Like the speaker in my textiles class at NMI said, clothes have the longest relationship with us. Our parents starts making clothes for us even before we are born and the last thing that goes with us are clothes. We know it that our clothes define us to an extent. We choose carefully the clothes that we wear for different occasions, at different places and for different events.

The author of this small book takes us through the costumes of ancient India roughly a period from 4th BCE to 9th CE and covering major periods like Maurayan, Shunga, Satvahana, Kushan and Gupta. This also becomes a journey of the evolution of the clothes or costumes. Along with clothes worn by various types of people during this period, she has also covers the headgear, hairstyles, Jewellery. For clothes, you get the style of draping, wearing, stitching, textiles used, patterns and weaves on textiles and techniques of dyeing. She has also tried to tell the functionality and usability of the garments though very briefly. All the information is based on the archeological evidences that include various sculptures that have been found from various periods of history and the cave paintings, especially the ones at Ajanta.

The description of the costumes is very academic and can be very boring to read unless you are using it as reference information. But what the book still interesting is the excellent illustrations of the sculptures along with all the details of the costume. You can see what exactly the author meant while describing the costume and you are also able to relate them to their current day avatars. Next time you watch period dramas and mythological serials, you would be able to place many things or may be spot discrepancies in the costumes.

The names of the various garments and Jewellery pieces are very interesting, most of them are no longer in use now, but I could find meaning of lot of words that we find in Sanskrit texts. Like I never knew that Keyura that comes while describing the Devi is actually the Baju-band or the armband. Similarly the names of the various types of necklaces like Hemasutra for a gold chain with a precious stone in the centre.

Interesting insight into the costumes of the bygone eras…

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