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India

Daddy's Little Princess ♛

“There’s no way I’m leaving the kingdom behind to my inadequate, lust-driven sons when I have my valiant daughter to take over!”
— Or at least, that’s what we imagine Iltutmish said as he left behind the fate of his entire kingdom to his daughter, Raziya al-Din. 

Introduction

Politics has always been a complex affair bent to favour sons over daughters. Some brave women, however, ceased every opportunity presented to change the course of their fate. Among the tales of these inspirational women is the story of Razia Sultana, the first female ruler of India, whose father left responsible for an entire kingdom. Her history is worth noting because even in present day India, most women have to work twice as hard to assert their vision and virtuosity to get the same recognition their male counterparts receive.  Jalâlat-ud-Dîn Raziyâ might have only ruled Delhi for three and a half years but she made an impact, and that impact began with proving her competence to her father. Muslim women in India during this period (1211–1240 CE) were not even encouraged to share their opinions, and there she was, a Muslim woman, taking the reigns of an entire Dynasty. Razia Sultana was an influential ruler in the Mamluk Dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate who challenged the conventional roles of a Muslim woman. She did so through her public presentation, engagement in warfare and interactions with councilmen.

S. (2015, October 4). [Real Image of RAZIA SULTAN]. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Photo15-1002x1024(1).gif Public Domain License 

S. (2015, October 4). [Real Image of RAZIA SULTAN]. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Photo15-1002x1024(1).gif Public Domain License 


Public Presentation

Razia was particular about her public presentation that heavily relied on projecting a masculine image of herself during her reign in order gain acceptance as a female ruler amongst the otherwise male-dominated royalty. She chose to dress herself as a man and used political propaganda, like many male rulers of her time, by issuing coins that glorified her.

 

Instead of being dressed in a customary veil, Razia ‘cross-dressed’. She wore traditional male clothing such as the tunic called the ‘ Kuva’ and the headdress called the ‘Kulah’. This decision of hers appalled the conservative Muslim society in Delhi as women were not accustomed to abandoning the veil, let alone dressing in male attire. Reportedly, there were two speculations as to why Razia adopted the male dress code.

 

The first speculation stated that during her childhood and adolescence, Razia did not have much exposure to the social norms of women in the Muslim society as she had limited interactions with the women of the harem at her father’s palace. This perhaps made Razia unaware of how females were required to conduct themselves and what garments they were required to don. Hence, she might have been more susceptible to the male dress code due to the lack of knowledge to abide by the stipulated dress code for women.

 

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014).  Sultana Razia: Empress of India  (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha. 

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014). Sultana Razia: Empress of India (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha. 

The second speculation claimed that in a bid to overcome the public’s reluctance to accept a female Sultan, Razia turned to male garb to justify her status as a capable ruler (p 49-51). Perhaps, such associations with traditional masculine imagery like the Kuva and Kulah could be a political tactic that Razia employed to give her subjects the impression that she was man-like and hence possessed the qualities and skills of a man, legitimizing her reign in the process. She might have  hoped to ease a shift in her subjects’ focus from her gender to how she ruled the empire as a Sultan, eventually leading them to accept her reign.

 

Out of the two speculations, the first one is argued to be an odd one. While most of the evidences claimed that Razia dressed up as a man to legitimize her rule, only this theory seemed to be contradictory, as it claimed that the lack of interaction with the womenfolk might be the reason for Razia to crossdress. Razia is known to be a hard-headed woman with great interest in political issues; hence it is more probable that she might have crossdressed as part of her political agenda to earn acceptance from her subjects.

 

To further distinguish herself as a ruler, Razia issued silver coins during her short reign and named the coins after her- referring to herself as , al-soltān al-moʿazzam which translates to the great Sultan( p 53). By addressing herself as a ‘Sultan’, which is a masculine connotation for ruler, Razia appeared to make full use of her male facade in order to make a statement: that she is powerful and capable, just like a man. Indeed, she penetrated into the daily lives of her subjects, asserting her masculine status, via her coinage system.

 

Razia, was one of the few female royalties who conducted themselves in a masculine manner in order to gain acceptance as a female ruling in the midst of their respective patriarchal societies. With respect to public portrayal, Razia is similar to Egypt’s Queen Hatshepsut who authorized her reign by illustrating herself as a masculine figure. The absence of a female equivalent to ‘Pharaoh’ did not deter Hatshepsut from depicting her feminine power, although under the guise of a man.

