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CLOTHING IN INDIA
Clothing in India varies from region to region depending on the ethnicity, geography, climate and cultural traditions of the people of that region. Historically, men and women clothing has evolved from simple Langotas, and loincloths to cover the body to elaborate costumes not only used in daily wear but also on festive occasions as well as rituals and dance performances. In urban areas, western clothing is common and uniformly worn by people of all strata. India also has a great diversity in terms of weaves, fibres, colours and material of clothing. Colour codes are followed in clothing based on the religion and ritual concerned. For instance, Hindu ladies wear white clothes to indicate mourning, while Parsis and Christians wear white to weddings.
India's recorded history of clothing goes back to the 5th millennium BC in the Indus Valley civilization where cotton was spun, woven and dyed. Bone needles and wooden spindles have been unearthed in excavations at the site. The cotton industry in ancient India was well developed, and several of the methods survive until today. Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian described Indian cotton as "a wool exceeding in beauty and goodness that of sheep". Indian cotton clothing was well adapted to the dry, hot summers of the subcontinent. The grand epic Mahabharata, estimated to be written between 3000-4000 BC, has a mention of an uneding saree gifted to Draupadi to protect her dignity. Most of the present knowledge of ancient Indian clothing comes from rock sculptures and paintings in cave monuments such as Ellora. These images show dancers and goddesses wearing what appears to be a dhoti wrap, a predecessor to the modern sari.The upper castes dressed themselves in fine muslin and wore gold ornaments The Indus civilisation also knew the process of silk production. Recent analysis of Harappan silk fibres in beads have shown that silk was made by the process of reeling, a process known only to China until the early centuries AD.
According to the Greek historian Arrian:
"The Indians use linen clothing, as says Nearchus, made from the flax taken from the trees, about which I have already spoken. And this flax is either whiter in colour than any other flax, or the people being black make the flax appear whiter. They have a linen frock reaching down halfway between the knee and the ankle, and a garment which is partly thrown round the shoulders and partly rolled round the head. The Indians who are very well-off wear earrings of ivory; for they do not all wear them. Nearchus says that the Indians dye their beards various colours; some that they may appear white as the whitest, others dark blue; others have them red, others purple, and others green. Those who are of any rank have umbrellas held over them in the summer. They wear shoes of white leather, elaborately worked, and the soles of their shoes are many-coloured and raised high, in order that they may appear taller."
Evidence from the 1st century AD shows some cultural exchanges with the Greeks. Indo-Greek influence is seen in the Greco-Buddhist art of the time. The Buddhas were portrayed as wearing the Greek himation, which is the forerunner of the modern saṃghāti that forms a part of the Kasaya of Buddhist monks. During the Maurya and Gupta period, the people continued to wear the three piece unstitched clothing as in Vedic times. The main items of clothing were the Antariya made of white cotton or muslin, tied to the waist by a sash called Kayabandh and a scarf called the Uttariya used to drape the top half of the body.
New trade routes, both overland and overseas, created a cultural exchange with Central Asia and Europe. Romans bought indigo for dyeing and cotton cloth as articles of clothing. Trade with China via the Silk road introduced silk textiles into India. The Chinese had a monopoly in the silk trade and kept its production process a trade secret. However, this monopoly ended when, according to legend, a Chinese princess smuggled mulberry seeds and silkworms in her headdress when she was sent to marry the king of Khotan (present day Xinjiang). From there, the production of silk spread throughout Asia, and by AD 140, the practise had been established in India. Chanakya's treatise on public administration, the Arthashastra written around 3rd century BC, briefly describes the norms followed in silk weaving.
A variety of weaving techniques were employed in ancient India, many of which survive to the present day. Silk and cotton were woven into various designs and motifs, each region developing its distinct style and technique. Famous among these weaving styles were the Jamdani, Kasika vastra of Varanasi, butidar and the Ilkal saree. Brocades of silk were woven with gold and silver threads and were deeply influenced by Persian designs. The Mughals played a vital role in the enhancement of the art, and the paisley and Latifa Buti are fine examples of Mughal influence.
