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The Microscopic World

Glass

Door hanging Zoomify

Incarnations of glass buttons and beads lend glint and shine to textiles all over the world, and have done so since the earliest times. From the Canadian Arctic to the south Pacific, the appeal of glass beads as a textile embellishment is nearly universal.

About the Object

Object name: Door hanging (toran)
Place made: Gujarat, India
Date made: 1930-1940
Dimensions: 30 x 109 cm
Materials & Techniques: Glass beads, netted and mounted on woven and printed cotton, cotton thread
Credit line: From the Fitzgerald Collection
ID: T00.45.175

This hanging, or toran, is identified as a door decoration by its distinctive shape – a wide strip with several "leaf" shapes hanging below. A toran such as this hangs in the entrance to a building for beautification and to welcome visitors, but also to protect the dwelling and the inhabitants within.

Alternative Views

Back

Back

Oblique

Oblique

Oblique

Oblique

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Second Look

Macro

Macro

Backlit

Backlit

Backlit

Backlit

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Touchpoint View

Animation

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Audio Clip

The Many-Armed Figure

Listen to Royal Ontario Museum Curator Deepali Dewan talk about the many-armed figure in this toran.

Credit: Audio Produced by TMC

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Transcript

In the middle of the piece are three figures in red. These are goddesses likely from the Hindu tradition and even though there is no goddess that has red skin, it’s probably as a result of the stylization from the bead pattern. The objects that she holds in her hands indicates it’s likely the goddess Lakshmi, who is the bringer of prosperity and good luck. And in her hands she holds a conch shell, which is symbolic of a kind of universal cosmic divine and in the bottom two hands she holds lotuses, which are symbolic of purity. The goddess Lakshmi is actually not often found on these types of torans. Most commonly, you will see the Hindu god Krishna. Lakshmi here is fairly unique, but still consistent with the use of the piece as a good luck charm at special occasions.

Image

Glass Beads

The desire to use glass beads as textile embellishments makes them important commodities for barter and trade. Although artisans once made their own beads from glass and other local materials, Venetian glass beads became popular during the 19th century and were in great demand in Asia and Africa. In Gujarat, India, bead workers create designs using needle and thread to join beads in latticed patterns. Designs are built, row by row, beginning from the first threaded row at the top until the bottom of the textile is reached. Finished beadwork is mounted for stability on woven cotton cloth.

Netted Beading

Glass Beads

Image title: Netted Beading

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Image

The Toran

The practice of using decorative textiles to adorn people, animals and even buildings is widespread in India, particularly in Gujarat. The imagery on these textiles is invariably symbolic, meant to ensure fertility or prosperity, or offer protection from evil spirits. The lappets hanging down from the wide strip are shaped like mango leaves – symbols of good luck. Toran, whether embroidered or made from bead netting, are usually accompanied by side panels and smaller squares called chakla. A bride brings a set of hangings with her in her new life to affirm her meaningful place in society, and to affirm her identity as a married woman.

Making a Toran

The Toran

Image title: Making a Toran
Credit: Image Courtesy of Archana Saad Akhtar

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Collection Connections

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Door hanging

Door hanging

ID*: T00.45.176

Hanging

Hanging

ID*: T86.0831

Apron

Apron

ID*: T82.0081