Royalty, Restoration, Revival
April 28 2021
Before the doors of conservation lie the ailing pillars of art, heritage and history that slowly decay as the world moves on to faster devices of convenience and entertainment. Today, there lies a responsibility to bring a change, to save history. Princess Brijeshwari Kumari Gohil of Bhavnagar, Gujarat has owned this responsibility with royalty, elegance and a touch of technology as she opens the doors to conserving the heritage of Bhavnagar. Likewise, the purpose of asa is to conserve beginnings, for the Earth’s descendants and the future.
As a brand, we believe in grounding ourselves in the rich history of our Indian beginnings and values. At asa, we believe in creating purposeful luxury using natural, cruelty-free, vegan products that are designed for the modern Indian woman, like the 21st-century royal, Princess Brijeshwari.
A stakeholder of India’s regal legacy, Princess Brijeshwari has been quietly digitally cataloguing the art, history, heritage, artefacts, manuscripts and furniture at her palace in Bhavnagar for safekeeping, posterity, and scholars of history.
We don’t believe in simply meeting expectations, we believe in celebrating every culture, colour and background. Our products are made with keeping India’s vast and diverse history in mind. By cherishing our rich Indian heritage, asa is created with a strong desire to put our homeland on the global map. Heritage and art are made to be conserved, revered and admired for all generations.
To do so, the art of conservation needs to move with the times, as Princess Brijeshwari believes. She says, “I view myself as an individual who has the power and responsibility to preserve and promote the rich heritage that one has been blessed with.” The responsibility to preserve and protect the Earth falls on beauty brands as well. Making purposeful beauty possible with 92% natural, recyclable and refillable products, asa has stayed true to our promise to conserve and protect nature.
Within metal, asa with its artisanally crafted metal casings and Princess Brijeshwari both found the means to honour their responsibilities. In Sihor — a municipality in Bhavnagar district and the erstwhile seat of her ancestors, the modern princess found a decline in metal crafts among Sihor’s artisans in 2017. Owing to mass-produced utility goods, the artisans stopped their traditional crafts. Princess Brijeshwari decided to revive this ancient craft by giving artisans space and means to expand their creativity. “My team and I researched old designs on artefacts, listing out the ones that stood out. We then brought in artisans who were facing financial issues and allowed them to expand on their creativity with each piece, keeping in mind the general theme and idea that we presented,” she said.
Princess Brijeshwari’s love for heritage may run in her blood. Her ancestor, Maharaja Takhtsinhji Jaswantsinhji Sahib of Bhavnagar, was the first to establish a railway line connecting Gujarat to the rest of British India in the 1800s. He was a regular at the Bombay Art Society, where he asked British artist John Griffiths to come to create a memorial for his late wife in Bhavnagar – the Ganga Teri. A monument that even the princess fell in love with, owing to its structure, ornate carvings and the Gohil’s family crest beautifully placed on the windows.
A descendant of several heritage lovers, Princess Brijeshwari has a BA in Archaeology and History of Art from the University of Nottingham, the U.K. and a Masters in Heritage Management and Conservation from Durham University, the U.K. After which she worked at the Piramal Art Gallery in Mumbai where she had the idea to digitally catalogue Bhavnagar’s history.
She said, "I realised we have so much in Bhavnagar, and there is not much in place - for our catalogues, registers and books - and we've not moved ahead with the digital era." She continued, "From when a painting was last restored, to its valuation and insurance, everything was scattered. We have books, manuscripts, and correspondence that give a clear understanding of not only our family history but that of the city.”
She is currently the founder of Bhavnagar Heritage Preservation Society and is responsible for creating interest and appreciation within students through oral history readings, site visits, and so much more by the Bhavnagar lake.
Speaking of the future, Princess Brijeshwari says, “Our current goal is to create good-quality artefacts that can be appreciated by present and future generations and also provide artisans and artists a platform to showcase their work and keep the traditions alive.”
Conserving for the future and our descendants requires leadership that isn’t afraid to embrace change. With aluminium casings, and eco friendly refillable products that are wrapped in FSC certified packaging, we aim to give our consumers a timeless and luxurious beauty experience