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014).  Sultana Razia: Empress of India  (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha. 

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014). Sultana Razia: Empress of India (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha. 


Engagement in Warfare

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014).  Sultana Razia: Empress of India  (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha. 

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014). Sultana Razia: Empress of India (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha. 

A great ruler ideally possess a varied set of skills. The most successful rulers of the Delhi Sultanate were known for their extraordinary mastery of battle. And Razia of course, was no exception. She was highly trained and a fearless warrior. She rode into battle along with her men to seize new territories and reinforce her empire, earning the respect that any exceptional general, would receive. She was the only woman to be allowed to go to war in India, during this period. Not only did she place herself among male soldiers but she also donned the same attire as any other soldier, which was seen as being disrespectful to the Islamic culture of the time. Razia, through both her mastery and controversy made a great impression with respect to warfare. The  poet and historian Amir Khusrow wrote in the fourteenth century about Razia on the battlefield (p 105):

For several months, her face was veiled

Her sword’s ray flashed, lightening-like, from behind the screen

Since the sword remained in the sheaths,

Many rebellions were left unchecked,

With a royal blow, she tore away the veil,

She showed her face’s sun from behind the screen

The lioness showed so much force

That brave men bent low before her.

Another aspect related to Razia’s public portrayal is that she insisted that she be addressed as ‘Sultan’ and not ‘Sultana’ as the latter means wife of a ruler, a title which she might not have preferred. Razia might have felt that calling herself or letting others refer to her as Sultana might be a hindrance to her reign, especially since a Sultana may not partake in war. This concern of how she must be addressed sheds light not only on how female royalty needed to identify themselves as male in order to gain acceptance as a ruler and warrior; it also showed the prevalence of gender inequality amongst the Muslim community in medieval India. Razia not only had to fight in battles for her empire but also constantly defend her claim to the throne.

Fall of Tripoli [The fall of Tripoli to the Mamluks, April 1289.]. (2007, December 15). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mamluk. Public Domain License.

Fall of Tripoli [The fall of Tripoli to the Mamluks, April 1289.]. (2007, December 15). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mamluk. Public Domain License.


Interactions with Councilmen

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014).  Sultana Razia: Empress of India  (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha.

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014). Sultana Razia: Empress of India (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha.

In addition to being a great warrior, Razia proved to be an excellent administrator, despite being surrounded primarily by male councilmen. She appeared to be a resourceful leader as she implemented rules and regulations for the benefit of her empire.  She communicated with the various leaders of her community to improve the infrastructure of her province as a mean to enhance business, construct drainage systems and establish educational institutions such as schools and public libraries. Furthermore, Razia showed interest in the arts and culture scene by supporting talented artists, musicians and lyricists, hence proving herself as a holistic ruler who showed interest in different aspects of society. This clearly shows that in order to engage in such community projects, Razia needed to forge good ties with the council leaders who were predominantly men and based on the number of successful organisations Razia had set up, the resourceful Sultan has indeed projected her influence upon the councilmen despite her gender difference.

 

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014).  Sultana Razia: Empress of India  (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha.

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014). Sultana Razia: Empress of India (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha.

Although Razia was respected by many of her subjects, there were councilmen who opposed her, such as the Turkish nobles, as they were unable to accept a female ruler, despite her efficiency. Conspiracies were constructed by these nobles to dethrone Razia and despite fighting courageously,  Razia eventually lost her throne, before meeting her tragic end.


Conclusion

Our world today consists of influential women, such as Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Indra Nooyi and more. All of these women are bold and daring and have a great set of leadership skills just like Raiza.

Razia was indeed a woman who defied conventions and restrictions associated with her religion in India. She was headstrong and brave enough to crossdress, fight in battles and interact with male council members, all of which were forbidden for Muslim women to do during that period. She contributed significantly to the Mamluk Dynasty, never seeing her gender as a weakness. Razia represented her father’s last hope of maintaining the glory of the Delhi Sultanate, and she did it, ever so dutifully. Razia was indeed her daddy’s little princess.

 

Who runs the world? Girls!
— Beyoncé

References

Aimectimes. “The Historic Reign of Razia Sultana.” (2013) From Jaipur Tourism. Accessed 19 January 2017.  

