Harshacharita (socio-cultural Study)

by Mrs. Nandita Sarmah | 2014 | 67,792 words

This page relates ‘Different Requisites Used for Decoration’ of the English study on the Harshacharita: A Sanskrit (poetical work) which can be studied as a Historical book of Indian society during the 7th century. It was originally written by Banabhatta who based his Harsacarita on the life of the Gupta emperor Harshavardhana. This study researches the religion, philosophy, flora and fauna and society of ancient India as reflected in the Harsha-Charita.

14.1. Different Requisites Used for Decoration

The writer has used the word veṣa[1] to indicate dress and bhūṣā[2] to indicate ornaments.

P. V. Kane comments—

bhūṣā means ornaments, decoration.”[3]

Both men and women used to wear ornaments of flowers and other metals like gold, silver etc in the 7th century A. D.

It is found in the Harṣacarita that the women were expert in decoration, and they came to decorate princess Rājyaśrī in her bridal dress[4] in her marriage ceremony. The king Grahavarman, when he came to marry the princess Rājyaśrī, had also decorated his hair with flowers.[5] Not only the kings, but other feudatories also decorated their hair with flowers.[6]

The author describes many times that the people of that time used different types of ointment in their body. Bāṇa uses the term aṅgarāga[7] and prasādhana[8] to denote cosmetics. They used the scented ointment or fragrant powders of candana[9] and very fragrant musk paste, too in their body.[10] The author notes that the people also used the scented water or a kind of perfume while bathing.[11] In these context, the author mentions about paṭavāsa[12] (i.e. perfumed powder). Its smell is strong like camphor.

According to Amarakoṣa

piṣṭātaḥ paṭavāsakaḥ.[13]

Other various requisites used for decoration were such as-

Gorocanā: It was a bright yellow pigment prepared from the urine or bile of a cow, used in the body to ward off evil eye and evil spirits. Therefore, it was spread around the body of child Harṣa.[14]

Candana: People smeared it just to enhance in their beauty.[15] In the time of coronation, king Harṣa’s[16] whole body was anointed with fragrant sandal paste. Bāṇa also mentions due to the cooling effect of candana, it was used in king Prabhākaravardhana’s whole body when he had been in deep-fever.[17]

The ladies also used a face-pack made with kuṅkuma (saffron powder), kakkola, jātiphala etc. to increase in the beauty of their faces.[18] The ladies hair was dangled on her back, being let loose as she tied it carelessly as like as now-a-days.[19] Both male and female decorated their forehead with a mark of sandal-paste, gorocanā or made with the paint of manaśilā[20] in the 7th century A.D. The spot or mark on the forehead was known as tilaka, puṇḍṛka, lalāṭikā etc.[21]

Guggula: It was a mark made with ashes and generally it is used by the ascetics.[22]

lalāṭikā: It was a mark of sandal or other fragrant powder on the forehead.[23]

According to Pāṇini


Bāṇa mentions sometimes it emitted the perfume of musk.[25] To increase in the beauty of the forehead, king Harṣa used tilaka of kasturī on his forehead.[26] But the sage Jāvāli wore a tripuṇḍṛka mark on his forehead made with ashes.[27]

It also found in the Harṣacarita, a special type of tilaka known as caṭulātilaka[28] which was made of a jewel. P. V. Kane comments—

sūvarṇaśṛṅkhalāvaddho nānāratnaudhamaṇḍitaḥ |
lalāṭalambyalaṅkāraścaṭulātilako mataḥ

Ālaktaka: It was red dye made from lac. At that time, the ladies feet were embellished with thick ālaktaka dye,[30] and the upper side of the feet was marked with the kuṅkuma (saffron).[31]

Collirium: Both male and female used it to increasing the beauty of their eyes.[32]

Footnotes and references:


vinitamāyaṃ ca veṣaṃ dadhānaḥ, Ibid.,III.p.39


[a]...kṛta…anurupaveśa….., Ibid.,IV.p.72 [b] …bhajati bhūṣām…, Ibid., II.p.37




….nirmāṇanipuṇapurāṇapaurapuraṃdhriba…, Ibid.,IV.p.69


mallikāmuṇḍamālāmadhyādhyāsitakusumaśekhareṇa…, Ibid.,IV.p.71


dhārayantavaśeṣarājākakusumaśekhara…..samastasāmantasīmanto…, Ibid.,II.p.27






dhavalenacaraṇaścandanena śarīram…..., Ibid.,VII.p.108


…āmoditamṛgamadapaṅka…….bhāsvaram…, Ibid.,I.p.9


gandhodakadhārāgṛham, Ibid.,II.p.31






gorucanāpiñjaritavapuṣi, Harṣacarita,IV.p.64


[a] …haricandanarasaprakṣālite…, Ibid.,IV.p.32
[b] candanadhūsarābhi…..sundarībhiḥ, Ibid.,II.p.21
[c] candanarasānulepaśītalaṃ…..vakṣasthalam, Ibid.,V.p.67


….nijayaśodhavalenācaraṇataścandanena śarīraṃ…., Ibid.,VII.p.108


aciracandanacarcāparāṇāṃ paricārakāṇām…dhavalaiḥ karaiḥ śpṛśyamānam…, Ibid.,V.p.78


…ghṛtaghanīkṛtakuṅkumakalkamiśritāṃścāṅgarāgaṃllāvaṇyaviśeṣakṛnti ca mukhalepanāni…, Ibid.,IV.p.69


pṛṣṭhapreṅkhadanādarasaṃyamanśithilajūtikābandhā……, Ibid.,I.p.15


…lalātapaṭṭasya manaḥśilāpaṅka…, Ibid.,I.p.9


[a].…agnihotrapavitrabhasmasmeralalāṭaiḥ, Ibid.,I.p.4
[b]..tisrbhirbhasmapuṇḍakarājitalalāṭājirā, Ibid.,I.p.3
[c] …likhitalalāṭikāpuṇḍakai…..lalanālalāṭe…, Ibid.,II.p.21
[d] …candrikāmiva lalāṭikāṃ dadhānā, Ibid.,I.p.17


[a]..śirovidhṛtavilīyamānaguggulu…, Ibid.,V.p.76 [b] ….bhasmalalāṭikayā bahuśaḥ śiroddhṛtadagghaguggulu……, Ibid.






….mṛgamadāmodaniṣyandinā tilakabindunā…., Harṣacarita,I.p.15


kṛṣṇāgarupaṅkatilaka…, Ibid.,II.p.34


uparacitamasmatripuṇḍṛkeṇa……..lalāṭaphalakenopetam, Kādambarī, p.74




Ibid., p. 213




…kuṅkumapiñjaritapṛṣṭhasya caraṇayugalasya.., Ibid.


ekaśalākāñjanajanitalocanaruciḥ, Ibid.,III.p.39

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