Little did Biren Kumar Basak of Nadia district imagine that his intricate artwork depicting seven episodes of Ramayana on a six-yard saree could get him an honourary doctorate from a UK-based university after two long decades.
Basak, a handloom weaver from Fulia in Nadia, was felicitated with Degree of Doctorate in Record Breaking (Honouris Causa) by UKs World Records University, an autonomous institute formed by the conglomeration of record books around the world. He received the honour last week at a function in New Delhi.
The masterpiece, in Basak’s word, took one year of planning and two years of weaving. It was completed in 1996.
“This was the first saree with a storyline and was taken to London along with other sarees for exhibition when the CM was touring England last year,” Basak said.
However, awards and accolades are not new to Basak. His six-yard wonder had earned him a National Award, National Merit Certificate Award, Sant Kabir Award and also found a mention in Limca Book of Records, Indian Book of Records and World Unique Records.
After getting to know about the saree featured in the Limca Book of Records in 2015, the World Records University had asked for a thesis on his work. “Ananda Modak, a teacher at a Fulia school, helped father translate his research work into English,” Abhinaba, Basaks Son, said.
The saree is, however, losing its lustre and they are trying their best to preserve it, Abhinaba said. Coincidentally, renowned Bengali poet Krittibas Ojha, who translated the epic into Bengali, also hailed from Fulia, a saree-making hub of Bengal.
A Mumbai-based company had offered Rs 8 lakh for the nine-yard wonder in 2004 but Basak declined the proposal.
Basak now plans to manufacture another masterpiece with snippets from Rabindranath Thakur’s early life on it. “I have been collecting documents and information for a while, but photographs of Tagore’s early life are rare to come by,” he said.
The Fulia-based weaver has also designed a saree on the states governments Kanyashree scheme for rural girls and intends to gift it to Didi (chief minister Mamata Banerjee).
“I manufacture Dhakai Jamdani (saree variety) that range between Rs 10,000 and Rs 10 lakh. I plan to set up a museum to exhibit exceptional Jamdani sarees,” Basak added.