Cosmetics, Costumes and Ornaments in Ancient India

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

This page relates ‘Art of Decoration’ 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.

4. Art of Decoration

The art of decorating one with cosmetics and ornaments is one among the list of sixty-four arts. This art is known by different names like Prasādhanakalā, Prasādhanavidhi, Alaṅkāravidhi, Maṇḍanavidhi, Pratikarma and Bhūṣaṇayojana. Body was decorated either completely or partly, i.e., face alone. Facial decoration was called Mukhaprasādhana. There was even a society of decorators or beauticians, who were expert in their field. Both men and women acquired knowledge in this art. These beauticians were known by various names. Generally a male decorator was known as Prasādhaka and a female decorator Prasādhikā.

Pāṇini[1] calls a male beautician as Anulepaka, Mālabhārī etc. and a female beautician as Anulepikā, Vilepikā, Pralepikā, Mālabhāriṇī etc. Of these Mālabhārī and Mālabhāriṇī are servants, who adorn one with garlands. We have plenty of references to male and female decorators. We meet with Anulepaka in Vālmīki-rāmāyaṇa[2] frequently. Manusmṛti[3] speaks of a professional Prasādhaka. In Kumārasambhava[4], we read of Prasādhika decorating Pārvatī on the wedding day. Royal dignitaries also acquired knowledge in this art. In Mahābhārata[5], Draupadī is described in one place as preparing some unguents for Kuntī. In another context, we meet with Draupadī as the Sairandhrī of Virāṭa’s queen. This Sairandhrī is a female attendant, who should be well versed in such arts.

Footnotes and references:




IX. 76. 143




III.222.38, IV.19.25

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