Page images

rather with that unvarying constancy of instinct, which teaches the bird to build the same nest or the insect to weave the same web for countless generations. It is only by acting upon this principle that European manufactures can penetrate into Eastern consumption. Neither price nor quality will supersede inveterate tradition. The reason that so little progress has been made in the introduction of British goods in the markets of India, China, and Japan, is that but a small proportion of those goods have been adapted to the established tastes and customs of the natives. Either from ignorance or from indifference we have sought to clothe them in materials and garments foreign to their habits. The consequence is that the demand and use of British manufactures in the East, and even in our own Indian possessions, are surprisingly small and might be enormously increased. It is therefore a matter of national importance to study and ascertain what the traditions of India in respect to dress really are. This task has been most ably performed by Dr. Forbes Watson in the volume before us, and in the larger work which has been circulated by order of the Secretary of State for India. We call attention to the work and to the subject, not as a matter of mere curiosity, but as an inquiry of direct interest to the manufacturing industry of Europe.

It would be interesting to ascertain the style of clothing of the earliest civilised periods of India, and to compare it with what exists at present; but in none of the early works of poetry or the drama, in which descriptions of costume might have been appropriately introduced, is any degree of minuteness to be found. Allusion is made to saffron-tinted robes,' and to red-dyed garments,' in occasional passages; but even these are comparatively rare as regards men, and there is little more in respect to women. In the drama of Vikram and • Urvasi, written probably in the reign of Vikramaditya, B.C. 56, Puranavas, one of the characters, says of Urvasi, a nymph, who has fainted

·Soft as the flower, the timid heart not soon
Foregoes its fears. The scarf that veils her bosom
Hides not its flutterings, and the panting breast
Seems as it felt the wreath of heavenly blossoms

Weigh too oppressively.'-Act i. sc. i.
Again :-

* In truth she pleases me: thus chastely robed
In modest white, her clustering tresses decked
With sacred flowers alone, her haughty mien
Exchanged for meek devotion. Thus arrayed,
She moves with heightened charms.'-Act iii. sc. ii.

In the play of Mrichchákati,'attributed to King Sudraka of Ujjein, who reigned, according to the traditional chronology, in the first century before our era, and is certainly not later than the second century after Christ, we find the following passage, act iv. sc. ii. :

Maitrena. Pray, who is that gentleman dressed in silken raiment, glittering with rich orpaments, and rolling about as if his limbs were out of joint?

Attendant. That is my lady's brother.

Maitrena. And pray who is that lady dressed in flowered muslin?* a goodly person truly,' &c.

The following passage, taken from the Uttara Rama Cheritra,' by the same author, affords a better idea of male costume. Janaka, the father of Sita, the heroine, is describing the hero, Rama:

• You bave rightly judged
His birth: for see, on either shoulder hangs
The martial quiver, and the feathery shafts
Blend with his curling locks. Below his breast,
Slight tinctured with the sacrificial ashes,
The deerskin wraps his body, with the zone
Of Murva bound ; the madder-tinted garb
Descending vests his limbs; the sacred rosary
Begirts his wrists; and in one hand he bears
The Pipal staff, the other grasps the bow

Arundati. Whence comes he ?' In the · Sareda Tilaka,' a monologue of later date, but still of comparative antiquity, there is a curious and amusing description of the various women of India, distinguishing each by her nationality, if such a term be allowable ; but here, too, the author fails of expressing anything definitive. We will, however, give a couple of specimens :

'1. There goes the maid of Gurjara (Guzerat), blooming as with perpetual youth, having eyes like the chakóra, of the complexion of the yellow Rochana, and a voice musical as that of the Parrot. She wears anklets of silver, large earrings set with pearls, and her bodice is buttoned below the hips with gems.'

2. The matron of Maharashtra proceeds yonder, her forehead stained with saffron, and with silver chains upon her feet; she wears a coloured veil, and a girdle round her loins.'

"3. A Chola female (south of India) approaches, whose cheeks are tinted with saffron, and whose dress is embroidered with the buds of

the lotus.'t

* Phulla pàvar a-apa-uda, for Pushpa pravaraka, pravitra—dressed in a garment of, or with, flowers, which the commentator explains to mean worked muslin. (Translator's Note.)

† The translations from the original Sanscrit in this and the VOL, CXXVI. NO, CCLVII.


• The bodice which buttons below the hips,' is certainly unknown at the present day, either in Guzerat or elsewhere in India; and as no single cloth, as a scarf, or the present Sari, could be buttoned, we can only presume that the garment was cut out and sewn in the fashion of a long tight-fitting robe, as in use among Persian women of the present time.

Since these descriptions avail little, it might be assumed that the sculpture which adorns every ancient Hindu temple in India would throw some light on the subject of costume; but here we are as much at a loss as before. The temples we allude to are certainly of no very great antiquity, and are probably considerably within the Christian era. Still it would be interesting to have specimens of the local costumes of a thousand years ago; and many temples in the south and west of India, as also in Guzerat and Orissa, &c. are known to belong to periods as early as A.D. 500. But here, too, we are foiled. Although groups of figures are numerous beyond description, their attire seems to be entirely conventional. Men, for the most part, wear head-dresses in the form of conical crowns richly covered with ornaments; their bodies are naked, and their breasts and arms show necklaces and armlets of very ornate patterns. From the loins to the knee, or middle of the thigh, they have in most instances kilts, as it were, also composed of ornaments; and many are altogether naked, both male and female, with a girdle of ornamental pattern round the loins. These figures abound among the sculptures of Ellora, and upon the Hindu temples of Dharwar and Mysore of the eighth to the thirteenth century; also upon the Chola' temples at Conjeveram, and elsewhere, probably of the same era. In the Jain sculpture the male and female figures are invariably naked; but ornamented in general with necklaces, bracelets, armlets, and zones, of exceedingly intricate and beautiful patterns, in imitation, probably, of the chased goldwork of the period.*

other passages quoted are taken from the plays collected and published by the late Mr. H. H. Wilson.

