The mother’s legacy: The blue-and-white stripe sari of Saint Teresa is now an intellectual property of Missionaries of Charity

The distinct sari is now worn exclusively by Missionaries of Charity (MoC) nuns across 749 centres over 120 countries, including the Vatican City.

Written by SANTANU CHOWDHURY | Published:July 30, 2017 12:02 am
Spin me a yarn: A nun at the centre. (Express photo by Subham Dutta)

About 400 workers walk on muddy tracks sandwiched between railway tracks and multiple cow sheds to reach the Gandhiji Prem Nivas Leprosy Centre every day, except Sunday. Here, workers, once leprosy patients who got healed, produce distinctive blue-and-white border saris — they are worn exclusively by Missionaries of Charity (MoC) nuns across 749 centres over 120 countries, including the Vatican City. A five-minute walk from Titagarh Railway Station in North 24 Parganas district, this centre is the only place in the world — run by MoC Sisters and maintained by MoC Brothers, where these unique saris are produced.

Recently, the-blue-and-white sari, first worn by Saint Teresa (known as Mother Teresa before her canonisation last September), has been recognised as the Intellectual Property of the Missionaries of Charity, which was founded by her. The unique pattern is now a registered trademark with the government of India’s Trade Marks Registry and no one can use that border design without the permission of the MoC.

According to the official website of Mother Teresa of Calcutta Centre, the Mother used to buy these saris from Harrison Road (now known as Mahatma Gandhi Road) in Kolkata in 1948. The three blue borders of the sari signify the vows that the nuns at MoC take. “The first band represents poverty, the second obedience, and, the third broad band represents the vows of chastity and wholehearted service to the poorest of the poor,” says Brother Harry D’Souza, in-charge of the handloom at the Centre. Saint Teresa and the MoC nuns continued wearing the saris till it became very difficult to get them in large numbers.

Workers at the loom. (Express photo by Subham Dutta)

Eventually, the MoC, which had set up Gandhiji Prem Nivas Leprosy Centre in 1979 for leprosy patients, decided to give these patients the work of weaving this particular saris for its nuns. “Since then, these patients weave the saris. But they are not sold to outsiders. Only MoC nuns get to wear them once they take their first vow after five years of training. This is the only place in the world which produces this sari,” says the director of the Centre, Brother Marianus.

The workers get Rs 6,000 per month, and, sometimes, a bonus if they produce more saris. “We also provide food, clothing and medical care. We have set up three nivas (quarter) for them. Those who have settled outside the centre come regularly to work here,” says Marianus.

Out of 50 looms at the Centre, only seven are used for weaving the saris, which are called Sister Saris. “Besides Sister Saris, workers here produce bedsheets, bandages and uniforms for leprosy patients at various centres,” says D’Souza.

Mithun Haldar, 26, who has worked at the Centre for the last 10 years, was happy to learn that the border of the Sisters Saris has been recognised as the intellectual property of MoC. “It is good to know that no one except us can make these saris now,” he says.

“I had come here as a patient in 1978. When the centre was set up, I was given a job. Since then I have been working here,” says Shefali Roy who has been associated with the centre for the last 40 years.

After the completion of the weaving processes, the saris are sent for packaging. The packed saris are then sent to Nirmala Shishu Bhavan at Lower Circular Road in Kolkata from where the saris are distributed to the centres of MoC across the world.

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  1. M
    MyTake
    Aug 1, 2017 at 3:45 pm
    What happened to my comment that its a long known Bungle Design?
    Reply
    1. B
      Bert Brech
      Aug 1, 2017 at 12:10 am
      Hindus lack self-respect.
      Reply
      1. D
        Dr. George Lance
        Jul 31, 2017 at 8:57 pm
        We are urgently in need of with the sum of $450,000.00 in Apollo Hospitals,Call for details: Email: drgeorgelance Mobile: 919538149389 Whatsap : 919538149389 Dr. George Lance.
        Reply
        1. D
          Dr. George Lance
          Jul 31, 2017 at 8:54 pm
          I WANT KIDNEY . PLEASE CONTACT ME SOON $450,000.00 in Apollo Hospitals,Call for details: Email: drgeorgelance Mobile: 919538149389 Whatsap : 919538149389 Dr. George Lance.
          Reply
          1. A
            Against Sick
            Jul 31, 2017 at 6:42 pm
            oh is it? This lady called Teresa was the chief conspirator for lured conversions in India. Instead of taking her to the court of law and bringing her to justice, she has been eulogized and praised for her so called humanitarian work. This and such issues are popped up routinely to humiliate Hindus but the best part in last 3 years is Hindu awakening has accleerated due to social media
            Reply
            1. C
              Curious onlooker
              Jul 31, 2017 at 6:58 am
              It is a very useful precaution to prevent cheats from taking advantage of situation as is now becoming common with Modi Govt to don the cloak of pretension of what they are not and entice opposition legislators into their fold.
              Reply
              1. T
                Test
                Jul 30, 2017 at 10:48 pm
                Only in India. She converted millions and said on video that she is not doing social work but is doing service to Church. Indian people's inferiority complex is pushing them towards psudo-secularism, which they find cool. If RSS makes this kind of statement then all will break loose.
                Reply
                1. H
                  Harish
                  Jul 30, 2017 at 9:20 pm
                  Good, use her sari to alleviate poverty like she used our poverty and misery to convert poor Indians. Sell her as a b to the world and make a premium from wealthy christians around the world.
                  Reply
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