Tightly-wound to knotted, a history of Indian hairstyles

To mark World Heritage Week from November 19 to 25, the exhibition at Quarters Guard Room at Red Fort showcases hairstyles over the centuries, right from the Harappan civilization to the Mughal period.

Written by Vandana Kalra | New Delhi | Published: November 20, 2015 2:41 am
hairstyle, indian hairstyle, indian women hairstyle, exhibition, historical exhibition, india news, latest news The exhibition showcases hairstyles over the centuries.

She is known as one of the oldest cast bronze sculptures in history, and the famous ‘dancing girl’ from Mohenjodaro has been a subject of widespread research. Now, the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) is drawing attention to an aspect of the 10.5 cm statuette that is rarely discussed in public — her mane.

“(It is) Coiled in a heavy mass which starts from above the left ear and falls over the right shoulder,” notes the catalogue essay of the exhibition ‘Kesa-vinyas: Hair-styles in Indian Art’.

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To mark World Heritage Week from November 19 to 25, the exhibition at Quarters Guard Room at Red Fort showcases hairstyles over the centuries, right from the Harappan civilization to the Mughal period.

“Probably in no other country has so much imagination and thought and artistic genius been applied to the art of hair dressing,” said Dr D N Dimri, director (archeology), ASI.

“Archeologists often refer to the hairstyle while studying and dating sculptures,” he added.

The exhibition showcases over 100 photographs of sculptures from museum collections and monuments across India.

Not just the common man, even gods and goddesses have been identified with a particular type of hair-do. If Shiva and Parvati usually wore matted hair or jata, Kartikeya had tri-sikha kind of a coiffure and Buddha was signified by both curly hair and wavy hair.

“There is little literature available of the subject, but this is something that will appeal to the masses,” added Dimri.

Mane Line

* During the pre-historic period, men usually wore their hair back from the forehead, either cut short or coiled in a knot.

* The Mauryan women were very fond of hairdressing, as seen in the stone and terracotta arts. Arthashastra has mentioned that two styles of hair dressing by women were prevalent in the society, the hair arranged in braids or shaven heads.

* In the sculptures of Sanchi, women mostly plait their hair or they coil it around the head, especially the ascetic women. Gandhara art was characterised by curly hair-dos.

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