It is a common misconception to perceive that fashion is a newer phenomenon in the contemporary world. The origin of fashion in India can be traced back to the ancient period. This makes it quite essential to travel back in ancient time in order to get a glimpse of the roots of Indian Fashion. A famous historian- Theodore Roosevelt once said- “The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.” His statement underscored the significance of delving into the historical origin in order to transform the future more effectively.
Let’s proceed with our quest!!!
Table of Contents
Indus Valley Civilization: Indian Civilization Statue
First of all, we would explore the existence of fashion in one of the greatest civilizations of the world- Indus Valley Civilization. The duration of this civilization is around 2,500 BC – 1,500 BC.
The members of this civilization preferred minimal clothing along with heavy ornamentation. The famous statue of the dancing girl of Mohenjodaro illustrates this tendency.
They used to wear more jewels and accessories which consisted of necklaces, earrings, bangles and armlets. In addition to this, headgears were also worn by both men and women. They were primarily used with a sheer focus on enhancing the physical attractiveness.
Knee Length Skirts were in vogue at that time. The remnants of cotton and silk fabric have been found from this period through the rigorous process of excavation.
The trading relations of this region with mesopotamia may have helped in procurement of wool from that region. The usage of leather had also commenced in the era of Indus valley civilization. The historical accounts also suggest that animal skin was used by the people during cold weather and was also utilized in the production of quivers and belts in this period.
The jewellery in the harappan civilization was usually created with shells, bone or copper.
Vedic Age : Development of Human Civilization
Secondly, we would discuss about the age which is fundamental to the development of the human civilization- Vedic Age. The duration of the Vedic Age extends from 1,500 BC to 500 BC.
The ancient Vedic texts reveal that the people of the ancient society wore Phataka which was prepared from leaves and barks of trees.
In the 11th century B.C., the Rig Veda also mentioned about the usage of Paridhan and Pesas in the soceity. There were also few developments in dyeing and embroidery. For instance, Paridhan was a dyed garment and Pesas was an embroidered apparel of the vedic age.
Another clothing item worn during the vedic era was Uttariya. The usage of this item varied among the individuals on the basis of the weather conditions.
The vedic age was an era of gender neutral fashion wherein the dressing style was the sole characteristic on the basis of which men and women were differentiated from each other.
The most prominent element of the men’s attire in the vedic period was Dhoti which was draped around their waist in a pleated form.Another key element of the men’s wardrobe was Kurta- Pajama.
Sari was used extensively by women in this period. Ghagra Choli was used in the later phase of the vedic era by women.
Mauryan Period: Ancient Indian Fashion
Our discussion about Ancient India would remain incomplete if we would not identify the various developments in Indian Fashion during the Mauryan Rule. The Mauryan Empire ensured the establishment of a new era of the Indian history. The rule of the Mauryas spanned across 322 BC – 185 BC.
The Mauryan period witnessed the easy availability of fabrics including cotton, silk, wool and jute.
The demand of a silk fabric decored with the gold and silver wires increased exponentially during this era. The fabric was similar to the Khinkhwab.
The foreigners who visited the court of Chandragupta Maurya mentioned about the presence of resist dyeing and hand printing over the clothes in their travelogues. Megasthenese mentioned about resist dyeing and hand printing on clothes in Indica.
The method of felting was also popularized in this era.
The common types of jewellery used by the females in the Mauryan rule were necklaces, earrings (Karnika ), Bangle (Kangan ), Anklets (Kara ) and forehead jewellery ( Sitara)There was a wide variety of necklace which were classified with different nomenclatures on the basis of the number of strings used to create them.
In Terms of Ancient Indian Fashion Clothing, Antariya was utilized by the females in multiple manners in order to differentiate their dressing style. The Uttariya were adorned with comprehensively designed borders and were used to cover the head very often.
Another item in the Indian women clothing that was derived from the antariya was the skirt which was locally known as Bhairnivasani. The usage of this items was initiated by the nuns who belonged to Jainism and Buddhism. Another form of skirt developed during this period was Ghagri which was basically a skirt which has an attached drawstring also the waistline.
The men of the Mauryan period wore the Antariya produced from cotton and linen. They were also embroidered in Gold and precious stones sometimes.
Uttariya was another clothing product which was draped over the upper half of the body. The style in which it was worn varied as per the convenience of the person wearing it.
The male segment of the society opted for tunics made out of brocades. Kayabandh was used to affirm the desired position of the antariya. It was a key feature of male clothing as it was used to hold the desirable position of the garment.
Golden Age of Indian History – Gupta Period:
We would now broaden the horizon of our exploration and talk about the Golden Age of Indian History – Gupta Period. It extended from 320 AD – 550 AD. This period is distinguished for its contributions in the field of culture, art, science literature and philosophy.
Let’s closely examine role played by the Gupta Period in redefining the state of Ancient Indian Fashion!!!
This period introduced stitching of clothes in the royal households. It resulted in the availability of aesthetic garments within the elite section of the society.
The most prominent silk fabric used in this era was Stavaraka. The aesthetic characteristic of this cloth emanated from the usage of majestic pearls over its surface. This enhanced it’s likeability within the royal family.
Ancient India Women’s Clothing:
The women usually wore long sarees to cover their body. The newer addition to the wardrobe of the women was Choli. The popularity of tailored clothing grew during the Gupta Period. Different kinds of designs Cholis ( blouses ) emerged in this period.
There was an extensive usage of the brocades from Benaras which were woven with gold and silver. The unique art of Calico Printing flourished in the Gupta period.
Weaving and embroidery techniques were the key takeaways from this period.
This period involved the maximum usage of Gold or Hirana as compared to other periods.
The nobles opted for an exclusively created costumes which were tunics that were brocaded and had longer sleeve length.
Another unique apparel was the Antariya which had Block Printing and was manufactured with silk. It was draped around the waistline and extended up to the ankles.
People used of amazing Hair Accessories in order to adorn their hair during this period.
Ancient Indian Jewellery Style:
The most popular categories of Jewelleries during this period were earrings ( Kundala ), casual neck chains ( Sutra ), beautifully adorned chains ( Hemasutra ) , single strand necklaces usually made of small pearls ( Muktavali) , bigger pearls (Tarahara) and the necklace in which the pearls were embellished with a precious stone in the middle were called Sudha Ekavali.The females also wore miniature forms of anklets which were called Kinkini. Flowers were also used for ornamentation during this period.
In the Gupta period, a lot of improvement was evident in the field of Textiles and Dyeing. The finer varieties of textiles were procured by the Guptas along with the commendable developments in the printing, painting and dyeing techniques.
In reality, a lot of printing traditions developed during this time.The embroideries during this era were quite intricate in nature.
The dyeing patterns applied in this period were known as Pupakabandha. These patterns basically correspond to the tie and dye method of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
I hope our discussion has enriched your understanding about the developments in the field of Fashion in the Ancient Indian. This has really affirmed an optimistic belief about history in me i.e. “History is a Resource”. It is indeed a wonderful resource to fill our existing treasures of Knowledge. I guess you all are with me on this. Are you???