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Ancient Indian Facts: Clothing

By Yona Williams    6/19/08

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sari.jpg
Becoming familiar with the practices and traditions of ancient inhabitants can provide insight to some of the habits of their descendants. For example, early Indians wore the same kind of clothing that you may encounter today.

Silver and gold jewelry was quite popular amongst Indian woman who could afford such things. Earrings and nose rings were quite common. A nose pin was a more common form of expression for a woman and usually preferred over the nose ring. Both trends served as symbols of purity and marriage in the past.

Men also wore gold ornaments – a popular form of expression that was also believed to possess the power to purify anything that it touched. In the past, gold ornaments also stood as a sign of economic wealth for marrying women.

As a sign of decoration, women would decorate their foreheads with a spot of red – called a bindi.
The most predominant fabric used in early Indian clothing was cotton. It is said that the country became the first destination where cotton was cultivated – with a date as early as 2500 BC – during the Harappan period. In the past, the bindi was also a symbol of marriage (known as vivaha). Today, unmarried women and those outside of the culture will wear bindis.

Saris became in fashion when the Aryan period rolled around. Women draped a long piece of cloth around their body, coming up with different ways of wrapping the garment. The word 'sari' belongs to the Sanskrit language, which simply means 'cloth.' The first mentioning of such a garment was in the Vedas – around 600 BC. If you were a wealthy woman, then your sari was made out of silk. However, the majority of women at this time wore cotton saris.

Younger women typically wore brightly colored saris, while widows and women in mourning only wore white saris.

As for the men – they donned a 'dhoti' – a long piece of cloth that was usually white in color. The dhoti was wrapped about the legs to create what we would call 'pants' of today.

Men wore turbans – long cotton cloths that were wrapped around their heads.

Despite Islamic invasions that took place around 1000 AD, India fashion was not entirely influenced by the Persian styles that infiltrated the land. While people still wore their sari or dhoti, many in the north embraced Persian clothing.

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