Dyeing of clothes in ancient India was practised as an art form. Five primary colours (Suddha-varnas) were identified and complex colours (Misra – varnas) were categorised by their many hues. Sensitivity was shown to the most subtlest of shades; the ancient treatise, Vishnudharmottara states five tones of white, namely Ivory, Jasmine, August moon, August clouds after the rain and the conch shell. The commonly used dies were indigo(Nila), madder red and safflower. The technique of mordant dyeing was prevalent in India since the second millennium BC. Resist dyeing and Kalamkari techniques were hugely popular and such textiles were the chief exports.
Integral to the history of Indian clothing is the Kashmiri shawl. Kashmiri shawl varieties include the Shahtoosh, popularly known as the 'ring shawl' and the pashmina wool shawls, historically called pashm. Textiles of wool finds mention as long back as the Vedic times in association with Kashmir; the Rig Veda refers to the Valley of Sindh as being abundant in sheep, and the god Pushan has been addressed as the 'weaver of garments', which evolved into the term pashm for the wool of the area. Woollen shawls have been mentioned in Afghan texts of the 3rd century BC, but reference to the Kashmir work is done in the 16th century AD. The sultan of Kashmir, Zain-ul-Abidin is generally credited with the founding of the industry. A story says that the Roman emperor Aurelian received a purple pallium from a Persian king, made of Asian wool of the finest quality. The shawls were dyed red or purple, red dye procured from cochineal insects and purple obtained by a mixture of red and blue from indigo The most prized kashmiri shawls were the Jamavar and the Kanika Jamavar, woven using weaving spools with coloured thread called kani and a single shawl taking more than a year for completion and requiring 100 to 1500 kanis depending on the degree of elaboration.
Indian textiles were traded from ancient times with China, Southeast Asia and the Roman Empire. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea mentions mallow cloth, muslins and coarse cottons. Port towns like Masulipatnam and Barygaza won fame for its production of muslins and fine cloth. Trade with the Arabs who were middlemen in the spice trade between India and Europe brought Indian textiles into Europe, where it was favored by royalty in the 17th–18th century. The Dutch, French and British East India Companies competed for monopoly of the spice trade in the Indian Ocean, but were posed with the problem of payment for spices, which was in gold or silver. To counter this problem, bullion was sent to India to trade for the textiles, a major portion of which were subsequently traded for spices in other trade posts, which then were traded along with the remaining textiles in London. Printed Indian calicos, chintz, muslins and patterned silk flooded the English market and in time the designs were copied onto imitation prints by English textile manufacturers, reducing the dependence on India.
The British rule in India and the subsequent oppression following the Bengal Partition sparked a nationwide Swadeshi movement. One of the integral aims of the movement was to attain self-sufficiency, and to promote Indian goods while boycotting British goods in the market. This was idealised in the production of Khadi. Khadi and its products were encouraged by the nationalist leaders over British goods, while also being seen as a means to empower the rural artisans.
In India, woman's clothing varies widely and is closely associated with the local culture, religion and climate.
Traditional Indian clothing for women in the north and east are saris or ghagra cholis and (lehengas) while many south Indian women traditionally wear sari and children wear pattu langa. Saris made out of silk are considered the most elegant. Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is one of India's fashion capitals. In many rural parts of India, traditional clothing is worn. Women wear a sari, a long sheet of colourful cloth, draped over a simple or fancy blouse. Little girls wear a pavada. Both are often patterned. Bindi is a part of women's make-up. Indo-western clothing is the fusion of Western and Subcontinental fashion. Churidar, dupatta, Khara Dupatta, gamchha, kurta, mundum neriyathum, sherwani are among other clothes.
The traditional style of clothing in India varies with male or female distinctions. This is still followed in the rural areas, though is changing in the urban areas. Girls before puberty wear a long skirt (called langa/paawada in Andhra) and a short blouse, called a choli, above it.
Saris are usually known with different names in different places. In Kerala, white saris with golden border, are known as kavanis and are worn on special occasions. A simple white sari, worn as a daily wear, is called a mundu. Saris are called pudavai in Tamil Nadu. In Karnataka, saris are called Seere.
