'The 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 this tradition.

Indians 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.

Women 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 Sari:

Sari, 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 not necessary

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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.

The 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.

Though 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.

Variations 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.

Since 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.

Head dress:The 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 kind.

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 Forbes-Watson.

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.

The 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.


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