Heirloom fables and fairy tales brought to life by the animals they depict.

The Panchatantra (200 BCE - 300 CE) is an ancient Indian collection of interrelated animal fables in Sanskrit verse and prose. These stories are arranged within a ‘frame story’, meaning each individual tale contributes to a wider narrative. The Panchatantra is considered to have influenced later European books, such as Boccaccio and The Grimm Brothers.

The soft light of dawn seeps through the cracks of the palace walls, gilding the ornate white marble inside, while the dusky red exterior glows like a hot coal. Commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan, The Red Fort is a monolithic structure brimming with extraordinary detail and extravagance. The palace is surrounded by impressive gardens and outbuildings, housing all manner of magnificent beasts. The animals are free to roam the grounds as they please, kept well-fed and thriving as a symbol of the Emperor’s power.

The golden sunrise has awakened the four young princes, and they creep from their beds to run and dance around the vast spaces and courtyards of the palace. As the day breaks, the overwhelming quietness echoes around them, and the children realise they are home alone. Overnight, the adults have been called to court and will be away for some time. In an effort to comfort themselves, the princes pull a large book from the shelf. Much loved and handled, the covers are tattered and worn. The large, bold lettering reads PANCHATANTRA, but the boys are still too young to read. They sit beside the pool in the Rang Mahal and turn the pages, trying to remember each story from memory.

Through the ornate archways, the creatures watch the little princes struggle with the tales. The animals have seen many children pass through this palace, and have heard each story recited a thousand times, through windows and doorways, in the gardens and by the lakes. The elephant takes pity on the small boys and summons the great pelicans from the river with his trunk. He swiftly and quietly relays his idea, and the pelicans fly away to gather the other beasts.

Within a few short minutes, the animals are assembled for the show to begin. The little princes sit mesmerised as the creatures perform the tales of the Panchatantra within the palace walls. Even the tiger has deigned to partake in the entertainment. The scenes are set, the stories are woven, and the little princes are enchanted.

Inspiration

This collection was inspired by the moralistic fables of the Panchatantra, specifically, ‘The Tiger, The Brahmin and The Jackal’, ‘The Bird Pair and The Sea’, and ‘How the Rabbits Fooled the Elephant’. The India Company School paintings were a great influence, particularly works by The Fraser Brothers and Ustad Mansur. The Padshahnama manuscript and the Gazi Scroll are also referenced, alongside Mughal miniatures and the Shah Jahan Album. Shah Jahan was Emperor from 1628-1658, and commissioned some of India’s finest architecture, including the Taj Mahal and The Red Fort. His preferred combination of white marble and red sandstone is referenced in this collection, alongside the impressive Pietra Dura (marble inlay) displayed in his buildings. Shah Jahan also amassed a collection of impressive objects, including his famous wine cup and a range of beautiful jewels. Ancient Indian block-printing and repeat floral motifs were also a great inspiration.


Gar firdaus bar ru e zameen ast/ Hamin ast-o, hamin ast-o, hamin ast
(If there is a paradise on earth/ It is this, it is this, it is this)
Amir Khusrau - Inscription featured in the arches of the Diwan-e-Khas at The Red Fort.

Process

View the collection illustrations in progress, and see how the drawings transform into detailed and intricate scarf designs. Sabina creates a story for each collection, as shown below, which is then illustrated and narrated through her elaborate handiwork.

The Campaign

Welcome to our Spring/Summer 2022 campaign, Panchatantra.

Shop the Collection

A range of beautiful fabrics are available for each design, from classic silk twill to our sumptuous signature wool and silk blend. Each piece is printed and hand finished by the renowned artisans of Como, Italy.

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