I was reading through "A History of India" by John Keay when I came across a few paragraphs which talk about Hindu kings' attire (or the lack of it) in the 15th century. Travellers like Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo and Abdur Razzaq gave evidences in their accounts for the native non-Muslim kings wearing little to nothing at all, women going about the streets with bare breasts, etc.
These accounts seem to specifically refer to the hot Southern parts of India. What about North Indian rulers? Were the Mauryan and Guptan rulers unused to clothes too? And in South India, could we ascertain when (non-Muslim) rulers started clothing themselves? How about the Vijayanagara kings and the Maratha kings, Shivaji and Shambhaji?
South India has had a vast number of kingdoms , each having its own variety and having being influenced differently from other kingdoms , in culture , custorms , religion , art , language and of course the attire of all classes of society.
So it's not wise to put them in one general basket called south india.
Since it is not possible to quantitatively analyse all the kingdoms , let me consider a few notable dynasties that have reigned this region over a period of few centuries.
Travellers like Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo and Abdur Razzaq give evidences in their accounts for the native non-Muslim kings wearing little to nothing at all.
Yes to some extent, you are right , the south indian kings of the chola dynasty in the 12 to 14 century AD, did not clothe their upper body, as evident in the portrait of the famous Chola king Rajendra Chola I
Here is a depiction of a King known as Cheraman Perumal from the Chera Dynasty , who were in power till the 12 century.
So yes in short , certain Kings up to 13 - 14 Century AD , from various kingdoms, were bare chested , but in no way , "wearing little to nothing at all" , and in my opinion they were quite "properly" dressed .
What about North Indian rulers? Were the Mauryan and Guptan rulers unused to clothes too?
These kingdoms range roughly in the time period of 600 BCE to 100 BCE , little is recorded about the attire of kings during this period (or atleast whatever i could find was not sufficient).
The Gupta king Kumaragupta I , depicted in the coin below , appears to be bare chested , and having a similar attire of his south Indian counterparts , centuries later.
And below is the sculpture of the famous Mauryan King Ashoka , who according to me was one of the first indian king , to have a firm hold on all the Indian states , till the british conquered India , as a whole once again , after nearly 2000 years.
The Attire of Ashoka , is similar to the Gupta kings , having no cloth on the upper body but having an elaborate neck ornament.
For the first time India(the majority of it) has one single Emperor, this is a major opportunity , for the Indians to finally have a unified culture and tradition , this includes the attire. But the unified period is not long enough , to achieve this.
How about the Vijayanagara kings and the Maratha kings, Shivaji and Shambhaji?
Here is the portrait of King shivaji.
By the time of 15 Century , all the kings of india , by now under the influence of the mughal emperors , and later under influence of portuguese , and the dutch , who were the first europeans to arrive before the french and english , had started to change their appearance , they wore dresses , which showed foreign influence , but which did not completely lose the traditional touch.
Here is the statue of the famous king Krishnadevaraya , who ruled the prosperous Vijayanagara Empire , which encompasses , almost the entire region of south india.
From this point on (till date) , almost all kings of both North/South India , had a similar outfit.
Have a look at the present King (ceremonial only king) of Mysore.
As it is visually clear that the 21st century royal attire has undergone only a certain number of changes from its 15 Century counterpart , preserving the overall basic structure.
Angkor Wat is an enormous Buddhist temple complex located in northern Cambodia. It was originally built in the first half of the 12th century as a Hindu temple. Spread across more than 400 acres, Angkor Wat is said to be the largest religious monument in the world. Its name, which translates to “temple city” in the Khmer language of the region, references the fact it was built by Emperor Suryavarman II, who ruled the region from 1113 to 1150, as the state temple and political center of his empire.
Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, Angkor Wat became a Buddhist temple by the end of the 12th century.
Although it is no longer an active temple, it serves as an important tourist attraction in Cambodia, despite the fact it sustained significant damage during the autocratic rule of the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and in earlier regional conflicts.
Dressing the Indian woman through history
This week in India a man slapped actress Gauhar Khan on a TV set for wearing a "short dress" and news emerged of outrage in a Mumbai law college at a strict dress code imposed on students. Fashion historian Toolika Gupta looks at ideas of decorum in fashion across India through the ages.
