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Costume, Textiles and Jewellery of India--Traditions on Rajasthan.

Costume, Textiles and Jewellery of India--Traditions on Rajasthan

Vandana Bhandari

Mercury Books, London

dist. in U.S. by Independent Publishers Marketing

PO Box 605, Herndon, VA 20172-0605

ISBN 1904668895 $40.00 215 pp.

The Indian clothing expert Bhandari does a tour de force. Nothing is left out--from origins of and historical influences on Indian garb to materials and manufacture; from basic clothing to the variety of ornaments and accessories; from jewelry and bracelets to class and ethnic wear. The often exotic Indian clothing so noticeable to outsiders does not basically reflect the fashion tastes or personality of the wearer, but instead mainly denotes social station and sometimes occupation. As expected, the more sumptuous clothing and jewelry goes with those of higher class. But the typical clothing of farmers, laborers, and lower-class Indians is also colorful and elaborate in its own way. Rajasthan in northwestern India was chosen as the focus for this one-of-a-kind work because of its historical and cultural significance and the mix of different classes and ethnic groups found there. The Indian state's name is derived from Rajputs, or "sons of kings." Bhandari's meticulous text is so fascinating and endlessly informative that one is hardly conscious of the exhaustive scholarship and research going into it. Often noting measurements, techniques used by the clothing makers, how an article is worn, and what is signifies, the text nonetheless does not strike one as being technical since it deals with such a colorful subject. Readers will fall into a pattern of looking at the attractive, rich color photographs and occasional illustrations and diagrams as they come, and then going to the text to find what interesting facts and points the author has on the items the men and women are wearing. Many readers will try to put their growing knowledge to work to guess social status of the individuals shown and the meanings of their accouterments. The descriptive captions should not be glossed over either. The color photo of one man notes that his "sword denotes his royal lineage, the silk tie [around it] signifying that it is carried in peace." But one of the countless bits of social and cultural lore one learns is the significance of turbans in family relationships and relationships with others. A four-page glossary of hundreds of terms testifies to the complexity of Indian clothing. This is a remarkable work with its generous fund of knowledge, skilled organization, and magnetic appearance.
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Publication:Reviewer's Bookwatch
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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