Silk Dhoti and Angavastra : a pair of ritual wear
These rich and gorgeous lengths of fine art-silk textile – antariya and uttariya in classical terminology and dhoti and angavastra, in contemporary, are a pair of wears worn by the presiding priest and his associates while performing a rite. Woven of fine quality yarn of art silk both lengths, one for wrapping around the body’s lower half like a dhoti, and other, over body’s upper part like a sash, have a mono-colour plain field though the borders are beautifully adorned with fine zari patterning.
Though simple lengths of textile, the wears are unique in lustre and overall look capable of imparting distinction to any priest especially one who performs rites for a distinguished host on any ritually significant occasion – deity-worship, marriage, yajnopavit, or even when performing post death-rites. Though the Rig-Veda does not prescribe any dress code Upanishads mandate only unstitched lengths of silk or linen – flax, had the sanctity of ritual wears and hence the only costumes for a priest as also for anyone performing yajna-like rite. Kshaumya, subsequently called kusamana – linen, alone had in the Upanishads the status of ritual wear. An unwashed linen or silk was considered to have greater sanctity.
As a matter of fact unstitched lengths comprised Indian people’s primary costuming culture till quite late. Even after conceding political superiority of Islamic invaders and their sewn costumes by 16th century, an unstitched length, a sari or dhoti, was yet the wear of nobility in its private life and for a ritual. Alberuni, a scholar from Central Asia, who was in India from 1017 to 1030 A D, wrote in his memoirs that Indian natives used 'turbans for trousers'. Some 800 years after in his book the Textile Manufactures and the Costumes of the People of India Forbes Watson defined Indian costumes as 'leave the loom' and are 'ready for wear'. Thus from early days to modern times unstitched lengths revealed India’s essential costuming character coupled with divine grace and scriptural sanctity. Obviously priest’s costume is required to present its specimen.
This set is not pre-stitched, and will need to be draped. Dhoti can be draped in Vrindawan style as well as a Loongi.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. 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.