Every country has its own erogenous zones. What many Indians today believe are home-grown ideas of decorum and modesty are in fact British imports - bequeathed to us by the Raj.
The earliest representations of women show them with minimal clothing.
In sculptures from the Maury and Sunga periods (about 300 BC) - men and women wore rectangular pieces of fabric, on the lower part of the body and one on the upper part. Little else.
Images from the Gupta period - about the 7th or 8th Century - show stitched upper garments along with a breast band, as well as a lower garment.
Modesty has had different definitions over time and in different regions and communities. It was not always about covering your face and body and in many respects India's hot climate led the way. People just did what was convenient.
But the regional variations are interesting. In southern India, even in colonial times, some women did not cover the upper part of their body. And throughout India's history of contact with different cultures - with Greek, Roman, Arab and Chinese influences coming in - fashions and ideas began to change.
In the 15th Century we see Muslim and Hindu women wearing different outfits and the influence of the Mughal empire was decisive - they ruled most of India and Pakistan in the 16th and 17th Centuries. I have not seen written codes about how to dress, but Muslim women normally covered themselves and wore divided garments. These outfits gave birth to garments like the salwar kameez - virtually seen as a national dress in India today.
In Bengal, in the Victorian era, some women did not wear blouses under their saris - they went bare-breasted. This did not suit Victorian society, which had its own ideas of propriety, and blouses increasingly became the norm.
It was Jnanadanandini Debi, the wife of Satyendranath Tagore - brother of the famous Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore - who popularised the blouses, jackets and chemises and the modern style of the sari today after she was reportedly refused entry to clubs under the Raj for wearing the sari fabric over her bare breasts. Tagore is believed to have actively encouraged his wife to adopt Western ideas.
The terms "blouse" and "petticoat" - both English - made the leap into Indian vocabulary in the Victorian era. Shirts also came to be worn under the sari as part of high fashion and these rather British innovations are considered traditional garments.
Even though it can be revealing, as the crop top leaves the midriff bare, the sari blouse has long been deemed decorous and associated with tradition. In India it was important for a woman to cover her body with a draped fabric here no matter what is underneath.
The British influence only became stronger over time. We see different kinds of blouses coming in with sleeve structures, and various necklines.
In India, unlike in Britain, there are no written codes of conduct or sumptuary laws about what should be worn. What was considered suitable was spread through word of mouth.
So today's guardians of the hemline - who no doubt believe they are safeguarding women by prescribing what women should wear - are following in the footsteps of older political overlords.
Indian women now are much freer to do what they want, at least in the cities, yet we see dress codes being set and women condemned for what they wear. Some people even make an association between clothing and rape.
These people don't understand that ideas of decency are constantly changing and rape is not a consequence of what women wear but of how certain men think.
Our dress is our identity. But what we think of as traditional Indian modesty, can turn out not be not very Indian at all.
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Welcome to part one of our Fashion Through the Ages series. Starting from medieval fashion ending at the swinging sixties, this section covers British fashion from the Normans through medieval and middle ages to the end of the 15th century.
Day Clothes about 1050
This man and woman (left) date from about 1050, just before the Norman Conquest in 1066. They wear the basic medieval garments: a tunic, probably of wool, slightly fitted with a high neck and long sleeves, usually worn over a linen shirt.
The lady’s tunic, similar to the man’s but longer, has a semi-circular mantle fastening on the shoulder. The lady covers her long hair with a hood held by a band, and carries a travelling pouch the man wears loose hose and leather shoes.
Day and Travelling Clothes about 1150
Travelling Clothes about 1250 (left)
By 1250 men’s and women’s tunics were cut with a wide upper sleeve. Most men, except the elderly, preferred tunics short. Cloaks were usually held by a cord at the shoulder. A variety of loose over-gowns were also popular, and these had sleeves with two openings, allowing them to hang loosely like the university gowns based on them and still seen today.The woman’s plaits are coiled in a bun at each ear sometimes covered with a net, and the flat headband is kept in place by a veil or ‘wimpole’ drawn closely under the chin.
