotton, silk, wool, or synthetic materials,” Shukla said in a preview to her talk. “Fancy saris are still handmade in India today, woven on jacquard pit looms. Once made, they are sold in specialized shops, where customers sit for hours, being shown hundreds of saris, choosing carefully the garments that they will gift and wear. Through an ethnographic analysis of the sari in the city of Banaras, India, we learn much about the people who make, sell, buy and wear the national dress.”

Her talk is based on fieldwork in the holy Hindu city of Banaras (officially known as Varanasi) in northeastern India, from 1996 to 2003. The ancient city is a main pilgrimage site, attracting thousands of visitors daily, and therefore, it can be considered India in microcosm. Banaras has also long been a center for the production of saris. Indians associate Banaras with the exquisite gold-brocaded saris known as “Banarasi saris.” Most brides in the country, and in the diaspora, wish to wear and receive for their dowries these lustrous, luxurious lengths of shimmering silk.

Shukla is the author of The Grace of Four Moons: Dress, Adornment and the Art of the Body in Modern India, winner of the 2009 Milia Davenport Award given by the Costume Society of America for excellence in dress scholarship.

As a public health precaution, the University asks those with influenza-like symptoms on the day of the program not to attend, but rather watch the evening program live online via the Demystifying India link at www.uri.edu.

For further details about the colloquium, including an updated schedule and information on parking, go to uri.edu/hc or contact the URI Honors Center at 401.874.2381 or debg@uri.edu.

Major colloquium sponsors are: The Honors Program, Office of the President, Office of the Provost, College of Business Administration, College of Arts & Sciences, College of Engineering, Division of University Advancement, The Anthony J. Risica Lecture Series on Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and The Village Inn - Narragansett.

Additional sponsors include: College of Human Science and Services, College of the Environment and Life Sciences, Office of the Vice President for Administration, Office of the Vice Provost for Information Technology Services, University College, URI Diversity Week-Multicultural Center, URI Women’s Studies Program, The Mark and Donna Ross Honors Colloquium Humanities Endowment, Kabob N Curry - Providence, and Professor G.S. Verma and Mrs. R. Verma.