Fashion has always excited me but what excites me more is the history of fashion. As a student of history, I have a habit of developing interest in everything that has a past. Clothes- a very integral part of fashion have a rich history which we must explore. Today, I’m going to introduce you to the clothing of the Mughal Era.
Mughals, for those of my readers who are unaware of these great dynasts, form a very important part of India’s history and even after so many years, continue to dominate its culture.
The Mughal clothing was characterized by luxurious styles and was made with muslin, silk, velvet and brocade.
Elaborate patterns including dots, checks, and waves were used with colors from various dyes including cochineal, sulfate of iron, sulfate of copper and sulfate of antimony were used.
Men wore long and short robes and coats including the chogha (clothing), a long sleeved coat. A “pagri” (turban) was worn on the head and “patka”, an adorned sash, was worn on the waist. “Paijama” style pants were worn (leg coverings that gave the English word pajama). Other clothing types included: “peshwaz” style robes and “yalek” robes. Women wore “shalwar”, churidar”, “dhilja”, “garara”, and “farshi”. They wore much jewelry including earrings, nose jewelry, necklaces, bangles, belts, and anklets.
Pagri styles included: “Chau-goshia”, in four segments, the dome shaped “qubbedar”, “kashiti”, “dupalli”, embroidered “nukka dar”, and embroidered and velvet “mandil”. Shoe styles included jhuti”, “kafsh”, “charhvan”, “salim shahi” and “khurd nau” and were curved up at the front. Lucknow was known for its shoes and threading embroidery with gold and silver aughi during the era. Mughal emperor turbans usually had turban ornaments on them. They were made of gold and precious gems such as rubies, diamonds, emeralds and sapphire.
The Mughal period was one of the most popular eras of jewelry making, which is well-documented through chronicles and paintings. In fact the earlier Mughal paintings indicate that the era of Akbar’s reign gave anew life into the art, crafting a range of exotic designs. The Mughals contributed in almost all fields of development of jewelry. The use of jewelry was an integral part of the lifestyle, be it the king, men or women or even the king’s horse. Women were known to have as many as 8 complete sets of jewelry. Popular ornaments included two-inch-wide armlets worn above the elbows, bracelets or pearls at the wrist stacked high enough to impede access to the pulse, many rings (with the mirror ring worn on the right thumb customary for nearly all the inhabitants of the Zenana), strings of pearls (as many as 15 strings at a time), metal bands or strings of pearls at the bottom of their legs, and ornaments hanging in the middle of the head in the shape of star, sun, moon, or a flower.
Turban jewelry was considered a privilege of the Emperor. The constant change in the influences from Europe can be clearly witnessed in the design of the turban jewelry. Akbar stuck to Iranian trends of the time by keeping a feather plume upright at the very front of the turban. Jahangir initiated his own softer style with the weighed down plume with a large pearl. By the time of Aurangzeb, this form became more ubiquitous. Turbans were usually heavily set with jewels and fixed firmly with a gem set kalangi or aigrette. Some of the popular head ornaments worn by men were Jigha and Sarpatti, Sarpech, Kalgi, Mukut, Turra and Kalangi. Women also adorned a variety of head ornaments such as Binduli, Kotbiladar, Sekra, Siphul, Tikka and Jhumar. In addition to these, the braid ornaments constituted an important part of women’s head ornaments.
Ear ornaments were also quite popular during the Mughal times. Mughal paintings have represented earrings quite often. Ear ornaments were worn by both men and women. Mor-Bhanwar, Bali, Jhumkas, Kanphool and Pipal patra or papal patti are some of the known earrings from the period. Neck ornaments of different kinds of pearls and precious stones were worn by men and women. Some of the neck ornaments for men included Latkan, amala necklace as well as Mala. Neck ornaments formed an important part of jewelry of women also and included Guluband, Hans, Har and Hasuli. Nose ornaments were worn solely by women. It appears that nose ornaments appeared in India around the last part of the 16th century initiated by Mughals. The variety of nose ornaments worn by women during the Mughal times constituted phul, besar, laung, balu, nath and Phuli.
Owing to the relative isolation of the ladies in court, due to the Purdah, fashion in the early days of the empire adhered to traditional dress of Khurasan and Persia. In time, the social and diplomatic relationships between the Mughal Dynasty and the rest of India (Rajputana in particular), led to more exchange in accoutrements. Noble women in the court of Babur or Humayun would have begun their outfits with wide loose pants, painted or stripped. Their upper body was covered in loose garments fastened at the neck or with “V”-shaped necklines. Other articles of clothing included the Yalek: a tightly fitting nearly floor length vest, buttoned in the front, with the chest accentuated, in both short and long sleeve varieties.