The young man (left) is wearing a shorter tunic and pointed shoes. These shoes were characteristic of the 14th century and were called crackowes or poulaines, and are believed to have derived from Poland. The length of the toe was said to indicate the rank of the wearer and became more and more exaggerated by the end of the 14th century.
This lady (left) of about 1490 wears a rich gown of thick material brocaded with gold. This line foreshadows the severe styles of the court of the early Tudors, with a low waist and high neckline. Her skirt has a train but is pinned up at the back for convenience when walking and to show off the fur lining. Her sleeves are in a new fashion, funnel shaped, and faced with fur.
This young man wears clothes in the ‘Italian Fashion’, much less enveloping than those those of his lady above. His doublet reaches only to his waist and is very tight, with slits on the chest and sleeves giving room to move and an opportunity for his fine shirt to be seen. His hose are tied to the waist with ‘points’ (laces) and and fasten in the front with a ‘cod piece’ (flap). For riding he wears protective leather stockings, and his shoes have broad toes. This style replaced peaked shoes in around 1480.
12 Marvelous Warrior Armor Ensembles from History You Should Know AboutSource: Pinterest
Fashion and technology – while these words have vastly different connotations in our modern world, their combined scope in history was mostly related to warfare. That is because warfare in itself (at least till late medieval history) was dominated by the kings, nobles, and elites of the society. These wealthy groups had access to both fashionable items and technological progression, a fusion of which coalesced into intricate armor systems for better protection (and thus the chance of survival) on the battlefield. So without further ado, let us take a gander at 12 marvelous warrior armor ensembles from history you should know about.
1) Mycenaean Dendra Panoply (circa 15th century BC) –Illustration by Christos Giannopoulos. Source: Pinterest
The above-pictured armor is not a figment of the imagination of the illustrator but rather depicts the incredible specimen from Bronze Age, known as the Dendra panoply. Named so because of the discovery of the earliest of these fascinating specimens in the village of Dendra in the Argolid (see actual image here), the warrior armor system was developed from the late Mycenaean period (or at least after 15th century BC), and probably used by the elite members of the Mycenaean army who rode into battle in chariots.Source: Pinterest
This uncovered specimen in question consists of fifteen separate sheets of beaten bronze that were fastened by leather bands. The main cuirass in itself comprised two different facades (for front part and rear part of the torso) that were joined by a hinge. Additionally, the impressive warrior armor ensemble boasted big shoulder-guards, triangular arm-pit guards, a deep neck-guard (composed of a high bronze collar) and even greaves (padded with linen). So after all these pieces were ‘set up’, the complete panoply equated to a robust, full-covered plated body armor that may have been imposing in its scope, though surely cumbersome in its usage.
2) Persian Immortal Armor (6th – 5th century BC) –Source: iranpoliticsclub.net
The ancient Persians almost had an obsession with the number ‘thousand’, and as such their regiments were theoretically divided into thousand men known as hazarabam (hazara denoting thousand). The decimal system was also upheld when ten such regiments were combined to form a division (baivarabam) of 10,000 men. The so-called ‘Immortals’ or Amrtaka (in Old Persian) were the chosen baivarabam of the Persian king, and their scope of ‘immortality’ seemingly stemmed from their constant number – which was always kept at 10,000 (according to Herodotus). In other words, the casualties in this elite division might have been replaced as soon as possible from the best candidates from other Persian baivarabam. Herodotus also described the warrior armor of these crack troops of the Achaemenid Empire –
The dress of these troops consisted of the tiara, or soft felt cap, embroidered tunic with sleeves, a coat of mail looking like the scales of a fish, and trousers for arms they carried light wicker shields, quivers slung below them, short spears, powerful bows with cane arrows, and short swords swinging from belts beside the right thigh.
