Friday, October 10, 2008

Bengali Dress

Dress References to the use of clothing in the Gangetic plains appear in the records of the Rig Veda, Artha Shastra and upanisads. Earlier records in the mahabharata and the ramayana carry important references to fabrics and the attire of legendary heroes, describing their dress for rituals, ceremonies, hunting as well as the attires of holy mendicants and brides. Excavation at ancient sites of the Indo-Gangetic civilisation revealed spinning and weaving gadgets and dyers' vats. Clay and stone figurines and statuary from these sites provide representation of the dress worn by commoners, kings and queens. Medieval writings by the Chinese travelers to Bengal, fa-hien (5th century AD) and huen-tsang (7h century AD) provide details of the clothes worn by the people. The excellent terracotta plaques unearthed at dinajpur and mainamati (8th to 12th century AD) in East Bengal also testify to the social and cultural life of those times.

Stone and terracotta sculptures of ancient India at Sanchi, Bharat, Amarawati, Orissa and the exquisite terracotta of kantanagar in Dinajpur, and Mainamati in comilla, throw ample light on social conditions during ancient and medieval periods. These stone and clay figurative works are a rich source of information of the dresses of the people and the nobility. Female figurines display loincloths of varying lengths held up by cords or girdles and some display shoulder drapes. Men figurines wear tightly clinging dhutis and sometimes shoulder drapes. Headdress and ornaments depict elaborate styles. Some garments bear patterns indicating embroidery or weaving. Warriors and attendants wore tunics, long cloaks, waistbands, turbans, headscarf and kilts. Enormous bangles, armbands, anklets, necklaces and earrings cover many figurines, even where the dress is scant.
In kalidasa (500 AD) references are made to the dress of hunters, ascetics and mendicants. Materials described indicate fabrics for hot and cold weather. silk is mentioned under the name cinamsuki, which etymology suggests that it was imported from China. Descriptions of cloth so fine that it could be blown away by a breath indicate that the production of Gangetic muslin took place in antiquity.
The impact of Muslims on the dress and culture of the subcontinent reached the remotest hinterlands as early as the 15th century. Muslim invaders before the Mughals, the Sultans and Khans wore tight fitting trousers, a long coat tight at the waist but flaring out in a full skirt, and with tight sleeves. Turbans were tied around the head and were five cubits in length. Women's clothes were similar and included caps. Such clothes were referred to as Tartaric (Tatoriyat). The caps of both women and men were four-cornered in shape and ornamented with jewels in a style that is seen even today in Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan and other Central Asian States. Women plaited their hair, as was common in Turkey, Egypt, Syria and Central Asia, binding the hair with silk tassels. Both sexes wore belts and shoes, embroidered in gold and silver thread. The judges and scholars (ulema) wore ample gowns (farajiyat) and also Arabic garments.