Ghagra Choli (lehenga choli)
Different styles of ghagra cholis are worn by the women, ranging from a simple cotton lehenga choli as a daily wear, a traditional ghagra with mirrors embellished usually worn during navratri for the garba dance or a fully embroidered lehenga worn during marriage ceremonies by the bride.
Popular among unmarried women other than shalwar kameez are Gagra choli and Langa voni.
The Salwar kameez is the traditional wear of women in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. The suthan, similar to the salwar is common in Sindh and Kashmir. The salwar kameez has become the most popular dress for females. It consists of loose trousers (the salwar) narrow at the ankles, topped by a tunic top (the kameez). It is named as "Punjabi suit" or simply "shalwar" in the north and "churidaar" in Southern India. Women generally wear a dupatta or odani (Veil) with salwar kameez to cover their head and shoulders. It is always worn with a scarf called a dupatta, which is used to cover the head and drawn over the bosom. The material for the dupatta usually depends upon that of the suit, and is generally of cotton, georgette, silk, chiffon among others. This dress is worn by almost every teenage girl in lieu of western clothes. The salwar kameez is most common in the northwestern part of India. Many actresses wear the salwar kameez in Bollywood movies.
Pattu Pavadai/Reshme Langa
Girls in south India often wear pattu pavadai or Langa davani during traditional functions. Girls in Rajasthan wears this dress before marriage (and after marriage with sight modification in certain section of society.)
Langa - Voni/Dhavani
There are three main pieces of cloth that are draped around the body.
The bottom portion, draped from the waist downwards is called the Mekhela. It is in the form of a sarong—very wide cylinder of cloth—that is folded into pleats to fit around the waist and tucked in. The folds are to the right, as opposed to the pleats in the Nivi style of the saree, which are folded to the left. Strings are never used to tie the mekhela around the waist, though an underskirt with a string is often used.
The top portion of the three-piece dress, called the Sador, is a long length of cloth that has one end tucked into the upper portion of the Mekhela and the rest draped over and around the rest of the body. The Sador is tucked in triangular folds. A fitted blouse is worn to cover the breasts.
The third piece is called a Riha, which is worn under the Sador. It is narrow in width. This traditional dress of the Assamese women are very famous for their exclusive patterns on the body and the border. Women wear them during important religious and ceremonious occasions of marriage. Riha is worn exactly like a Sador and is used as Orni.
In south India men also wear long, white sarong like sheets of cloth known as Mundu. It's called dhotar in Marathi. In north and central Indian languages like Hindi, and Oriya, these are called Mundu, while in Telugu they are called Pancha, in Tamil they are called veshti and in Kannada it is called Panche/Lungi. Over the dhoti, men wear shirts.
Panche or Lungi
Lungis, generally, are of two types: the open lungi and the stitched lungi. The open lungi is a plain sheet of cotton or silk, whereas, the stitched one has both of its open ends stitched together to form a tube like structure.
Though mostly worn by men, elderly women also prefer lungi to other garments owing to its good aeration. It is mostly popular in south India, though people of Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Somalia also can be seen in lungis, because of the heat and humidity, which create an unpleasant climate for trousers, though trousers have now become common outside the house.
Western clothing made its foray into the Indian society during the times of the British Raj. Indian professionals opted to wear western clothing due to its relative comfort or due to regulations set then. By the turn of the 21st century, both western and Indian clothing had intermingled creating a unique style of clothing for the typical urban Indian population. Women started wearing more comfortable clothing and exposure to international fashion led to a fusion of western and Indian styles of clothing. Following the economic liberalisation, more jobs opened up, and created a demand for formal wear.
Women's clothing nowadays consists of both formal and casual wear such as gowns, pants, shirts and tops. Traditional Indian clothing such as the kurti have been combined with jeans to form part of casual attire. Fashion designers in India have blended several elements of Indian traditional designs into conventional western wear to create a unique style of contemporary Indian fashion. Both mini skirts and shorts are now worn by girls in bigger urban areas.
To read more about Indian clothing, please click on the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clothing_in_India