Dimitrova, Diana. “The Other in South Asian Religion, Literature and Film: Perspectives on Otherism and Otherness.” (2014) Google Books.

Gabbay, Alyssa. “ In Reality a Man: Sultan Iltutmish, His Daughter, Raziya, and Gender Ambiguity in Thirteenth Century Northern India.”  (2011) Journal of Persianate Studies, Vol. 4 Issue 1: 45-63

Laneri, Raquel. “Power Dressing: Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel And The Way Women Leaders Dress For Success.” (2011) From Forbes. Accessed 19 March 2017.

Nakhwal, Gurmeet. “Razia Sultan-The Great Monarch.” Accessed 19 March 2017.

Sonali. “ Sultana Razia (1236-1240): Contribution towards the Delhi Sultanate.”  From HistoryDiscussion.net  Accessed 19 March 2017.

Rai, U. K., & Srivastava, D.  "Women Executives and the Glass Ceiling: Myths and Mysteries from Razia Sultana to Hillary Clinton." (2013) BHU Management Review, Faculty of Management Studies, Banaras Hindu University, Vol, 1, Issue – 2: 79 - 83

Yarde, Lisa J. “Women Who Ruled: Razia Sultana of India.” (2012) From History and women. Accessed 19 March 2017.

Zubaan, Avani. “ Razia Sultana.” From Google Arts and Culture. Accessed 19 January 2017.

“Razia Facts.” From Encyclopedia of World Biography. Accessed 19 March 2017.

“ Razia Sultana Biography.” From The Famous People. Accessed 19 March 2017.

“Razia Sultan was far better than her brothers.” (2017) From The Sunday Guardian. Accessed 19 March 2017.

 

 

 

 

EXCUSE ME DISEASE RIDDEN SILK MERCHANT, HAVE YOU HEARD OF BUDDHA?

EXCUSE ME DISEASE RIDDEN SILK MERCHANT, HAVE YOU HEARD OF BUDDHA?

Hey there! It's us again, Steven, Isaiah and Solomon (SIS). Our second blog post would be on the intriguing topic of The Silk Road! No, not the popular online game, nor the drug-dealing, black market websites that pollute the Internet in the 21st Century, but the ancient Silk Road!

Ashoka’s Drama(Dharma) (REVISED)

Ashoka’s Drama(Dharma) (REVISED)

“The Righteous” and “The Fierce”. Benevolent and cruel. These are completely opposite descriptions of a person, so how can someone be both at the same time? One man in history supposedly did it and he is the man we are going to talk about, King Ashoka. In this light-hearted poem we have created, we aim to showcase the highlights of his life and the impact he has made in history as well. So read on to find out more about our ode to Ashoka!

 

Reign of the Mauryan Empire, Defeat of the Armies

Maurya_Dynasty_in_265_BCE.jpg

Ask what is leadership and the typical qualities such as courage, patience, compassion, determination...(you name it) and the whole myriad of synonyms come tumbling out. To embody every single quality and constantly paint oneself in the best possible light is...

Ok... maybe not that impossible but it is truly an insurmountable feat to be able to uphold most of the desired values. In such an aspect, Chandragupta Maurya was no different. He was an extraordinary leader who had a vision for his empire and made good use of the opportunities that came his way. However, we feel luck and help from outsources such as his Prime Minister, Chanakya, were determining factors which paved his way towards success.

Birth & Social Hierarchy

Chandragupta Maurya (c.321-c.297 BCE) was the proud founder of the Mauryan Empire, which was known to be the largest and most supreme because of the power of the army. He first started out by defeating the Nanda dynasty of Magadha. Despite the bureaucratic nature of the kingdom, Chandragupta Maurya was still able to defeat the kingdom and take over ("Chandragupta Maurya: The Monarch Who Unified India", pg 14). Following a series of conquests, his prowess and determination to conquer was not just seen within India when he helped to unify it, but out of India, into the Hellenistic World as well.

However, while most sub-continental ancient leaders of that time flourished because of some element of aristocratic royalty in their blood, Chandragupta Maurya was different...