. As cultural functions demand indigenous dress, the kurta-pyjama or punjabi-pyjama are still in common use, with or without waistcoats. For office and workplace trousers with open-collar shirt are commonly worn. Working class people of all religions still prefer the lungi-genji, the sewn sarong and short-sleeved cotton vest, as a daily garb. Both rural and urban common people wear the climatically suitable lungi-genji or lungi with shirt, which has been the unofficial national dress of Bengal for centuries. Middle and upper class men wear the lungi at home, usually with stylish punjabi.
This has led to a whole range of products in cotton day-dress, using all the formats of block print, hand and machine embroideries, screen print and dressy evening combinations in lace, silk, brocades, tissues and velvets. Jamdani dopattas, Tangail hand-loomed dopattas and muslin dopattas or orhnas are worn according to the choice of dress.
Women's hairstyles have witnessed noticeable changes since the 1980s. Women traditionally made their long hair up in a coil or khopa, and girls wore braids and plaits, but now they took to varying their hairstyles. Access to media has brought in other fashions and beauty parlours now offer services to trim and perm hair to suit the latest international trends.
Urban women's dress fashions are subject to change on an annual basis, but the sari remains a perennial favourite. [Perveen Ahmed]
Dress of the tribal people The tribal communities of Bangladesh usually make their own clothes for their dresses. Almost every family has a loom. In the chittagong hill tracts the fabrics made by the tribal people in their own looms are very colourful. They make sheets, thin towels, dress material, carpets and carrying bags. Traditionally, tribal people have used cotton produced by them on the hill slopes and they themselves have made the yarn for weaving and used natural colours for dyeing. These days, however, they buy yarn and dyes extensively from the market. Dresses for women are full of attractive and colourful designs.
chakma women cover the lower part of their body with a piece of loincloth or lungi with unstitched end. This measures 4BD cubits by 2BD cubits. It is also called pinon. One end of the pinon has designs and is called chabuki. While wearing the pinon, chabuki is always placed on the left. The upper part of the dress is called khadi and measures 3BD cubits by 2BD cubits. The main dress of marma women is called thami, which is like a lungi with an unstitched end. The thami is full of colourful traditional designs. Marma men wear a full-sleeve or half-sleeve blouse or angi. They also love to wear a white turban or khobong. The men wear lungis made of coarse cloth and a shirt without collar but having several pockets. The older men wear white turbans.
tripura women these days wear renai, which is like an open lugni measuring 4BD cubits x 2BD cubits. Renai has broad black borders with red field. Tripura women wear risa at the chest, which is an unstitched piece of cloth 3 cubits x 1 or BD cubit. It displays a variety of designs of birds, butterflies, flowers and leaves. They often use tatting with tiny beads at both ends. Elderly women wear a white cloth as turban. Tripura men wear a loincloth, a thin towel and a white turban. Originally, Tripura men used to wear a turban and a piece of cloth to cover their body up to the ankle. In winter they wear a jacket-like dress.
tanchangya women wear five kinds of dresses: pinon, khadi, junnasilum, fa-dhari and khobong. Their pinons have no borders but have colourful designs on red ground. Their pinons have broad black boarders but with a short width. The khadi worn by Tangchangya women at their chest is similar to the khadi of Chakmas. Their khadi is of two types-phool and ranga. garo women wear the gena, which is their ancient dress. It is an unstitched piece of cloth like lungi that covers the body from the waist to the knee. It has colourful striped designs. The Garo dress dakmunda or ganna dakka is like gena but it extends below the knee. Dakmunda is a designed piece of cloth made in handloom. It covers the entire lower part of the body. These days dakmunda cloth is made in various designs and colours. The eyes in the designs reflect a religious belief. When necessary, Garo women also wear full-sleeve vests. They also use gamchha or a thin towel as a wrapper. Educated Garo women, many of whom now live in the plains, prefer to wear sari.

khasia women wear as a blouse ka-jimpin, jamata or nimakti. They buy cloth from the market to make this dress. The dress for the lower part of their body is called ka-joinsem or chusem. It is worn like a lungi and is usually made of printed cloth. Once upon a time the ka-joinsem worn at festivals used to be made of silk or muga yarn. The women wear a sleeveless long dress called jamapo. Usually this kind of dress is made of cloth of a single colour. The scarf worn by Khasia women is called chusut. It is knotted over the left shoulder after it passes under the right hand. Khasia men wear a pocketless dress called fung marung, which is like a fatua. With the fung marung they wear a lungi. Both women and men wear a belt at their waists. Their ancestors used to wear a kind of cap and turban. The wealthy men used to wear knickerbockers, socks, boots, waistcoats and caps. [Jinat Mahrukh Banu]


Kevin Gomez said...

Thank you for such useful information. However, I have a question in context to traditional Bengali dresses..

Are traditional Bengali dresses only restricted to colors such as yellow, orange, red, white and maroon? Can't we use any other color with the essence of traditional Bengali dresses?


pratap barman said...

Dear sir the Dress you mentioned as ganna or chunna was used by the Mandai people( hinduised garo- or the Barmans)whereas dakmanda is used by the achik garo people.