Clothing Of The Hindus
( Originally Published 1928 )
THE date of the Aryan invasion is about 1500 B.C. A subsequent mixture of races caused the establishment of four hereditary classes, eventually developing a system of castes with laws prohibiting any intermingling. Marriage, breaking bread together or indulging in any form of personal contact was forbidden. These sharply drawn lines showed in the costume, creating great diversity of form.
Materials.—The manufacture of cotton originated in India. It is believed to have been worn there as early as linen was in Egypt. Delicate muslins and calicoes of Indian manufacture, both plain and figured, were carried to Persia, Arabia and Egypt before the Christian era began. The fineness of these products was such that pieces of considerable width could be drawn through finger rings. The Hindus were famous also for the manufacture of silks of extraordinarily fine texture. The goats and sheep of Cashmere and Tibet furnished the wool for the India shawls so fashionable in early Victorian days.
The Costume.—The large class of Hindus known as snake charmers, also the coolies and the Bhils, are scantily clad, but always turbaned. Many castes wear cotton drawers, turbans and shawls ; others, long or knee-length robes over trousers, and still others go bare-legged. Sashes, shawls, and the ever popular turban, of which there is an infinite variety in size and form, complete the costume.
The clothes of the rajahs are made from the richest materials known. Plumed turbans are strung with pearls and decked with rare gems ; the tunic usually tight fitting and belted has a shoulder piece like a cape running down in points to the waistline, heavily decorated with fringe and ropes of pearls.
The Sari.—The most important item of a woman's dress is a voluminous veil or wrap of muslin, gauze, or silk worn around the waist with one end falling to the feet, the other crossed over bosom, shoulder and head. The right hand and shoulder are, as a rule, visible. Under it is worn a tunic, with either long or short sleeves, reaching to the feet. Drawers frequently show below the tunic or sari, held to the leg by anklets. Rings in the left nostril, with sometimes a pendant jewel; bracelets, necklaces and headdresses consisting of square plaques from which chains of pearls are suspended each side of the face; a fan, shaped like a battle-axe, of plaited woven straw—all these are part of the costume.