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Dress in ancient bengal

In ancient Bengal, one usually wore clothes which were not stitched: they were usually pieces of cloth worn around the body. Tailored shirts arrived later from the north-west, but for the lower ody, dhuti and shAD.i never gave up their place to cuD.idAra or similar tailored garments. Slightly richer men and women used uttarIYa and oD.nA respectively for the upper body. The oD.nA when present or the end of the shAD.i otherwise was used to cover the head.

From contemporary literature and depictions, we have a pretty good idea of Bengali dress. Men wore their dress so that the legs were bare below the knees. The men had the kaccha or kAchA behind them, the knot hanging below their navel. Some people pulled one end behind them, folding the other to hang in front. Women covered upto their ankles, and did not have the kAchA. The upper body was usually bare ... in the cities and in the richer section, an oD.nA, or sometimes a piece of cloth tied over the breasts, and sometimes a tailored bodice covering the breasts and upper arms, present exceptions. The womens' dresses, and sometimes the men's dhuti as well, was patterned with leaves and creepers, flowers and geometric symbols; a style which we first meet in the Indian context in western India.

jImutavAhana describes special dresses worn to social occasions. Dancing women used to wear stiched pajamas covering upto their ankles, and oD.nAs over their shoulders to cover their upper body. The ascetics, and the very poor, used to wear just a loin cloth. Soldiers and wrestlers, and possibly also some ordinary manual laborers, used pajamas upto their thighs. Children wore dhutis upto the knees, tight pajamas or piece of loin cloth called dhaTi. They had ornaments with medals around their necks.

Men wore their hair long, curled into layers upon their shoulders. Some people tied it into a topknot, or hanging above the forehead tied with a ribbon. Women wore their hair either into a bun or hanging behind them. Ascetics had their long hair in two layers on top of their head, children often had three topknots on their head. In gauD.a, the last bit of the women's hair was left free hanging.

Soldiers used leather shoes that covered upto their ankles, but was open at front and without laces. Common people probably did not use leather shoes, even though both leather and wooden shoes were religiously allowed. Even rich people often used wooden shoes.

A walking stick, often of bamboo, and umbrella were also quite common.

Married women wore a black soot spot on their forehead, black soot lining their eyes, vermillion in the parting of their hair, red alaktaka on their feet, vermillion and alaktaka on their lips, and sandalwood powder, sandalwood paste, camphor, mRganAbhi, jAfrAna etc. on their face and body. When their husbands died, they had to wipe off the vermillion from their hair. Men had long nails which they coloured.

Women wore threaded flower garlands around their neck and put flowers in their hair. Scented oil in their hair, flower garlands around their hair, tAla leaf ornaments in their ear, and bangles on their upper arms were also common.

In the 10th-11th century AD, kSemendra described students from gauD.a studying in kAshmira wearing maYurapaGkhi shoes and proud of their looks, wearing red loin clothes, three golden ornaments on each ear, stick in hand.

Many varieties of fine cotton is mentioned in the literature from this period. The names often referred not only to the weaving, but also to the particular patterning. Of course, common people wore just unpatterned thick cotton clothes: often even that was worn out.

Both men and women wore rings and studs in their ears, rings on their fingers, necklaces, armbands, hair-ornaments and ornaments around the hips. Women, especially married women, wore shell bangles, a red bangle and an iron bangle. Necklaces with pearls are mentioned, as are precious stones like diamonds, marakta, nIlakAntamaNi, cuNI etc, even on anklet. Ornaments were often out of gold and silver.

During marriage, the bride was bathed by women with male children and with husbands living, and then clothed in a white dress. In one description, on the forehead was drawn a tilaka and golden spot, soot lining the eyes, ornaments on the ear, alaktaka on the lips, pearl necklace, shell and gold bangles, alaktaka on the feet. The shaGkha valaYa was worn by women alone.

Gems mentioned in ancient bengal include diamonds, vaidUryamaNi, pearls, marakata, mANikya, and nIlamaNi; and ornaments are often described as made of gold. On one's person one wore kasturI, kAlAguru, candana, kuGkuma and karpUra.

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