Discrepancies existed in terms of the ancestry within the family as such leading to confusions as to which caste he was born into. For instance, while it is known that he was born around 340 BCE to a Nanda king and a hairdresser of the Sudra caste, little is known of his lineage. While Brahmin beliefs certify him to be a Sudra by origin, Buddhists associate him to be a higher-end rank of the Kshatriya caste.

Examining Chandragupta’s ancestry and caste is crucial. In those days, primarily, the caste system was a definite means of confining an individual via social beliefs and was continually reinforced by the rigid duties each caste performed. As such, this system was a large determining factor as to how one's life would be paved. Chandragupta Maurya however, was seemingly unaffected by it all. The fact that he was unfazed by the repercussions caste system meted out on people exemplifies and enshrines him to be a visionary of sorts as he overcame the social divisions (Varna) and rose to power.

via GIPHY

Conquests and Battles

Furthermore, Chandragupta's power was evident when he conquered the Nanda throne. But besides his powerful exterior, lay a shrewd and opportunistic leader who made use of the correct moment- when a civil war struck Punjab- to capture Taxila, the capital of Punjab. While it was a difficult task for Chandragupta Maurya to free Punjab from the tyrannical rule of Mascedonia, the demise of King Porus alleviated the problem and enabled him to do so.

These traits of Chandragupta can also be seen when he defeats Alexander the Great. Alexander's successor, Seleucus, rose in the ranks and eventually emerged as the most powerful among Alexander's generals. Seleucus’s prowess did not daunt Chandragupta Maurya from planning his next attack after his failed invasion with Alexander. After the conquest, he ensured an allegiance was formed by marrying Seleucus’s daughter and signing treaties as a mark of friendship. This was a turning point for India as the extended relations out of India resulted in flourishing of trade and agriculture.

This foresight for the country shows us that Chandragupta Maurya was a visionary who was wise, ambitious and above all – opportunistic.

He may have had 99 problems during his early stages of his life but conquering was definitely not one of them.

via GIPHY

Influence of Chanakya

However, one needs to dig deeper to understand the full picture, in isolation from his successes alone. We feel luck may have been in Chandragupta's favor as he was "chosen" by Chanakya because it was believed that he harbored qualities such as courage and charm since young. It is surprising that despite the harsh implications of the caste system, his humble beginnings did not serve as a deterrent to his future successes.

He did not have an easy start and it was with much help of his minister, Chanakya that he managed to rise above the ranks and ultimately unite India. Chanakya guided and coached Chandragupta to utilize the skills taught and advised him on the creation of his army.

As cited in the book, 'Maxims of Chanakya', Chanakya gives advice with regards to War and says,

"One should fight with an inferior but sign a treaty of peace with one's equal and superior".  (Maxims of Chanakya- Introduction, pg 11)

Perhaps, this was the motivation behind Chandragupta Maurya's passing of treaties and establishment of friendships after the conquest of Alexander's troops. Having been known for his political wisdom, statesmanship, and psychological intuitions, Chanakya may have guided and influenced much of Chandragupta Maurya's actions and cued him into the tasks laid out for him to accomplish (Maxims of Chanakya- Introduction, pg 9). Thus, much of his success is attributed to Chanakya, who paved the way for Chandragupta Maurya to descent and take charge.

Further insight into the influence of Chanakya on Chandragupta Maurya can be seen in other sources that cite Chanakya to be the "real brain" behind Chandragupta Maurya's success (Chanakya/Kautilya: History, Philosophy, Theater and the Twentieth-century Political, pg 2). While the extent of influence of Chanakya on Chandragupta Maurya and also.... inevitably his success may vary from one source to another, the idea that Chanakya was the catalyst to Chandragupta Maurya's success is one that is of significance to us.

Takeaways and POVs

Leadership- It is difficult. It demands. In short, it is tough to be a good leader and above all, to be an exemplary one. Nevertheless, while Chandragupta was successful in his period of reign and can be regarded as a good leader for his physical prowess and foresight, much of the decision-making and tactics were taught by Chanakya.

(Regarding Chanakya's influence on Chandragupta Maurya):

People say: "Ohhh... but it takes two hands to clap!!!"

We say: "But it only takes one sound to create a resonating impact".