As can be comprehended from such accounts, the Persian Immortals were probably very different from the oddly ‘dark’ manner in which they were depicted in the movie 300. As a matter of fact, such elite divisions tended to flaunt their vibrant and ritzy uniforms and armaments – as is evident from their accounts of carrying spears with golden pomegranates, silver pomegranates and even golden apples. The latter mentioned spears were carried by the king’s own bodyguard unit of 1,000 men – known as arstibara, but nicknamed as the ‘Applebearers’.Source: Pinterest Credit: Dr Kaveh Farrokh
3) Roman Lorica Segmentata (late 1st century BC – 3rd century AD) –Source: elgrancapitan.org
The ubiquitous Lorica Segmentata is one of the tropes of ancient Rome, with its fair share of (often anachronistic) portrayals in popular culture. But beyond its familiarity and faux name (the very Latin term Lorica Segmentata was coined in the 16th century, and literally translates to ‘armor in pieces’), the warrior armor design in itself was a testament to Roman ingenuity. Used after 1st century BC till 3rd century AD, thus corresponding to the apical period of the Roman Empire, the panoply combined the advantages of heavy protection offered by plate armor and flexibility due to its varying sections.
In terms of design, the armor was composed of metallic strips that were horizontally arranged in an overlapping manner in the downward direction. The ‘setup’ basically enclosed the torso in two halves, with fastenings both at the front and back. Additionally, the armor was reinforced by shoulder guards along with breast and back plates, thus accounting for the protection of the upper body and shoulders. There were numerous modifications over the years (at least till 3rd century) that rather improved upon the core bearing of the Lorica Segmentata, but historians are still not sure about the actual historical users of this segmented cuirass – with theories covering both legionaries (as depicted in Trajan’s Column) and auxilia (as evidenced by archaeological finds in Roman fort sites).Source: Pinterest Source: Pinterest
4) Sassanid Savaran Armor (4th – 7th century AD) –Source: armsandarmor.tumblr.com
The (Persian) Sassanian society of antiquity held the Arteshtaran or warriors in high regard, and among them, the Savaran formed the elite cavalry corps of the empire with their own Drafsh (banner). To that end, the Savaran were mostly composed of members from the seven royal families of Persia, the upper nobility (known as the azadan) and also the lower nobility (under the Khosrow reforms), thus mirroring the knightly class of the later European middle ages. In essence, the Savaran fulfilled the military role of heavy cavalry, partly inspired by the shock tactics of their predecessor Parthian cataphracts, while also taking up the societal role of a knight bound by feudal laws of the land.A member of the Pustighban Royal Guard in the middle, circa 4th century AD. Illustration by Angus McBride.
In terms of their warrior armor, the Savaran knights had variations based on their divisions. For example, the Sassanid Zhayedan (Immortals) and Royal Pustighban (pictured above), comprising prestige units within the Savaran, were probably more heavily armored than their theoretical ‘peers’, and hence were only used as a reserve force to secure breakthroughs in a battle. In any case, most Savaran knights tended to be well-armed (with lances, axes, maces, bows and even whips) and armored, with typical accouterments ranging from lamellar, scale, laminated to mail. The latter type was often used in combination with vambraces and breast-plates, while finally evolving into entire mail-coats that often reached down to the knees, thus once again reflecting the style of the early European knights.
5) Eastern Roman Cataphract (Kataphraktoi) Armor (7th – 10th century AD) –Illustration by Christos Giannopoulos. Source: Pinterest
The very term Cataphract (derived from Greek Kataphraktos – meaning ‘completely enclosed’ or ‘armored’) is historically used to denote a type of armored heavy cavalry that was originally used by ancient Iranian tribes, along with their nomadic and Eurasian brethren. To that end, the Eastern Romans adopted the cataphract-based mounted warfare from their eastern neighbors – the Parthians (and later Sassanid Persians), with the first units of the heavy cavalry being inducted into the Roman Empire army as mercenaries (probably raised from mounted Sarmatian auxiliaries). And interestingly enough, the subsequent Byzantine army maintained its elite units of cataphracts from antiquity till the early middle ages, thus ironically carrying on the tradition of eastern equestrianism.Byzantine cataphract, circa 9th-10th cent. A.D. Source: Pinterest
In any case, the Eastern Roman Cataphract of the Byzantine Empire fielded till the 10th century, was known for its super-heavy armor and weapons (that included maces and rarely even bows). Typical contemporary descriptions of the cavalrymen mention the use of klibanion, a type of Byzantine lamellar cuirass that was crafted of metal bits sewn on leather or cloth pieces. This klibanion was often worn over a mail corselet, thus resulting in a heavy ‘composite’ armor, which was further reinforced by a padded armor worn under (or over) the corselet. This tremendously well-protected scope was complemented by other armor pieces, like vambraces, greaves, leather gauntlets and even mail hoods that were attached to the helmet.Illustration by Angus McBride. Source: Pinterest/ Credit: Osprey Publishing
6) Samurai Ō-yoroi (circa post 10th century – 15th century AD) –High-ranking Samurai wearing ‘o-yoroi’ on the right side. Illustration by Angus McBride.
