Damini of New Jersey shines at Ladies Day saree event in London

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Damini NJ sponsored the top six prizes at Royal Ascot. All were hand loomed sarees

Our Bureau
Edison, NJ

Amita Singh the owner of DAMINI in New Jersey, the largest fashion outlet in the US, flew to London this week to participate in an event where more than 1,000 women, mostly of Indian origin, created history as they all turned up dressed in sarees.

At the Ladies’ Day held at Royal Ascot on Thursday, some women turned up in sarees made by a humble “Kantha” artisan from West Bengal named Rupa Khatun who had never heard of Queen Elizabeth II, let alone Royal Ascot.

Amita Singh is known in social circles here for wearing beautiful sarees. Damini NJ sponsored the top six prizes at Royal Ascot. All were hand loomed sarees.

The famous race meeting, which the royal family arrive at in horse-drawn carriages, normally sees men in morning suits and top hats and women in striking hats.

But UK-based doctor Dipti Jain, who hails from Kolkata, came up with the idea for a crowd of women to wear sarees to Ascot to showcase their pride in their national heritage and celebrate the creations of Indian weavers. Most came from Britain but some flew in from other countries, including India, according to a TNN report.

Jain’s silk saree was hand-embroidered with London and Kolkata skylines, the Queen’s face, Big Ben, a red phone box and the Tower of London, by an artisan from Nanoor, West Bengal, named Rupa Khatun (33).

Sitting at her home on Thursday, Khatun was beaming from head to foot. “I have never had any formal training in making sarees. I just learnt from the other women in the village and my mother and grandmother. I am really proud. I did not know about the Queen, London or Big Ben before,” she told TNN.

Amita Singh at the London event

“I am so happy that I am getting recognized. As of now, I just give my sarees to the middleman who sells it to the market. No one gives us any recognition. I am really proud of this saree. It has got such massive appreciation,” said Khatun, whose village is famous for “kantha” embroidery.

“This is the hardest saree I have ever made. I am used to traditional prints,” she added. It took her four months to make, with help from other women. “The hardest part was making the Queen’s face absolutely perfect.”

Tanima Paul, who promotes Indian artisans in the UK, designed the saree and sent over Google images of Big Ben and the Queen to S K Nurul Hoda on WhatsApp, who lives in the same village as Khatun. He sketched them on the fabrics and bought the materials and Khatun made the saree.

Khatun also made a silk stole with a Union Jack and the Queen’s face on, which the group plan to gift to the Queen, whose horses race at Ascot. “I wish I could meet the Queen and see how she feels about the stole,” Khatun said. “I feel very proud.”

“All my life I have wanted to promote Indian craftsmen and give them due recognition. It is such a big achievement to be featured at Ascot,” said Paul, who also designed some of the other sarees including a Covid-themed saree, hand-painted in Madubhani style by Choti Thakur from Darbhanga, Bihar, and another themed with Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

An Ascot spokesperson said: “This is a wonderful initiative and so worthwhile, we welcome them all warmly to Royal Ascot.”

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