*Featured Image-

A map of the Maurya Dynasty, showing major ciies, early Buddhist sites, Ashokan Edicts, etc. Vastu at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3d/Maurya_Dynasty_in_265_BCE.jpg

Lost Cities: Now you see me, now you don't

Tehsil-Phillaur-indus-valley.jpg

The colossal Indus region, which remained undiscovered until the 1920s, was home to the largest of the four ancient urban civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, South Asia and China around 2500BCE. Much of its ruins have yet to be excavated, but one can tell that the cities were well planned with wide streets, public and private wells, drains bathing platforms and reservoirs. Currently, many questions about the Indus people who created this highly complex culture remain unanswered. This is because despite having many remnants of the script on pottery vessels, seals, and amulets, without a "Rosetta Stone" linguists and archaeologists have been unable to decipher it. Nevertheless, other aspects of their society can be understood through various types of archaeological studies.

Mohenjo-Daro translates to “Mound of the Dead Man” in Sindhi and it is an archaeological site built in the province of Pakistan around 2500 BCE. Dubbed as being one of the largest settlements of the Indus Valley Civilizations and the world’s earliest major urban settlements, it was unfortunately abandoned in the 19th century BCE as the civilization declined.

Regardless, the discovery of Mohenjo-Daro led to excitement for archaeologists and historians as this was their outlet for renewing their passion. The ruins surrounding Mohenjo-Daro were left undocumented for around 3,700 years and was only re-discovered in 1920s. Many rounds of excavation have since been taking place in that region and it was designated to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.

It is known for its unique layout dating back to its ancient roots as part of the Indus Valley Civilization. Its ruins were once part of this ancient society and at its peak, its population might have been well over five million as documented by the archaeologists. It had a well-planned grid that had structures constructed of dried bricks made from baked mud and burned wood. The occupants of that time and the urbanistic nature of the architectural layout hints a relatively high level of social organization prevalent at that time.

Religious practices and norms were carried out through the ritualistic act of bathing in what was known as ‘The Great Bath’. Bathing was considered to be a significant part of their life and while how the ‘Great Bath’ was used remains a mystery, one could probably tell the significance water had in their lives, probably using it as a means of cleansing or purifying themselves.

Besides Mohenjo-Daro itself, Harappa was another neighboring city, located just 350 miles to the north of the tributary river, Ravi. Many similarities arose between the two cities and they were both considered a part of Indus Valley Civilization. The main streets of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa had shops and the houses built were connected to a vast network of drainage system that provided sufficient sanitation. There was also a distinct feature notable in Mohenjo-Daro and that was the underground furnace and dressing rooms hinting an air of sophistication. Also, this was seen again through their usage of sophisticated system of weights and measures and although it is unclear as to whether that symbolized written-language, some scholars have highlighted that while inscriptions that were seen engraved and symbols on religious possessions may have been there for their own mode of communication, it is not evidence for a fully developed written language.

Also, the Harappans utilized the same size sun-dried bricks and standardized weights as were used in other Indus cities such as Mohenjo-Daro. Material culture and the skeletons from the Harappa cemetery and other sites also testified to a continual intermingling of communities from both the west and the east.

Similarities between Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro transcend mere geographical and infrastructural entities. The civilization's economy appears to have depended significantly on trade, which was facilitated by major advances in transport technology. The Indus River Valley Civilization may have been the first civilization to use wheeled transport, in the form of bullock carts that are identical to those seen throughout South Asia today.

In terms of governance, Mohenjo-Daro was governed as a city-state with no obvious sign of government or evidence of kings or queens. It appears that the Harappan and other Indus rulers governed their cities through the control of trade and religion, not by military might. There were regardless, certain rules or law they abided by such as the preference for modesty, having a certain sense of order and cleanliness were preferred themes they valued.

Art was also a much valued topic by the people of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. They mass-produced pottery with fine designs and made clay figurines that were representative of their own attitudes and reflective of their own background that they came from. There was also clear signs of trade as seen by the seals and weights and even the art, pottery, that they valued was standardized from having tool made of copper and stone.

Seals are one of the most commonly found objects in Harappan cities. They are decorated with animal motifs such as elephants, water buffalo, tigers, and most commonly unicorns. Some of these seals are inscribed with figures that are prototypes to Hindu religious figures as seen today. Ivory, Capis, Carnelian and gold beads and baked-brick city structures symbolized the city’s wealth and stature. However, just as quickly as the entire civilization thrived, it diminished soon after between 1800 and 1700 BCE.

