first impression is the last impression, 'the saying, though
modern, can be held true for the traditional Hindu Costumes
also. The reason, being in spite of Western influences on
the modern Fashion Industry, the ethnic element and the
traditional touch to any Indian Costume is still alive.
The Bharatiya test itself is responsible for maintaining
have been very fashionable from the very ancient times. The sculptural
evidences found so far depict that cotton cloth has always been worn in
India by the masses while the rich favored the use of silks.
Elaborate head-dresses and jewelry were even sported by men. The earlier
dress code revolved around wrapping the body with varied lengths of cloth.
From the earliest period of Indian proto-history, the Harappan culture,
the evidence about textiles and dresses is scant but not unimportant.
The survival of an actual fragment of cotton cloth, and the upper garment
draped around the body like a shawl as seen in a sculpture, offer interesting
examples, although it is difficult to give to these pieces any kinds of
names. The lower garment worn by women, much like a sari or Dhoti of later
times, is reminiscent of the descriptions of the Niti in Vedic literature.
Elaborate head dresses, with tremendous decorations and pannier-like projections,
give some clue to the range of fashions prevalent in this regard.
would use one length of piece as the blouse and tie the
other round their waist as a sari. These would accentuate
their figures, making them look attractive. The typical
costume of the Indian women, are the Sari and the Ghaghra
Choli. The diverse cultures and traditions have greatly
influenced the styles of these costumes.
the six-yard length of cloth is still draped beautifully in the most intriguing
manner. It is worn with a stitched blouse. Usually six metre in length,
the sari in its most accepted form is worn with a blouse and petticoat.
The sari is pleated in the front, tucked into the waistband of the petticoat,
and the end is flung over the shoulder, displaying the Pallu, which
has intricate designs on it. There are regional variations in the way
it is worn.
In the western states, the Pallu is displayed in the front. In Maharashtra,
the sari is 9 metre long and is worn tucked between the legs. Half-saris
are worn by young girls in the south and the north-eastern regions.
By accessing the iterary sources in the Vedic period followed by the Pauranic
or the classical period, we get a whole body of material with regard
to the materials for costumes.It is with much pride and beauty of words
that these textiles and materials are referred to. Not only do we hear
of yarns (tantu), warp or loom (tantra), and woof (otu) but of 'well-woven'
and 'perfumed' garments in the category of vasas.
Materials like woolen blankets of a fine kind (kambala), dhussa (dursba)
and panvad are spoken of, but so also is ksbauma, most probably linen.
Garments made of the skins of animals as worn by gods and sages and tribals
alike are referred to. In terms of costumes, however, one is by and large
in the world of timeless garments, both for women and men.
The Dupatta: The veil that women still use so extensively in India,
something like the Dupatta or Odhani of modern times, has its early
prototype in the Vedic period, and various words signifying the same article
of apparel are used, with differences between one and the other that may
not be easy to identify. The words that we hear of are Avaguntbana, Niringi,
Nirangika, Mukhapata, Shirovastra and Yavanika.
Sanskrit writers like Bhasa, Shudraka, Bana and Bharavi, among others,
weave long passages around the theme of veils worn by women. Thus, Bana
in his fanciful description of the ladies of Sthanvishvara says that the
blue veil, which they put on was 'a mere customary appendage', really
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as the bees hovering around their faces, being drawn there
by their sweet-smelling breath, formed a sufficiently dark
'extinguisher' or veil. When Magha describes the ladies
of Krishna's households being gazed at for a long time 'by
the people as they had removed their veils', he implies
clearly that generally such ladies wore veils and, therefore,
could not be seen ordinarily by the people.
Ghaghra Choli: The
traditional costume of the Gujarat and Rajasthan states is Ghaghra
Cholis. With their glittering mirror-work they look
most attractive. This comprises of long pleated skirts, known as Ghaghra
or Lehenga, and is worn with twin blouses.
The blouses have elaborate mirror-work and patch-work on them and are
very colorful. It is designed to leave the back and midrib bare. These
type of dresses are mainly worn by women in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh,
Haryana and Gujarat.
salwar kameezes were to be the original heritage of northern India,
in today's time, it has become the most popular dress of the modern metropolitan
cities. It includes a baggy pair of pyjamas called the salwar, worn with
a long and flowing shirt called kameez. The Kashmiri and the Himachali
women wear a similar dress.
Theirs is thicker to suit the climate and the embroidery done on them
is particular to the region. In Lucknow, the baggy pyjamas are replaced
by tight and long leggings that form many folds at the ankles. These are
called Churidars, suggesting 'bangles'. So comfortable is the dress that
it is worn mostly by working women across India.
of this dress are worn in the northeast and southern states.
These are known as half-saris. In Meghalaya, the
women favor the Jyensyem, a traditional dress consisting
of two ankle length pieces of cloth gathered at the shoulders.
In Arunachal, Nagaland and Mizoram they prefer a blouse
and a length of cloth wound around the waist and running
down the ankle like a skirt, but more closely resembling
the male Lungi of the south.
ancient times, the most favored dress of the Indian men was the Kurta
(an upper garment like shirt) and Pyjama( a garment like loose trousers).
Although the length of both the garments differs from state to state,
the outline remains the same. In the rural areas, the Lungi or Dhoti (long
piece of cloth wrapped around the legs) is worn.
The head dress in India for men can be a subject of study. The head dress
is regarded as the symbol of pride. This of course is a tradition. Modern
Indian men have adopted a suitable outfit i.e. shirt and trousers.
greatest variety, judging from the evidence of sculpture and painting
that has survived, lay perhaps in the head-dress. Basically, the
head-dress made from a fabric, as distinguished from a crown worn by kings
and deities spoken of in literature, took the form of a turban of an unstitched
There are many names that one comes upon, including Ushnisha, Kirita,
Patta, Veshtana, Vestanapatta, Shiroveshtana. The manner of wearing the
turban evidently varied as much in ancient India as it did in medieval
times. We have elaborate verbal descriptions, as also visual evidence,
that point to the fondness of men for this article of apparel.
It is entirely possible that certain styles of wearing, or certain fabrics,
were favorites among certain peoples. Almost certainly, different persons
were also entitled to wear only given types of head-gear. The range of
turban-styles that we encounter is reminiscent of the many styles in the
19th century, each style having a specific name for it as recorded by
The turban apart, however, there are close-fitting caps that one finds
soldiers and some foreigners wearing in Indian sculptures and paintings,
even though these remain exceptions to the rule that every head was covered
by a turban.
traditional head dress also varies from state to state. For example in
Maharashtra, a long 6 yard piece of cloth is wrapped round the head in
an articulate manner is known as "Pheta".
The Pagadi in Maharashtra and Rajasthan have different looks. The modern
hat resembles it ina way. But the embroidery work of the Rajasthani Pagadi
and the design of Maharashtrian Pagadi is worth seeing.