* The architecture and ornamentation of the temples of Southern India have now been rendered accessible to European curiosity by the publication of the magnificent photographic representations of Beejapoor, Dharwar, Ahmedabad, and other cities, edited and described by Mr. James Fergusson and Colonel Meadows Taylor ; a work for which we are indebted partly to the liberality of the Bombay Government, but far more to the munificence of some of the native Bombay merchants, who enabled these splendid volumes to be sold at a comparatively moderate cost. They are by far the most inThe best representations of ancient costume in India are the celebrated fresco paintings in the caves of Ajunta, many of which are still very perfect. In the Buddhist caves of Ellora some paintings in a similar style had been executed; but they were destroyed by the Mahommedans when they invaded the Deccan early in the fourteenth century, and it is extraordinary that those of Ajunta escaped their iconoclastic and fanatic zeal. They did escape, however; and for several years Major Gill, of the Madras army, was engaged by Government in copying them on their original scale. Some of our readers may perhaps remember these copies, which had been deposited in the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, and perished in the late destructive fire there. It is difficult to decide the date of these paintings, which represent scenes in Buddhist history; and the series may extend from the first or second century before Christ, to the fourth and sixth century of our era. In either case they are upwards of a thousand years old, and, as such, are very much to our purpose. The only traces which now remain of them in England, are in Mrs. Spier's very beautiful and interesting work, entitled · Life in Ancient India ;' but a few notes made from the engravings of Major Gill's copies of these frescoes, will show their importance as a record of costume.

One very large picture, covered with figures, represents the coronation of Sinhala, a Buddhist king. He is seated on a stool or chair, crowned with a tiara of the usual conventional form ; corn, as an emblem of plenty and fertility, is being poured over his shoulder by girls. He is naked from the throat to the waist; with necklaces, armlets and bracelets of gold. From the waist he wears a waistcloth or modern ‘dhotee,' of a striped pattern, with one end arranged between his legs in plaits, the other end, or perhaps a separate piece, being passed across his chest, and falling over the left shoulder. His knees and legs are bare. Beside him, on either hand, is an attendant bearing a fan. Each wears a waistcloth from the loins to a little above the knee, and a scarf across the chest. A figure behind, on the king's right, with his back turned to the spectator, having a long straight sword by his side, wears a dhotee, with folds hanging in front exactly as worn at present, and one end passed over his right shoulder. Some persons approaching the king with

teresting and complete memorials of the sacerdotal and regal grandeur of Southern India which are in existence; and no work gives so striking an impression of the former splendour of those empires. For the purpose we have now in hand—the study of native costume—they afford of course materials of indisputable correctness and authenticity.

offerings are in precisely the same costume, and one has a striped dhotee. Groups of soldiers, with long oblong shields covering the entire person, hold crooked swords, and have a waistcloth only, tied like a kilt, which does not reach to the knee. A band of musicians, playing hand-drums and pipes like those now in common use, all wear dhotees, the tie and sit of each being the same as those worn at present. All the women are naked to the waist; some of them have the end of the cloth, or saree, thrown across the bosom, and passing over the left shoulder. Spearmen on foot and on horseback have short waistcloths only.

In a picture of two male figures drawn with much skill and spirit, entitled a · Philosophical Disputation, both are naked to the waist, and wear the ordinary dhotee. They have long hair in ringlets, chaplets of beads, armlets and bracelets, and are sitting upon a raised seat covered by a checked cloth. A vignette represents an old man holding an infant Buddha in his arms.

He has a scarf round his breast, which supports the child who is lying in it. In a picture of two holy men, one of them is touching the head of an elephant; he holds a cup in his left hand, and wears a long robe reaching to his feet, with very full loose sleeves; the other, who has a nimbus round his head, has an elaborate drapery in folds like that of a Greek statue. The faces of both appear to us Grecian, and neither of the figures is Buddhist.

In another large picture, full of figures, representing the introduction of Buddhism to Ceylon and its establishment there, all the figures, male and female, are naked to the waist. Some have waistcloths or kilts only, others have scarfs, or probably the ends of the dhotees, thrown over their shoulders. A holy Buddhist foating through the air is a very graceful composition. The saint is being carried along in the attitude of adoration, attended by two naked females, one of whom has a gold zone ornamented, the other a necklace, ear-rings, and zone. The saint wears a waistcloth or dhotee only. In a representation of Buddha teaching, one of his arms, the right, is naked; the left arm appears partly covered by a sleeve, out of which the hand issues; but the drawing requires detail. Female figures in different attitudes around, are all naked; but have necklaces, ear-rings, and bracelets: and one, a girdle of jewels round her loins.

We have dwelt upon the costume depicted in these curious paintings thus minutely, because they are, as we have before observed, the only representations of the actual attire of an ancient period existing in India; and because they show that

« PreviousContinue »