What led to its decline remains a mystery but it is perpetrated that the Aryans supposedly destroyed many ancient cities around 1500 B.C. and this could account for the decline of the Indus civilization. However, the continuity of religious practices makes this unlikely. In addition, more probable explanations for the decline of the Indus Valley civilization have been proposed in recent years; such as climate shifts which caused great droughts around 2200 B.C. that forced abandonment of the Indus cities impelled a westward migration. Recent findings have brought to light that the Sumerian empire declined sharply around this time due to a climate shift that caused major droughts for several centuries. The Harappans being so close to Sumer, would in all probability have been affected by this harsh shift in climate.

Fashion Throughout the Ages

As the saying goes, “Clothes make a man”. Clothing can be seen as a form of identity - how you choose to dress can portray the mood you are in, the style you like and the kind of personality you have. With that in mind, surely you would have guessed the topic that we have chosen to talk about today: Clothes. According to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), clothing is seen as a basic need. In today’s society, clothing serves not only a functional need which helps to keep us warm but also fulfils a cultural need for the different cultures to identify themselves.

Here in Singapore, we are a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicity. For each group, we have our own ethnic clothing. Take for example, the Chinese Cheongsam, the Malay Baju Kurung and the Indian Sari. Hence, have you wondered what common folk in the ancient civilizations wore and how was their clothing like?  Let’s take a trip back in time to look at how people dressed in the ancient Chinese and Indian civilisations to see how similar it is to the ones that we see every Racial Harmony Day.

 

China

The ancient Chinese wore mainly robes known as Hanfu from the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 - 1000 BC). The men wore tunics that reached their knees, while the women wore lengthy tunics that reached the ground. The sleeves of their garments were wide and loose fitting, with sashes being added as an ornamental design for the ladies. Darker shades of clothing were preferred over light ones.

Over the years and many dynasties, the Hanfu underwent many modifications due to different preferences in style. There were primarily, three variations of ancient Chinese garments.

Pien-Fu: A 2 piece ceremonial costume, consisting of a tunic top extending to the knees, and worn with ankle length skirt or trousers. Ch’ang P’ao: This is a one-piece ankle length tunic dress. Shenyi: A combination of the first two, a shenyi is a 2 piece top and trouser/skirt outfit that has been sewn together to make a one-piece garment.

 

                   

 

Jewelry was also considered an important part of fashion. It was worn by both genders to show nobility and wealth. The dragon in particular was a very popular motif for jewelry and was most commonly worn by the royals. The masses wore Jade and Gold in their pendants and rings as well as in their earrings and hair ornaments for the ladies.

EarringsJade BraceletsJewelry Set

In addition, what the women wore on their heads determined their social status and hence, they were very careful with the materials and design of their hair ornaments.

Hair Pins

 

India

People in the Indus Vally Civilization wore mainly cloth clothing made out of cotton as they were one of the first people to cultivate cotton crops and it was their most abundant source of material.

The women wore one very long piece of cloth (that can go up to lengths of 4 to 6 metres) called a Sari. The sari was first mentioned in the Vedas around 600 BC. As seen from the picture above, there were many ways in which the Sari can be wrapped and this signified the different roles they played in society.

For example, women wore saris like skirts with the top part thrown over their shoulder or worn over their heads as a veil when they wanted to dress up for an occasion. Those working in the fields often rolled up their saris to make pants to make them feel more at ease. There were also women who were part of the army and they tucked in the top part of the sari in the back to free up their arms. After the opening of the silk route, India began trading with China and upper class women had their saris made in silk.

The males wore similar one-piece cloths named Dhoti that was about 5 yards (4.57 metres). Again, Dhoti was mainly made out of cotton and in the colour white. The dhoti was fastened at the back and legs of the men to form something that was similar to pants. Similar to the women, those in the upper class had their Dhoti made in silk.

Regarding accessories, the women wore necklaces, armlet, fillets and finger-rings. They fancied bracelets made out of shells, and also earrings, anklets made of gold and used other various precious stones, shells and bones in their jewellery. 

The men wore turbans which were used not only for functional purposes. They could not cut their hair due to their religion and it was a good way to keep it neat, hence the turban was seen as a highly respectable symbol.

