Abstract-3

JOINT ANNUAL CONFERENCE of Indian Archaeological Society (IAS) XXXVII

Indian Society for Prehistoric and

Quaternary Studies (ISPQS) XXXI

Indian History and Culture Society (IHCS) XXVI

and National Seminar on Anthropology, Archaeology, History

and Cultural Heritage of Peninsular India

19-22 December 2003

  • WOMEN'S HEAD-DRESS IN INDUS VALLEY PERIOD
    • In the beginning women's head-dresses were fairly simple, but gradually they became more and more elaborate and decorative. The use of head-dress by women is noticed right from the Indus Valley period, but it is difficult to say as to what the nature of the head-dress was in North-Eastern India before the Mauryan period. We shall have, naturally, to bank upon the antiquities found form the excavations of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. The Harappa culture appears to have spread in a large portion of this country as is revealed from recent excavations at Lothal, Kalibangar,Alamgirpur and many other sites. Most of the female figures found from Harappa and Mohenjo-dato wear a very distinctive head-dress which rises fan-like from the back of the head. The exact material which composed this fan-shaped head-dress is difficult to say, though it may have been stiffened cotton cloth supported by means of a frame-works. Regarding the material of the pannier-like structures, nothing conclusive can be said, but the fact that these were supported from the top of the head seems to show that they must have been heavy. This type of head-dress appears to be cumbersome, but even these days there are women of certain tribes and classes who wear a type of head-dress not at all unlike that found in the Indus Valley figurines, while equally complex coiffure was worn by women of other countries. It is interesting to note that certain pre-historic figures from Adalia in Asia Minor are also shown with a similar type of head-dress. The pannier-like addition on either side of the head is unique and probably quite unknown outside India. Even in Mohenjo-daro, it appears to be condoned mostly to the figures of Mother Goddess. This may indicate that such a kind of head-dresses in the Indus Valley period had some religious significance.
    • Moreover, the fan-shaped head-dress has been represented with much decoration. There are often round medallions at the sides with strings of beads and cone-like ornaments, the latter resembling with the cones worn on their forehead by the women of Punjab even these days. Often these cones were worn with other ornaments. Vats described some of them which are not high as temple ornaments . They have been found in steatite, failence, shell and pottery. Most of them are in the shape of plano-convex discs with or without projecting knobs , but some are also in the form of flat cones usually provided with arc-Shaped hook or loop for attachment. Another is a plano convex disc of burnt steatite with arc-shaped hole of the plane side. fig (e ). A beautiful piece of faience found at Harappa had cabled border and is decorated with frilled and incised circles shown in plate 5(f ). There is a knob at its back for attachment. Curiously it retains the impression of woven cloth on which it was moulded. Another piece is a plano- convex disc of burnt steatite. Its diameter is 1.5''. It has cabled border. A plano- convex shell-disc with raised middle portion taking arc shaped holes is illustrated on fig (h)
    • Such cones and fan-like ornaments are still worn in Marvara and are known as chauka. Generally they are of old and are of several forms. The most common ones are in the shape of Pyramids and round discs. Often they are studded with precious or semi-precious stones. The gold ones are always covered with designs of lotus and other flowers. This ornament is a necessary equipment of a married woman of Rajasthan. These fan like head ornaments perhaps denoted authority like the tall head ornaments of Egypt described by Petrie. A number of clay figurines found by Vats and wheeler at Harappa have elaborate head-dresses on their heads. Some of typical head dresses are illustrated here in plate 6 ( a To h ). Most of them were found in post-cremation urns and may have been connected with the funerary rites . Being heavily bejewelled, they give us an inkling into the various fashions of those early days. The figurines have slightly different types of head-dresses on their heads. On the heads of figurines (f) and (h) we see two simple fan-like head-dress not unlike the head dress on a Syrian God in the Lourve Museum. On the head of figurine (f) the fan is oblong, while this head-dress is round and hollow in the centre on figurine (h). Later this shape of the head-dress was perhaps rounded at the corners, as we see on figures (c) and also figurine (e) the fan, besides being curved like the horns of a ram is ornamented with linear triangles, while on figure the fan has horizontal curved lines and is decorated with a disc on the left and a leaf-like projection on the right. Kulli , Mehi mounds have yielded a number of head-dresses, in spite of the fact that these sites have not been properly excavated because Sir Aurel Stein's explorations were in the nature of tours (Chandra ,1964 :8) On figure (a) we see a fan on the head with two fillets and three leaf-like head-dress dropping on the forehead. On the head of figurine d the fan is there but in place of the fillets and the leaves of the figures (b) we have three rosettes of different shapes, one representing a flower, another a square and the third the handle of a door. When, however, we come to figure (a) we clearly see how the original fan like head-dress was later broken into 3pieces, the two sides, like two wings of a bird and the central piece, like its tail. On figure (g) we see the two side pieces bound by a fillet. This form of head dress is commonly seen on the heads of Mohenjodaro figurines and thereof may have been of a later development. These fan-like head-dress perhaps denoted authority like the tall head ornaments of Egypt described by Petrie. The addition of other pieces to this head-dress was made to mark the higher authority of the user and may have come at a later date.
    • How these head-dresses were worn can be found from the bejewelled clay figs. Unearthed from Mohenjodaro. Here we observe how from the simple fan like ornament the elaborate head gear was developed in the course of centuries during which this civilisation lasted.
