Cosmetics, Costumes and Ornaments in Ancient India

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

This page relates ‘Dressing on the Basis of Hierarchy’ 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.

2.15. Dressing on the Basis of Hierarchy

Smṛtis and Gṛhyasūtras are the main sources, which inform us about the dressing of different castes. Different materials are suggested for different castes. Similarly colours also are prescribed as different. Distinction is suggested even in the mode of wearing on the basis of hierarchy. However we find different rules in different texts.

According to Āpastamba-gṛhyasūtra[1], Brahmins should wear hempen clothes as lower garments. Flax and skin are recommended for Kṣatriya and Vaiśya respectively, while in Pāraskara-gṛhyasūtra[2] and Manusmṛti, we come across Āvika (Wool) for Vaiśya. Vasiṣṭha-gṛhyasūtra[3] and Gautamagṛhyasūtra[4] do not make such a distinction. They prescribe the same material for lower garment of all the four sects.

Āpastamba-gṛhyasūtra[5], Pāraskara-gṛhyasūtra[6], Vasiṣṭha-gṛhyasūtra[7], Baudhāyana-gṛhyasūtra[8] and Āpastamba-gṛhyasūtra[9] insist on wearing skin as upper garment. But there also we find difference of materials based on hierarchy. Thus, a Brāhmaṇa is suggested to wear skin of black deer, while for Kṣatriya and Vaiśya it is of Ruru deer or spotted deer and he-goat respectively, while all castes are permitted to wear woollen blankets as well as sheep’s skin. In Pāraskara-gṛhyasūtra[10] it is stated that one may use cow hide, in case he is unable to own a skin suited to his Varṇa. Similarly, on the nonavailability of goat skin, Baudhāyana-gṛhyasūtra[11] prescribes black deer skin for all Varṇas.

Garga[12] prescribes white, red, yellow and dark colours for garments of Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya, Vaiśya and Śūdra respectively. But some other texts[13] insist on Brāhmaṇa wearing clothes of reddish yellow, Kṣatriya wearing those dyed in madder and those dyed in turmeric by Vaiśya.

It is mentioned in Smṛtis[14] that a Brāhmaṇa is deemed as Śūdra, whenever he happens to wear the lower garment without having a tuck in the behind. Likewise, a Brāhmaṇa will never cover the upper part of his body with a portion of the lower garment. If it happened, then also he will be deemed as a Śūdra. From this it is clear that each caste had its own mode of dressing.

Footnotes and references:























ISCNFW, p.183


ISCNFW, p.184

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