 

Conclusion

As discussed in class, the Romans deemed pants as barbaric and they would not be pleased to find out that till today, pants are being worn by people all over the world. However, some of the traditional costumes from the past are losing their appeal among the younger generation. With globalization, the younger generation might see such traditional dressing as unfashionable and obsolete in this time and age. Hence, fashion designers should continue to try and incorporate traditional dressing with modern day needs and fashion to prevent a rich part of culture fading into oblivion.

 

Kama Sutra: Not Just Porn

As Malcolm Bradbury, a British novelist and academic, once wrote, “Genitals are a great distraction to scholarship.” Likewise, they have also distracted readers from the study of the Kama Sutra.

In today’s context, the Kama Sutra has become synonymous with a manual for wild sex positions. What most people do not know, is that the Kama Sutra is a book that actually offers an alternate form of looking at the world. In a book written by Jacob Levy, Kama Sense Marketing, he notes that only 20% of the Kama Sutra actually about sex positions. Contrary to popular belief, Kama Sutra is actually a book that exemplifies an entire culture different from prevalent worldviews, and knowledge of this allows us to better understand the social structure of Hinduism in ancient India.

Written by Vātsyāyana, a celibate monk, the Kama Sutra provides a different way of looking at sex. The main prose of the book is about the treatises of Kama (pleasure), which in the context of Hinduism, represents 1 of the 4 goals of life. True to the nature of its goal, it explores sexuality in a non judgmental light, without qualms about taboo subjects. Some of these taboo topics are the proper conduct of prostitutes and infidelity.

On the subject of prostitution, it encourages courtesans to have a business-oriented attitude, by feigning attachment to retain a sense of control over their lives. It also advises that courtesans learn the art of reading men to identify and avoid danger, and even provides steps for them to get rid of lovers.

Although the ideas that these recommendations put forth are thought of as highly controversial, they do provide insight as to how believers of the book conducted themselves, especially in the context of which it was written, providing us with a more well-rounded understanding of this subset of Ancient people along the Indus Valley.

Unlike the conservative train of thought which concentrates on the role sex plays in procreation,  the book portrays sex as a healthy means of seeking pleasure. This train of thought clashed with what other Western religions believed during that time, and it was not until the advent of oral contraceptives in the 1960s that people started being open-minded about the Kama Sutra, and questioning the role of sex. Although the Kama Sutra was not the only book on sexual freedom written available at the time, it is one of the more well known ones, and understanding that within it lies an entire culture allows historians to understand the influence of theologies of sexual freedom of Western culture today.

Unlike the concept of the female body as a vessel for reproduction in Ancient China, the cultural landscape within the Kama Sutra also emphasized the need for sexual satisfaction in both males and females. This finding is significant as it shows the relatively higher levels of gender equality found within the Hindu culture, as compared to women in other cultures.

From this perspective, the Kama Sutra is more than just a mere book for kinky sex positions. It is a literary work, which holds a rich amount information about the ideas of their culture, and contains more depth if one cares to analyse the contents beyond the shallow thoughts of it being a sex handbook.

The Sacred Elephant

Earlier this year in March, a baby girl born in a village in Aligarh in the Northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh attracted flocks of worshippers yearning to catch a quick glimpse of the girl and make their offerings. What is so special about this girl? She was born with a trunk-like protrusion between her eyes, obscuring her nose. Doctors state that it was most likely due to gene mutation triggered by malnutrition and high pollution levels. However, villagers believed that she is an incarnation of the elephant god Lord Ganesha, one of the well-known deities in Hinduism, as the protrusion looked similar to Lord Ganesha’s trunk. ad_164531241

Figure 1: Girl worshipped as reincarnation of Lord Ganesha

Hinduism is often labelled as a religion of 330 million gods. Each God and Goddess is symbolic as they offer an aspect of a principle. The entire array of deities is needed to complete the picture of God’s manifestations. Therefore, we hope that this post about Lord Ganesha will be able to help you people gain a deeper understanding of Hinduism as a religion in India. There are many interpretations and myths surrounding Lord Ganesha’s birth, form and duty as a deity. Nonetheless, what we will cover is only one of the many interpretations available, and why we chose those interpretations is because we deem them to make the most sense. It is subjective and not the absolute truth.

