Sher Bagh: Shooting the Hunter

Sher Bagh: Shooting the Hunter

Raw Mango’s recent collection, a collaboration between Sanjay Garg and Anjali Singh binds the art of woven textiles, ecological conservation and fashion

What is good design if not provocative content, painstaking process, originality of thought? What is good fashion if not a garment or a drape that wears the body stylishly while resonating with a speculative moment in life? This is especially urgent when the baggage we carry as the human race which has for centuries established a decimating domination over wild life and ecology, demands an urgent confrontation. Design may or may not propel action. But it certainly palpitates reflection.

‘Sher Bagh’, a collaboration between Raw Mango founder Sanjay Garg and artist Anjali Singh, the creative director of SUJÁN, audaciously arrived on the evening of December 10. It wore many of these ideas like a tiger’s stripes. After a charming party at a sophisticated address in New Delhi, the fashion show that followed, brought to fruition a three-year-old collaborative project between Garg and Singh. Friends both, and wild life  conservators in spirit, they were tracing a similarity of purpose.


Raw Mango founder Sanjay Garg and artist Anjali Singh, the creative director of SUJÁN, at the fashion showcase of ‘Sher Bagh’ in Delhi.

Born in Banaras

Each and every textile for ‘Sher Bagh’ has been woven in Banaras. Where else could this be possible, as discerning weaving experts might comment. While COVID-19’s initial challenges delayed the completion, as Garg explained, this was worth the wait. Garg has consistently patterned birds and animals, flora and fauna in his weaving interventions ever since Raw Mango’s inception. Little sparrows on Chanderi saris or interpretations of the Pichhwai with cows on dupattas are from his earliest work. Later, an entire collection would be named ‘Monkey Business’ and another, ‘Botanicals’. Moomal, among Raw Mango’s high-selling collections, has happy peacocks woven in brocade. With ‘Sher Bagh’, Garg takes his talent with textiles ahead in the way they have been conceptualised and woven.

On the other hand, Anjali Singh who creatively leads SUJÁN, a boutique hospitality business (that completed 21 years recently) with hotels amidst nature’s bounty, extends the relevance of the Ranthambore Foundation through this work. Her husband and SUJÁN cofounder Jaisal Singh, belongs to a family of conservationists — his parents are among those who set up the Foundation while his uncle, Valmik Thapar, is the foremost name in tiger conservation in India.


The fashion show brought to fruition a three-year-old collaborative project between Garg and Singh.

Inversion of Traditional Design Vocabulary

‘Sher Bagh’. Notice the cleverness of the title. Sher means lion. Bagh means lion too. Bagh also means garden, or well, forest. Sher Bagh the collection is a forest alright, dense with the message of co-existence, where man does not hunt animal and animals do not prey upon human beings. ‘Sher Bagh’ eliminates the hunter. It inverses the traditional design vocabulary of Shikargah (hunting lodge), once among the most fascinating forms of hand woven patterning on a sari or textile most prominently found in the Banaras school of weaving. Though Shikargahs are woven in Patan Patolas and even on Kanjeevarams, the detailing and dexterity of a Banarasi shikargah stands out as an exceptional reference in textiles.

Shikargahs were captivating once upon a time because of the iconography created out of man’s unchallenged power over other species. The pattern — a hunter perched on an animal as chariot, usually an elephant with a hunting tool in his hands (always a male) surrounded by deer, lions, birds and other prey, reflected human supremacy as it did the finesse of Banarasi silk weaving mirroring the complexities of this hierarchy. Today the same idea pricks like a jungle thorn in the conscience of any human mind which considers sustainability, conservation and justice. Why do we kill animals? Why must we ravage forests, nature and animal spirit? When will the murderous shikars of those who we share the planet with, stop?

The only correct answer is now.

Without these morally obtuse words, a writer tools in for emphasis but with all intention to send out the message shining like the eyes of a tiger, ‘Sher Bagh’ is a fashion collection that highlights a speculative moment in our lives. Not only because of the zoonotic viruses that have jumped species with COVID or that the pandemic continues to teach lessons both biological and philosophical. But because good design, or in this case, textile art is first about disentanglement from traditional visualisations and historical reproductions towards the patterning of the new. Even as it holds dear the ingenuity of a certain kind of weaving, the warmth a of wool yarn to look and feel like silk, the potential that silk and zari bring to creative minds and wardrobes when fused together. Or, sharp silhouettes without which fashion looks flabby.

Garg’s eyes shone with excitement and anticipatory tension before the collection walked out — styled with scarves, caps and boots. Saris wore the sophisticated hauteur of jackets and pant suits wearing their power lightly. But more than the styling which gave ‘Sher Bagh’ a contemporary body language, it is the motifs and woven patterns that deserve attention. Tiger stripes, for instance, become an all-over pattern for the textile of a garment. A sari or a jacket. In zari or without. A cheetah sits precociously in the jungle green and has been transferred on a sari. The mane of a lion and the unruly locks of an untamed human become interchangeable faces. If one pattern reflects the hide of a pangolin, another brings to life colours of the forest from marigold yellow to khaki or sunset red — as life goes from dawn to dust and dawn again. Not everything is zari imbued, not every motif is self-coloured and matte.


Saris wore the sophisticated hauteur of jackets and pant suits wearing their power lightly.

Collection to Book

Among the takeaways from ‘Sher Bagh’ is a book published by Raw Mango. Shikargah, Design of Concern, (punctuation mine), it shows stencils of the patterns and the entire collection photographed in the wilderness of the Jawai region in Rajasthan. It also catalogues, through quotations, text and reproduced images from museums and other sources, the history of Shikargah right from the Ramayana through the Mughal era in India up to 1970 when hunting — the vain blood sport of male royals vanquished animals — was finally banned.

Here is a paragraph reproduced in the book which, even if you are a foot soldier of wildlife preservation, may make you growl and your blood curdle.

“In 1627, the British set aside the existing laws that had protected wildlife in India. Shikars were organized to uphold and celebrate chivalry and to be invited on a shikar hosted by Indian royalty became a status symbol.”

‘Sher Bagh’ is available in Raw Mango stores and online. It will also be available at SUJÁN Jawai and SUJÁN Sher Bagh, boutiques shortly. 5% of all sales of the Anjali Singh x Raw Mango ‘SHER BAGH’ collection will be donated to SUJÁN’s conservation projects in the region of Jawai for preserving wilderness habitats.