The Ō-yoroi or ‘great armor’ was specifically designed for mounted archers, who often formed the elite forces of the Japanese Samurai. In essence, the great warrior armor was reserved for the high-ranking warriors (‘bushi‘), especially after 10th century AD, when such elite troops performed the tactical tasks of cavalrymen and mobile archers on the battlefield. As an article from Boris Petrov Bedrosov (at myarmoury.com) describes –
The most distinctive feature of the o-yoroi was its cross-section, which had the form of the Latin letter “C”. A three-section cuirass fully protected the back, left and front parts of the body, and only the right part (where the letter “C” is opened) was protected with a separate section called the waidate. The waidate was put on first and was tied to the body with two silk cords—one at the level of the waist and the other diagonally across the chest and over the left shoulder. The straps (watagami) were strengthened with vertical, semi-rounded plates which protected the shoulders from vertical cutting strokes. The cuirass was closed with the traditional buttons (kohaze) attached to the watagami. These were made from hard wood, horn and sometimes ivory. A copper ring (agemaki-no-kan) was riveted in the middle of the back section. To it, the heavy silk braid, butterfly-like knot called agemaki was tied.
In spite of such intricate arrangements within the Samurai warrior armor, the visually striking part of the o-yoroi arguably relates to its ‘leather’ finish. This printed leather was called the egawa, and one of its elements known as the tsurubashiri provided the ‘illusion’ of a full-plate armor. This entire panoply, weighing over 65 lbs, was complemented by the mengu or facial armor that was either crafted from iron or lacquered leather.Source: WikiWand High-ranking samurai’s ‘do-maru’, with some elements modified from ‘o-yoroi’. Source: Exploding Rocks
7) Siculo-Norman Knight Armor (circa 12th century AD) –Siculo-Norman noble, circa late 12th century AD. Illustration by Angus McBride.
The first bands of Norman mercenaries had started infiltrating the southern parts of Italy that were still under the Eastern Roman rule, by 1017 AD. And after a steady trickle of settling and raiding, the preliminary military conquests were initiated by the famed Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard and his small party (which consisted of only five mounted riders and thirty followers on foot – according to Byzantine historian Anna Comnena) in 1041 AD. Over the course of the next thirty years, many towns of southern Italy fell to Norman forces, thus effectively ending the influence of the Eastern Romans. This period also coincided with the repeated incursions and ultimate Norman conquest of the rich island of Sicily. This was a significant event in European history since the island with its dominant Christian population had been under the suzerainty of Arab rulers for more than 150 years.
