Let’s take a ride to the past and let’s find out how did the transformation take place from draping to the consumption of stitched garments in the Indian subcontinent. Who was behind this transformation. Did any of the dynasties play a role in this transformation?
THE FIRST CLOTH MADE IN INDIA
Do you know that the cotton was the first cloth which was produced locally by cultivating the cotton plant? Our country, India was the first place where cotton was cultivated and used as early as 2500 BCE. Yes, it is true! The history of clothing in India can be traced back to the Indus valley civilization. These can be found out through the ancient sculptures and cave paintings from the sites near the Indus valley civilization. They used to mostly drape these cloths around their body in various ways; like sari, dhoti, and as well as a turban.
INTRODUCTION OF STITCHED GARMENTS IN INDIAN SUBCONTINENT
We were always confused about the fact, how stitched garments came to India! We always had a thought that, are Mughals the ones who brought stitched garments in India, or were these stitched garments apart of our culture even before? So let me make it clear here. It is said that the consumption of stitched garments in India started early from the Pre-Mauryan era. In that era, the men’s used to wear the half-sleeved stitched shirt (also known as kurta) with dhotis. The earliest evidence for females using stitched clothes was found during the Mauryan period. And tunic was the first cut and stitched garment used. These stitched garments were not that popular at that period.
The Gupta period is when the stitched garments became very popular. Chandragupta 1 was the ruler of that period. These stitched garments became the sign of royalty at that period. This is also the time when the gaghra was introduced. Mostly the dancers used to wore it. Then later various kinds of blouses evolved. At this Gupta period, the privileged people wore a long-sleeved brocaded tunic.
The post-Gupta period saw the dhotis being replaced with baggy pants like shalwar and pajamas. Some people still preferred to wear dhoti. Kurtas worn in different lengths.
ROLE OF MUGHALS IN STITCHED GARMENTS OF INDIA
It was in the 7th century when the Mughals invaded India. The dressing styles of Mughals were luxurious as both men and women were fond of jewelry. They mostly used fabrics like muslin, silk, velvet, and brocade in their garments. Patterns like dots, checks, waves, etc were used with various dyed clothes. Men’s clothing was like long and short robes and coats with pajama and turban on the head. Women wore shalwar, churidar, dhilja, Gaghra, and farshi with heavy jewelry like earrings, nose jewelry, necklaces, bangles, belts, and anklets. This depicted the distinctive mark of their rank in society. There was a tradition of wearing embroidered footwear by the kings and nobles at that period.
During the reign of Akbar, Hindu clothing influenced the Mughal women. They started dressing similarly. The Hindu women favored the skirts and the Muslim women’s pants.
CHOGHA AND ATAMSUKH
These were the overgarments worn by the Mughal men. This version of clothing was brought in India by the Mughals. This clothing style was innovative with the style of draping. The fashion of wearing over garments persisted in many regions of the country. Mostly the custom of wearing these garments still persists in Rajasthan and Gujarat due to their climate. This garment was originated in Turkey, then later became a cultural heritage in India. This garment was invented to beat both the summer and winter climates.
Nowadays atamsukh are worn by the women with churidar/ pajama and chogha has reinvented and is used by the groom along with churidar pants.
We can say that the consumption of stitched garments in India started way before Mughals came to India. But in many ways, Mughals inspired us by their clothing. Even now many garments inspired by the Mughals are reinvented and used in India.