Sar: The Essence of Indian DesignSwapnaa Tamhane and Rashmi Varma

Price AUD$95.00 Price CAD$95.00 Price £49.95 Price T79.95 Price USD$79.95 Price €69.95

An exploration of the timeless beauty of Indian design through 200 classic objects.

The Indian subcontinent is an amalgamation of peoples, cultures, languages and philosophies. Throughout history Indian culture has been subject to myriad different influences, from the Mughal empire to the British Raj to the now globalized nation in transition. Similar to 'Wa: Essence of Japanese Design', this book will trace continuity through the history of Indian design from antiquity to the present day.

The book explores the elements that make Indian design so special, including the varied manufacturing and decorating techniques of the country’s incredibly skilled craftsmen, highly specialized object designs that have been refined over centuries, and ongoing responses to nature, technology, and necessity. The objects were chosen for their enduring quality and beauty, and their integral connection to Indian culture.

Rather than following a chronological order or concentrating on the (often anonymous) designers, this book separates the objects into abstract categories anchored by Hindi words chosen to illuminate how each object fits into the lives of Indians.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Size: 270 × 205 mm (10 5/8 × 8 1/8 in)
  • Pages: 304 pp
  • Illustrations: 480 illustrations
  • ISBN: 9780714870502

Swapnaa Tamhane (b. 1976) is an artist and curator working between Toronto and Mumbai. She was formerly an editor at Phaidon Press and curator at Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery and Museum Abteiberg. She has been a recipient of fellowships from Kulturstiftung des Bundes and the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, and has also received grants from Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and Kunststiftung NRW. Her works have been exhibited at Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art and KHOJ, Bangalore.

Rashmi Varma (b. 1974) is a costume and fashion designer with an eponymous clothing line, based in New Delhi. She has exhibited her work at the V&A Museum, London; Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto; and Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto. She has received numerous grants and awards from the Ontario Arts Council and the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute. She has also worked with noted filmmakers such as Deepa Mehta as the costume designer for film 'Heaven on Earth' and assisted on 'Midnight's Children'.

"Sumptuous... showcases the incredible diversity of India's visual identity." —Sphere

"A newfound energy in contemporary Indian design has permeated graphics, illustration, fashion and product design." —New Design

"This stunning book is an exploration of the timeless beauty of Indian design through 200 objects... a book to devour and treasure." —Salt

"Sar tells the stories of 200 artefacts that reflect the vibrancy of design in the subcontinent. Prarthna Singh's poetic photographs encapsulate each object's beauty, highlighting simplicity and ordinariness." —World of Interiors

"A beautiful survey of 200 objects of everyday use, each one a little lesson to non-Indians on sub-continental approaches to design." —Metropolis

"Celebrates both timeless Indian manufacturing and a new wave of local designers." —

"India is enthralling the design world this summer." —The Sunday Times

"A delectable list, spanning geographies, roping in the antique and the contemporary." —Mid-Day

"The timeless, richly coloured beauty of Indian design." —Mayfair Times

"This book is not just nostalgia, it's an urgent question tied into the idea of India." —Architectural Digest (India)

"An exploration of the timeless, richly coloured beauty of Indian design." —Gastrometry

"Looking around my table as I write this, I see objects that frame us in relationships of use, ritual, love, obsession, eccentricity... Objects of incredible beauty, delicacy, vulgarity and elegance... Sar: The Essence of Indian Design sketches out some of these relationships. It stares lovingly at the forms that inhabit our everyday life. It tells us stories about the chai cups, the cycle rickshaws, the bangles, and the carrom boards around us."—Architectural Digest (India)

"Indian households harbor a wealth of interesting objects: chai glasses, tiffin boxes, stainless steel plate racks and the ubiquitous Bata sneakers are all inherently Indian, though hardly ever talked about. The authors of Sar set off on a trip around the country to research and photograph more than 200 of these everyday items (from religious relics to contemporary crafts), resulting in a beautiful coffee table book that explores the many facets of classic and modern Indian design. A must-have for anyone with even a slight interest in art, design or the Indian vernacular." —