Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dress Codes


Kashmiri Boat Girl
By Pandit Vishu Nath, 1890s

"Inquiring of a boatman why he did not make his wife, a really pretty woman, and his children engaging little things, wash every day and wear clean clothes, his explanation was, that if he kept his wife cleaner than those of other boatmen the Baboo would report to the Vakeel that he was earning more, and he would be more heavily taxed.

[...]

'Topee and turban, or, Here and there in India'  (1921)
by 
 H. A. Newell, 
The photograph by R.E. Shorter. 
The Hindoos, with the same cast of Jewish features, are fairer than the Muhammedans, and their women are seldom seen; but returning from Ganderbul to Srinuggur, early one morning at Shadipore, we surprised a great Hindoo festival. Shadipore is situate at the confluence of the Scinde river with the Jhelum, where the waters are peculiarly sacred, and on this occasion, six in the morning, a concourse of both sexes were bathing almost in puris naturalibus. As soon, however, as they saw boats approaching, the women rushed to the bank, and were soon, cowering and peeping from under their embroidered shawls. Not to disturb their devotions, we passed quickly to a camping ground in a grove of chenars a mile farther down, and later in the day went to the festival, preceded by the sepoy, clad in white, with a scarlet puggery, wearing the breast band of his order, and armed with a scimitar, which he is not allowed to draw except in self-defence. Sepoy attendants are sent by the Baboo at Sriiiuggur to accompany travellers ignorant of the country and its customs during their stay in Kashmir, and are useful in procuring coolies and provisions at the established rates, and in keeping off beggars, loafers, and loos wallers (thieves).

The mela, or fair, a very large one, was attended by many of the' wives and daughters of the chief Hindoos. Their hair, instead of being separated in plaited braids over the back as is the fashion among young Muhammedans, is gathered round a pad on the crown of the head, and forms a not ungraceful pyramid. Over it a silk shawl, scarlet embroidered with orange, is thrown, which falls to the brow in front and to the ground behind. Across the forehead they wear a fillet of gold or silver ornaments. A ring hangs from the left nostril, and is attached to the ear by a chain of gold. Ears, thumbs, fingers, and toes are covered with rings ; and bracelets, armlets, anklets, and necklaces, with pendants of bright-coloured stones, coral, and turquoise, complete their list of jewellery. On their thumbs they carry a ring holding a little mirror an inch in diameter, which they consult frequently. They have much to look to, the gradations of collyrium round their eyes sparkling eyes in youth, brilliant from belladonna when their natural lustre has begun to fade ; the arch of their thick black brows ; the arrangement of their hair and rings ; and the devices and adornments by which, in attempts to heighten, they lessen their charms. For withal, and spite of all, some, not all, are beautiful. Soft, oval faces, large almond-shaped eyes fringed with abundant lashes, noses finely cut though of the Jewish type, classic lips, invariably pearl-white teeth, rounded arms, slender fingers bright with hernia, and forms tall and well proportioned, are often seen. They wear a boddice and loose trousers of scarlet or blue silk, fitting tight at the ankles, which are covered with silver anklets. Some of these clank like prisoners' chains ; others send forth a tinkling from the many little silver bells that hang from them.

" Rings on her fingers, and bells on her toes
To tell her dear husband the way that she goes."

But all is not couleur de rose even among " the brightest that earth ever gave " in the vale of Kashmir. To see them eating is not attractive. A dish 'full of rice, ghi and curry, unctuous and flavoured with onions and garlic, when placed in the centre of a group of women and children, is soon disposed of in the most natural, if not most graceful, style. Each grasps a handful, great or small as appetite dictates, and dexterously throws it into her widely-opened mouth. Me'las or fairs are mere assemblages of multitudes without amusements beyond those of eating, drinking, tom-toming, offering rice, flowers, and ghi to idols, and bathing a practice which they seem to reserve for these occasions. On the plains they rig up large roundabouts and turnovers, and then it is a truly absurd spectacle to see middle-aged men, and even patriarchs, grinning with delight at being whirled or tumbled about, a sport which in other countries would amuse none but a child.

~ "Letters from India and Kashmir: written 1870" by J. Duguid

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Didn't know about

"A ring hangs from the left nostril, and is attached to the ear by a chain of gold."

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Which reminds me of the photograph in which it is hard to tell if the women are Pandit or Muslim....

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