Cosmetics, Costumes and Ornaments in Ancient India

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

This page relates ‘Materials for Garments (c): Woollen clothes’ 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.

1. Materials for Garments (c): Woollen clothes

Wool was prepared from the hair of ram, goat, sheep and ewe. Woollen clothes were in vogue since Ṛgvedic[1] time and were of different types, in accordance with the material from which they are prepared. However, in Aṣṭādhyāyī[2], all sorts of woollen clothes are mentioned by the term Aurṇaka which has its root in Ūrṇa, meaning sheep’s hair. A sheep is termed as Ūrṇavatī in Ṛgveda[3]. Aurṇa, Kambala and Śamulya are some words for woollen, which find mention in Vedas. Of these, the term Kambala is used exclusively for blankets in the later period. According to some scholars[4], the term Aurṇa is used in Vedic texts in the sense of goat’s wool though the word actually means a sheep’s wool for wearing sheep’s wool was considered inauspicious in those days and hence its use is ascribed to the later Vedic age. Thus in Brāhmaṇas[5] and Śrautasūtras we come across the word Ūrṇa for sheeps wool. Sheep’s wool was known as Āvika also, for which, references are seen in Purāṇas[6] and Bṛhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad[7]. Bṛhatsaṃhitā[8] talks about both Aurṇaka and Āvika. Wool prepared from mountain goat’s hair was called Kutapa. Rāṅgava was another variety among the wool made of mountain goat’s hair. Amarakośa[9] mentions Rāṅgava. Mahābhārata[10] also attests costly Rāṅgava given as gift. Pāṇini[11] has referred to Rāṅgava in one Sūtra as a word derived from the root Raṅgu. According to some commentators Raṅgu is a sort of mountain goat, usually seen in the Pamir regions. Soft, thin, dyed and bleached varieties of wool were available. Soft and thin varieties were mostly employed in lower garments. Ṛgveda[12] gives indications to soft wools. In one place it is stated that the wool of ewe from Gāndhāra are soft.

Footnotes and references:




Aṣṭādhyāyī, 4.3.158




Some Aspects of the Earliest Social History of India (SAESHI), p.58


Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa, V.2.1.8; Pañcaviṃśa-brāhmaṇa, XVII.14.16, Kātyāyana-śrautasūtra, XXII.4




XVI.29, LXXXVI.12, CIII.12




Sabhāparva, 47.22


Aṣṭādhyāyī, IV.2.100



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