About three hundred miles north of Delhi and just south of Tibet, the Ganges river begins what will be its circuitous route high in the Himalayas spilling forth from a glacier into the Bhagirathi headstream, then flowing for over 1,500 miles until it reaches the Bay of Bengal. Since ancient times the Ganges has been more than a natural phenom, it’s also long courted people to its shores. The Ganges of today is the most populated river basin in the world, relied on by more than a quarter of the 1.4 billion people who call India home.
A source of life, it is also a source of sacred protection: a river, but also a goddess, Ganga. As the myth goes, Ganga came down from heaven to live in the Ganges, shepherding to heaven anyone who touches its waters, safeguarding and purifying them. Its waters are collected and bottled to be shipped and sold abroad; bathing in it is thought to absolve people of their sins; and distributing the ashes of the dead in the river is believed to bring good karma. The Ganges’ purification myth has never waned, even as the river has become one of the most polluted in the world, taking in more than a billion gallons of waste, much of it raw sewage, every day. The reverence of its beauty and power, and the simultaneous disregard of its degradation are a contradiction. The river, a mighty enigma.
Those enigmatic qualities drew us to its banks in Rishikesh, the holy city high in the foothills of the Himalayas that has long beckoned spiritual seekers to its myriad temples and ashrams. (The Beatles would visit the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi here in the 1960s.) Many who come to this part of the meandering river in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand do it also to find relief from the, often oppressive, heat further south. For Anaak this serene place and this storied river became our tabula rasa: a chance to wipe the proverbial slate clean and begin anew.
This season that has meant a design approach that is more intentional than ever. Just as so many of us have spent these pandemic years shifting and shedding, Anaak has done the same, distilling styles down to the absolute essential. For Holiday 23 there is a juxtaposition of modernity and tradition: clean, airy silhouettes that reference Indian kurtas, dhoti pants and dupattas, all rendered in a muted palette and worked on by hand by weaving cooperatives in Central India and West Bengal. There are resolutely simple double cloth tunics and long shorts in soft white; smocked tea-length and mini dresses and ankle-grazing skirts in traditional jacquard Jamdani; Anaak’s signature silk habutai dresses in dusty lavender and sulphur; and—finally!—as we find ourselves socializing more, fittingly celebratory ruffled mini dresses and a woven tinsel-like tank dress. Designed to travel easily and layer effortlessly, this collection will be, like the river, a steady presence.