Silk Dhoti and Angavastra with Golden Zari Border
These lengths of the finest kind of art silk textile, one, a lower wear – antariya, dhoti in people’s usage almost universally used, and other, an uttariya or upper wear, a sash type garment worn over shoulders and around breasts usually classified as angavastra, are a pair of wears scheduled for both, the rite performing priest, and the host, presiding over such rite. The fashions are popular among Indian wearers, the Hindus in particular but also Buddhists and Jains. Its fabulous beauty appealing every eye with its rich appearance apart, the fine golden zari worked over silk’s plain field in its base colour doubles its gorgeousness. The simplicity with which the pair of the wears has been crafted is beyond par. Not expensive or beyond one’s reach, in grace and in highlighting the wearer’s distinction this extremely simple pair of wears is incomparable.
Besides, as ritual wears, this pair of textile lengths has scriptural sanction. Though not direct even the Rig-Veda acclaims resplendence as the highest virtue of the divine ensemble. However, the Upanishads and Smriti-texts – most significant among post Vedic scriptures, considered only unstitched lengths of silk or linen, or even a tree bark or grasses, but not cotton, as the costumes of yajna and rite performing priests and hosts. They mandate that participants of yajna or other rites – the priest as well as the host, shall be in unstitched silk or linen garments when performing a ritual and that alone shall sanctify the act. Thus under scriptural tradition, an unstitched silk or linen piece alone has scriptural sanctity of a ritual wear. This pursuance of such Upanishadic tradition even in recent times transforms its performance into a rite as when an Upanishadic seer performed it during post-Vedic days.
Otherwise simple lengths, unadorned plain field crafted of silk textile in its base-colour the textile pieces have unusual sheen, the primary source of their rare beauty. The broad minutely patterned border rendered in golden zari revealing rare lustre as revealed the textile’s base colour creating its own magic affords to the ensemble rare distinction. While portraying the beauty of Ushas the Rig-Veda links her resplendence with her divinity, a message revealing in between the lines – what is beautiful is also divine. It is thus that in Vaishnava and other ritual traditions appearance has been given as much priority as its ritual part and hence the performing priest and the host both are expected to have a distinct and attractive appearance. Obviously, a right type of ritual costume is also an essential component of the holy act. This costume, besides its scriptural sanctity, discovers its beauty in the depth of its simplicity, in its whole concept – the idea of a plain field in silk’s natural colour and an extremely friendly border.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient India. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.