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Figure 2: Lord Ganesha along with his parents, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati

Birth Story

Ganesha was created by Goddess Parvati as a guardian for her privacy. Ganesha was the son of Lord Shiva (Hindu God of Destruction) and Goddess Parvati (Goddess of Love and Devotion). In order to have a bath privately, Goddess Parvati ordered Nandi (Lord Shiva’s Bull) to guard the door and allow no one to pass. However, when Lord Shiva returned, Nandi allowed him to enter due to his loyalty. Angered, Goddess Parvati created Ganesha by breathing life into sandalwood paste used for bathing, declaring Ganesha to be her own loyal son.

Ganesha took up the post of a guardian faithfully, and denied the entry of Lord Shiva when Goddess Parvati was bathing. Lord Shiva, unaware that Ganesha was his son, was furious and fought him, resulting in Ganesha’s head being severed off. Upon seeing her headless son, Goddess Parvati was outraged and threatened to destroy the heavens and the earth. In order to pacify his wife, Lord Shiva sent his gana (followers) to bring back the head of the very first living thing they encounter, facing north. They brought back an elephant head. It was then joined to the body, forming Ganesha. Gana represents followers of Shiva, while isha represents lord. Therefore, Ganesha was appointed as the leader of Shiva’s ganas, worshipped by many.

Significance of Lord Ganesha’s form

Just like most Deity stories, the body of deities has a significant role or symbol to play in human’s society, especially the body of Lord Ganesha. I will discuss the significance of Lord Ganesha’s form according to the body arrangements.

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Figure 3.1: Depiction of Om Symbol        Figure 3.2: Om Symbol

Firstly, we have to start from the head of Lord Ganesha. Its unique elephant head gave it a distinct feature of Lord Ganesha. Elephant represent wisdom and knowledge. Therefore embracing Lord Ganesha with such elephant qualities. His trunk and his head is shaped into an Om, which is one of Hinduism’s most sacred symbols. It represents the primeval sound of creation and also the most powerful mantra in prayer and meditation.

His human body signifies the earthly existence of human being. The belly of Lord Ganesha represents generosity and total acceptance, where we are supposed to digest either good or bad experiences. Lord ganesha’s has four arms that each arm would hold an object that symbolizes a significant teaching. Lord ganesha’s right hand holds a hook or Ankusa and the left hand holds a noose or Paasa. These 2 tools are used to tame elephants and Lord Ganesha’s mind is of an wild elephant. With these two tools, he is able to calm and allow the mind to concentrate, contemplate and meditate. Another arm would holds a dish of sweetmeats which imply the sweet gains reaped by practicing good deeds. As Bhagavad Gita makes it clear that a person should always focus on the karma and not the fruits of it, Ganesha is never shown enjoying the dessert he holds in his hands, thereby making it clear that he is not attached to the outcome of his good deeds. His last arm is always seen in an blessing post which means an ideal person would wish for societal well being.

Role as a deity

Lord of Learning and Knowledge

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Figure 4: Lord Ganesha writing Mahabharata with Vyasa

 

In many images, Ganesha is depicted as one-tusked. It is believed that one missing tusk was used to write the epic of Mahabharata while Vyasa recite it. Mahabharata has been seen as one of the two pillars that create the Hindu culture of India today. With such an accomplishment and importance of his role in Mahabharata, Ganesha is revered to as the lord of learning and knowledge.

The Lord of Beginnings and Remover of Obstacles

Ganesha has many names, one of them is Vighnaharta, meaning "remover of obstacles". Although many pray to him to remove obstacles, Ganesha is also believed to be the one who create the obstacles (Vighnakarta). Why? One tusk also symbolizes showing a single way to God, giving Ganesha the nickname of Ekadanta. In addition, another name of his is Vakratunda, meaning "he who straighten the crooked". Vakratunda, Vignakarta and Ekadanta together are interpreted as Ganesha putting obstacles to straighten the crooked behavior and ideas of humans and therefore showing the right path to God.

 

 

Lord Ganesha’s importance is so prominent that many people worship him, albeit in different ways. Ganesh Chaturthi is a celebration of Ganesha’s birthday; the main event include immersing a new Ganesha statue in water, symbolizing Ganesha washing away your troubles. Some students who believe in the role of Ganesha would also chant Ganesha’s mantra to ask Ganesha to help them in their studies and obtain good scores in school. Although the interpretations of Ganesha changes and developed throughout generations, Lord Ganesha still place an important part in Hindu society today.

NAMASTE