• Ancient Civilizations • The Early Historical Period • The Gupta Period • The Arrival of Islam • The Mughal Empire • Colonial Period • Regional Dress • The Modern Period the rich ethnic mix, and changing allegiances have also had a huge inﬂuence. Furthermore, while peoples from Central Asia brought a range of textile designs and modes of dress with them, the strongest tradition (as in practically every traditional society), for women as well as men, is the draping and wrapping of cloth, for uncut, unstitched fabric is considered pure, sacred, and powerful.
Harappan statues, which have been dated to approximately 3000 b.c.e., depict the garments worn by the most ancient Indians. A priestlike bearded man is shown wearing a togalike robe that leaves the right shoulder and arm bare; on his forearm is an armlet, and on his head is a coronet with a central circular decoration. The robe appears to be printed or, more likely, embroidered or appliquéd in a trefoil pattern. The trefoil motifs have holes at the centers of the three circles, suggesting that stone or colored faience may have been embedded there. Harappan female ﬁgures are scantily clad. A naked female with heavy bangles on one arm, thought to represent a dancer, could have been a votive ﬁgure that would have been dressed (also in a togalike garment, leaving the decorated arm uncovered) for ritual use, a custom observed throughout India in the early twenty-ﬁrst century. Other excavated female ﬁgurines wear miniskirts, necklaces, and elaborate headdresses. The skirts are fastened either by sashes or beaded girdles, which continued to be used in later times. One ﬁgure wears a short cloak leaving the breasts bare. A fan-shaped headdress is seen on statues of both sexes. Male ﬁgures appear to wear a neck scarf that may be an early angavastram, a traditional scarf still used in the early twenty-ﬁrst century. However, the Harappan scarves are shown held by a brooch and could be signs of oﬃce. The Vedic period has traditionally been associated with the Aryans and their entry into India around 2000 b.c.e., though this date has been disputed, as it has been learned that Central Asian tribes had been moving into northern India and beyond from very early times. The Vedic hymns refer to the Indus Valley’s famous cotton and Gandhara’s wool and dyed fabrics. The kambala, or blanket, appears to have been used by both men and women as a wrapper. The earliest Vedic hymn, the Rig Veda (ca. 2000 b.c.e.), refers to garments as vasas. A number of words are used for cloth, thus indicating a consciousness of clothing styles. Suvasas meant “well-dressed,” and suvasana described a person arrayed in splendid garments. The word surabi meant “well-ﬁtting,” which denotes stitched garments. The god Pusan is called a “weaver of garments,” vaso vaya, for it was he who fashioned diﬀerent forms. A mystical quality is associated with apparel. An undressed man could not oﬀer sacriﬁces to the gods—an essential aspect of Vedic life—for he would be complete only when properly dressed. The common mode of dress during the Vedic period was draping. The most important item was the nivi, which was wrapped around the waist according to the wearer’s status and tradition. Worn over this was the vasas, which could be a drape, a wrap, or a jacket (known as drapi or atka). The uttariya was a draped upper garment. The pratidhi, or breast cover, was either wrapped around the breasts, as is still done in Tripura, or tied at the back. The atka, worn by men, was a long, close-ﬁtting coat often
ndia extends from the high Himalayas in the northeast to the Karakoram and Hindu Kush ranges in the northwest. The major rivers—the Indus, Ganges, and Yamuna—spring from the high, snowy mountains, which were, for the area’s ancient inhabitants, the home of the gods and of purity, and where the great sages meditated. Below the Karakoram range lies the beautiful valley of Kashmir; to the north of...
References: and Further Reading
Agrawala , Vasudeva S. Gupta Art. Lucknow : U. P. Historical Society, 1947. Alkazi, Roshen. Ancient Indian Costume. New Delhi: National Book Trust, 1998. Barret, D. Sculpture from Amaravati in the British Museum. London: British Museum, 1954. Basham, A. L. The Wonder That Was India. Reprint, New Delhi: Rupa, 1981. Biswas, A. Indian Costumes. New Delhi: Publications Division, 1985. Boulanger, Chantal. Saris: An Illustrated Guide to the Indian Art and Draping. New York: Shakti Press International, 1997. Brij Bhushan, J. Indian Jewellery, Ornaments and Decorative Designs. Mumbai: Tarporevala, 1958. Chandra, Moti. Costumes, Textiles, Cosmetics and Coiﬀure in Ancient and Medieval India. Ahmedabad: Calico Textile Museum, 1986. Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. Jaina Paintings and Manuscripts: Catalogue of Indian Collection. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1924. Cunningham, A. The Stupa of Bharhut. London: W. H. Allen, 1879. Ghosh, A. “ Taxila.” Ancient India 4 (1947–1948). New Delhi: Archeological Department, Government Press. Ghurye, G. S. Indian Costume. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1951.
Goswamy, B. N. Indian Costume. Ahmedabad: Calico Textile Museum, 1993. Ibn Battuta , Mohammad-ibn’Abd Allah. Travels in Asia and Africa 1325–1354. Translated by H.A.R. Gibb. New York: McBride, 1929. Kramrisch, Stella. Indian Sculpture. Reprint, Delhi: Motilal Banarsi Das, 1981. (Originally published in 1933.) Thapar, Romila. History of India. Vol. 1. London: Penguin, 1966.
Yazdani, Gulam. Ajanta: The Colour and Monochrome Reproductions of Ajanta Frescoes. Introduction by Binyon Lawrence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1930.
See also Ladakh; Nagaland and Nagas of Manipur.
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