Mumbay Pupal Jayakar: Defender of Indian crafts and friend of Indira Ghandi

Mumbay Pupal Jayakar, a towering figure of Indian cultural life for the last fifty years, died aged eighty-one in March.


From 1947 she was a tireless promoter of her country’s cultural life. Her activities ranged from safeguarding India’s archaeological heritage, to patronising the work of artisans and craftsmen. With her discerning and sensitive approach to culture, she believed it was impossible to truly grasp the spirit and heritage of a country if one failed to appreciate the diversity of its art.

On this premise she founded the Indian Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage and the Festival of India Advisory Committee, on the board of which she served as chairman, using the body as an extraordinary vehicle for promoting all things Indian around the world. It was under the aegis of this organisation that Jayakar brought the now legendary festivals of Indian culture to London, Paris and New York.

As a writer, Pupal Jayakar, has left us an invaluable study of the pre-Aryan cultures of the Ganges valley, The Earthen Drum, many articles on popular arts and two extended biographies. The first of these focused on Jiddu Krishnamurti, an inseparable friend from 1948. A selection of dialogues with Mr Krishnamurti feature in Fire in the Mind.

The second biography is of Indira Gandhi, another constant presence in Jayakar’s life from her earliest years. To Gandhi she was a confidante and faithful friend, even in the darker moments of his political life. In Children of Barren Women Ms Jayakar recounted memories and impressions of her experience as relentless promoter of Indian culture. She also leaves a collection of unfinished memoirs, where her meetings with international personalities from all fields of culture are described, as is her cosmopolitan group of friends with whom her insatiable intellectual curiosity found expression.

Originally appeared in the Art Newspaper as 'Mumbay Pupal Jayakar'