The Auspicious Adornment | From Extravagant to Ordinary

Adornment is an essential component of attire. We manifest our need to adorn ourselves through the use of decorated cloth, jewellery, cosmetics, hairstyle and tattoos: be they temporary or permanent. In the modern context, we call this fashion. But in more traditional contexts, this process of adornment had a strong relationship to auspiciousness.

Religious festivals are marked by the use of new clothes and an extensive display of jewellery. New clothes are a sign of purity. Ornaments of precious metal are also associated with purity for they demonstrate wealth and further augment the concept of auspiciousness.

In terms of adornment, nothing is said to surpass a Hindu wedding. Ornate dress and the use of jewellery confers special status on the bride and the groom. On their wedding day, both parties are temporarily transformed into idealised beings that are elevated to a state of royalty. Their union embodies perfection. Elaborate textiles, dress and jewellery play a significant role in this union.

A wedding is the ideal opportunity for display. All, including guests, wear their finest clothes. Gold and silver are worn in abundance. Hair is coiffed. Eyes are protected and enhanced by the application of kohl. Henna is applied to hands and feet. Amongst Hindus, dress and adornment are not only aspects of well-being; they are details that complete the body; inviting prosperity and fertility.

One specific feature of traditional dress in South Asia is the use of uncut cloths. They are made into attire by folding, wrapping, tucking, pleating and draping. In the traditional context, the designs of clothes and jewellery were specifically made to shoo away evil and bring in prosperity. The whole process actually begins when one is a baby that was made to wear protective amulets.

Furthermore, when professions were inherited, specific colours were assigned to each occupational division. Priests, teachers and educators would dress in white; warriors in red and businesspeople in yellow.

The fabric itself can also influence the perception of purity. In comparison with silk, cottons are coarser. Mahatma Gandhi’s emphasis on the khadi had the effect of elevating the coarse weave to a perception of purity. The meaning of this fabric changed when the khadi became ‘tainted’ with its association and long history with politics.

Although khadi is made from cotton, it may also include silk or wool, which are all spun into yarn on a charkha. Khadi is a versatile fabric that remains cool in summer and warm in winter.

Due to ever changing fashion trends, the khadi was later re-branded as a fashion item. The clever use of marketing has married khadi’s essential role in the Indian identity to contemporary environmental and ethical concerns. Khadi is now produced in an assortment of stylish designs and is of good quality.

During the Independence movement of India, it was a sense of sacrifice and duty that marked the wearing of khadi. Refined, re-designed and now available in a wide spectrum of options, khadi is fashionable, desirable and considered ‘cool’. The khadi is widely worn due to both its cheapness and functionality.

Mahatma Gandhi weaving cloth with charkha

One thought on “The Auspicious Adornment | From Extravagant to Ordinary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s