    • The use of head-dress by women is noticed right from the Indus Valley period, but it is difficult to say as to what the nature of the head-dress was in North-Eastern India before the Mauryan period. We shall have, naturally, to bank upon the antiquities found form the excavations of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. The Harappa culture appears to have spread in a large portion of this country as is revealed from recent excavations at Lothal, Kalibangar,Alamgirpur and many other sites. Most of the female figures found from Harappa and Mohenjo-dato wear a very distinctive head-dress which rises fan-like from the back of the head.(plate 9 ( a) ) In some cases, it appears to rise from the head directly; in others; it forms parts of a coiffure that falls down at the back of the head. (b) A peculiarity of these head-dresses is the pannier-like object work on each side of the head. The exact material which composed this fan-shaped head-dress is difficult to say, though it may have been stiffened cotton cloth supported by means of a frame-works. Regarding the material of the pannier-like structures, nothing conclusive can be said, but the fact that these were supported from the top of the head seems to show that they must have been heavy. (Dr. Moti Chandra , 1950 : 3,5)
    • This type of head-dress appears to be cumbersome, but even these days there are women of certain tribes and classes who wear a type of head-dress not at all unlike that found in the Indus Valley figurines, while equally complex coiffure was worn by women of other countries. It is interesting to note that certain pre-historic figures from Adalia in Asia Minor are also shown with a similar type of head-dress. The pannier-like addition on either side of the head is unique and probably quite unknown outside India. Even in Mohenjo-daro, it appears to be confined mostly to the figures of Mother Goddess. This may indicate that such a kind of head-dresses in the Indus Valley period had some religious significance. It is also interesting to note that a band round the forehead apparently of some kind of woven material served to support it. These panniers are noticed in various size and in some of them even black stains are noticed which indicate that they might have been used as tiny lamps. But the head-dress noticed on one of the terracotta figures has a striking similarity with the modern turban.
    • The head-wear of the Mother Goddess is, however, either crescent-shaped or pointed with cup-shaped attachment on either side of the head supported by bands. It appears from some other terracotta female figurines that women also wore a close-fitting cap with a long point hanging down at one side, but the head-dress in some other female figures appears to be fan-shaped. A curious object was supposed not to have been attached to the usual head-dress, rather it perched on it by accident. Probably at the time of baking it would have been perched on the head-dress. The finding of another similar head-dress, more or less from the same level, proves that it really formed a part of the head-dress. Moreover, the fan-shaped head-dress has been represented with much decoration. There are often round medallions at the sides with strings of beads and cone-like ornaments, the latter resembling with the cones worn on their forehead by the women of Punjab even these days. Thus, various types of head-dress are noticed in the Indus Valley period and they are the cap, the turban and the peculiar fan-shaped head-dress. The caps and the turbans were probably used on special occasions, as representations of these types of head-dresses are noticed in a very few figures. The use of elaborate and decorative head-dresses could not continue for a long time because in the Vedic period we do not gear any concrete literary evidence of the use of such head-dresses by women, excepting at one place where the goddess Indrani has been described as wearing usnisa. Though this word is frequently used in this literature, yet it is mostly mentioned in connection with the head-dress of male person. It may, therefore, be presumed that it was generally used by male persons but women could also use it on special occasions. The poor class of people might been utilising the remaining portion of their lower garment to cover their head. It may be surmised that the fashion of wearing the head-dress, which was so much popular in the Indus Valley, almost disappeared from the society in the Vedic period. In the Buddhist period as well, there is no clear indication to the use of head-dress by women. It may, therefore, be presumed that it was not a common attire even in this period, rather it might have been used on special occasions only. The Buddist nuns were probably not allowed to cover their head. Epics also do not throw any significant light on this subject.
    • Kalidasa writes in his work as to how turbans adorn the head of the people of this period. He has mentioned the words, sirastrana, vestana, usnisa and kirita for the turban, while crowns beset with pearls have been mentioned by the terms sikhamani and chudamani. The terms vestana and sirastrana probably denote ordinary turbans meant for common people, while chudamani and sikhamani denote crowns beset with pearls meant for royal personages like kings and queens. It also appears from the head-dresses that there were two categories of people in the society in this period and they were the persons using ordinary head-dresses and the persons using elaborate and ornamented head-dresses. The kings and the queens depicted in the Ajanta paintings have also been shown wearing crowns of different shapes and designs, inlaid almost with infinite varieties of gems and precious stones.
    • This goes a long way in supplementing the literary evidence of Kalidasa that sikhamani and chudamani were used by the royal personages. To add to it, there is an interesting passage in the Raghuvanisa regarding the use of head-dress. We are told that the hair was tied up in some kind of knot, so as to stand perpendicularly with a pearl string intermixed with flower-garland; thereupon was fixed a resplendent jewel. Further, the term mauli corresponds to dhammila according to Mallinatha. The king's head has been described as adorned with a golden diadem called patta.
    • The caps and the turbans were probably used on special occasions, as representations of these types of head-dresses are noticed in a very few figures. The use of elaborate and decorative head-dresses could not continue for a long time because in the Vedic period we do not get any concrete literary evidence of the use of such head-dresses by women, excepting at one place where the goddess Indrani has been described as wearing usnisa. Though this word is frequently used in this literature, yet it is mostly mentioned in connection with the head-dress of male person. It may, therefore, be presumed that it was generally used by male persons but women could also use it on special occasions. The poor class of people might been utilizing the remaining portion of their lower garment to cover their head. It may be surmised that the fashion of wearing the head-dress, which was so much popular in the Indus Valley, almost disappeared from the society in the Vedic period. In the Buddhist period as well, there is no clear indication to the use of head-dress by women