Indian activist, writer and revivalist, Pupul Jayakar is known for introducing traditional Indian arts, crafts and textiles to the global platform as well as making weaving, handlooms and handicrafts sustainable in post-independent India. She was also an important figure in the women’s movement for India’s independence.
Born in Etawah, Uttar Pradesh, Jayakar studied journalism at Bedford College, London. She also worked as an assistant to Mridula Sarabhai at the Kasturba Trust and as Assistant Secretary of the National Planning Committee. She was influenced by Gandhian thought and philosophy as well as the theosophy of philosopher J Krishnamurthy, whom she met in 1948.
Jayakar travelled extensively across India with the aim of identifying and discovering local handicrafts and art forms. From 1950 onwards, she began working actively in textiles and handloom and was asked by Jawaharlal Nehru to help build a viable industry for Indian textiles. Consequently, in 1958, she founded the Handloom and Handicrafts Export Corporation of India (HHEC). She undertook major initiatives to collaborate with international designers such as Pierre Cardin, whom she invited to India to explore and incorporate traditional Indian fabrics in his designs. She also served as minister of state as well as the advisor on culture and heritage matters to Indira Gandhi, with whom she had a close personal relationship. In the 1980s, Jayakar organised a number of Indian arts festivals in France, USA and Japan. She founded the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), New Delhi, in 1984, and worked closely with the Crafts Museum, New Delhi, and the Calico Museums of Textile, Ahmedabad. Jayakar has also authored numerous books on textiles, terracotta and rural crafts, along with biographies of Indira Gandhi and J Krishnamurty. She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1967.
Jayakar died in Mumbai in 1997.
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