Cosmetics, Costumes and Ornaments in Ancient India

by Remadevi. O. | 2009 | 54,177 words

This page relates ‘Protective Footwear’ of the study on cosmetics, costumes and ornaments of ancient India based on Sanskrit sources. Chapter one deals with cosmetics and methods of enhancing beauty; Chapter two deals with costumes, garments and dresses; Chapter three deals with ornaments for humans and animals. Each chapter deals with their respective materials, types, preparation and trade, as prevalent in ancient Indian society.

3.3. Protective Footwear

Foot wears were not only an article of luxury, but as in these days it was considered necessary for the protection of feet. Both men and women used foot wears. Usually foot wears were made of wood, grass, leather and coir. Both shoes and sandals were in vogue. Wooden foot wears were called as Pāduka, while foot wear made of grass or leather were known by the name Upānaha.

Earliest reference to foot wears is in Vedic literature. Ṛgveda[1] refers to two foot guards namely Vaturiṇāpada and Patsaṅgiṇi used by the soldiers in battle. Atharvaveda[2], Saṃhitas, Brāhmaṇas and Gṛhyasūtras attest the use of Upānaha. Such foot wears were worn especially on ceremonial occasions like sacrifice. Upānaha for sacrificial purposes was made of skin of boar or that of antelope. In Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa[3], we read of kings wearing Upānaha made of boar skin during Rājasūya. Pañcaviṃśa-brāhmaṇa[4] mentions Vrātyas wearing pointed and black coloured Upānaha. According to Gobhila-gṛhyasūtra[5], a student can go anywhere wearing sandals or shoes except in his own village. There he should be barefooted. Purāṇas and epics also allude to foot wears. Vālmīki-rāmāyaṇa[6] mentions both wooden and skin made foot wears. In Kādambarī[7], we come across Kādambarī wearing coir made sandals. Similarly Sundarī in Saundarananda[8] is represented in one context as wearing slippers. Mṛcchakaṭika[9] also refers to women wearing foot wears. Śilparatna[10] recommends sandals for idols having feet. Devīpurāṇa prescribes trees like Candana, Śrīparṇa, Śrīhuma and Devadāru for making foot wears of idols. Gold also can be used. Most of our medical treatises insist on the necessity of wearing footwear. According to Caraka[11] and Suśruta foot wears are not only a protection for feet, but are essential, especially for eye health and total strength of the body in general.

Footnotes and references:




XX.13, 4










Literary and Cultural Perspectives of Ancient India (LCPAI), p.180




Indian Social Customs as Noticed by Foreign Writers up to 750 AD (ISCNFW), p.204


LCPAI, p.179

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