But beyond just an event with religious implications, the subsequent formation of the Kingdom of Sicily resulted in a synergistic cultural domain that was seldom seen in the rest of ‘backward’ Western Europe. In fact, the ‘adaptable’ Norman rulers were thoroughly influenced by the previous Arabian cultural ambit, and as such even adopted many segments of Islamic traditions and styles, including some elements of their dress, language, and even literature. The warrior armor of the late Siculo-Norman knight was a product of such cultural overlaps, with one of the major sources of visual information coming from the carved capital depictions of the cloister of Monreale Cathedral. One such portrayal harks back to a magnificently equipped Norman nobleman (knight) equipped in a partially gilded helmet with a face-mask, complemented by a mail coif and a ritzy attire. Interestingly enough, the feet of his mail chausses were probably enclosed in iron scales, thus hinting at advanced craftsmanship for the contemporary age.Italian-Norman warlord. Illustration by Christos Giannopoulos. Source: Pinterest Source: Pinterest
8) Mongol Keshik Armor (13th – 14th century AD) –Illustration by Wayne Reynolds
Historically, the Mongol Keshik may have pertained to the chosen bodyguard for the royal families of the horde, corresponding to Genghis Khan’s time (later adopted by his successors). And while like most of their elite counterparts the warrior armor of the Keshik evolved with time, the core characteristics of the style remained familiar with its basis on the lamellar arrangement of pieces. According to Carpini’s description (John of Plano Carpini was possibly among the first Europeans to enter the court of the Great Khan), many of the Mongol heavy cavalrymen wore an armor that was crafted from an array of tiny metal pieces that were bound together expertly by leather thongs. This particular panoply suggests the Asiatic composite type of armor with lamellar overlays.Mongol Keshik (on the left) fighting against a Khwarezmid cavalryman. Illustration by EthicallyChallenged/deviantART
The warrior armor was complemented by a helmet made of larger metal pieces with additional protective features like a neck guard (made of iron plates) and a separate lamellar armor for the hardy horse itself (in spite of being a smaller breed than its Arabian and European counterparts). Furthermore, interestingly enough, while this specific topic is debated, it is not unlikely that the elite cavalry forces of the Mongols wore silk shirts beneath their armor systems. And the reason went far beyond vanity. This is because, as opposed to popular notions, most of the harm by penetrating arrows was caused when the arrowhead was pulled out of the skin. So a layer of silk might have come in handy with its fibers being twisted around the arrowhead, thus protecting (most of) the wound from the penetrative foreign object. Moreover, Mongols were probably aware of silk’s anti-bacterial property when treated with dyes (or even turmeric). Obviously, this was not due to their perceived knowledge of the germ theory, but rather because of years of experience in warfare and wound treatment.
9) Aztec Jaguar Warrior Armor (circa 14th – 16th century AD) –Source: Alchetron
A unit made famous by the real-time strategy game Age of Empires 2, the Jaguar Warriors belonged to the elite military order fielded by the Aztecs. Accompanied by their brethren – the Eagle Warriors, the Jaguar Warriors (known as ocēlōtl in classical Nahuatl) were chosen on basis of their bravery and ability to capture enemy warriors (for later sacrifice), and thus were placed at the fore of their war-band. Interestingly enough, unlike many contemporary societies, this collective elite force, sometimes referred to as the cuāuhocēlōtl, was composed of members from both the nobility and the commoner class, which in itself suggests the importance of training, ferocity, and bravery in the Aztec society over class-based warfare. However, it should also be noted that most members of the Jaguar Warrior military order expected to be granted lands and titles by their lords, thus in many ways mirroring the knightly class of the medieval Europeans.Illustration by Kamikazuh on DeviantArt.
As for the warrior armor, the battle-hardened members of the elite Aztec military orders, including the Cuachicqueh (or ‘Shorn Ones’), were often dressed in regalia that matched their names. Suffice it to say, the Jaguar Warrior draped themselves in pelts of jaguars (pumas), a practice that not only enhanced their elevated visual impact but also pertained to a ritualistic angle wherein the warrior believed that he partly imbibed the strength of the predator animal. It can be hypothesized that these elite warriors also wore a type of quilted cotton armor (known as ichcahuipilli) under their animal pelts, while higher ranking members tended to flaunt their additional apparels in form of colored feathers and plumes. Such boisterous scopes of visual exhibitions were complemented by deadly weapons like the Macuahuitl (roughly translating to ‘hungry-wood’), a wooden sword with sharp obsidian blades drilled into its sides.
10) Indian War Elephant Armor (15th – 17th century AD) –Credit: Royal Armouries in Leeds
Intriguingly, the first possible evidence of elephants being trained for war comes from China, during the period of the Shang Dynasty from 1600-1100 BC. And while wild Chinese elephants dwindled in numbers (and Mesopotamian elephants became extinct) circa 500 BC, the legacy of war elephants was carried forth by Indians, Persians and subsequently the Greek successor states and even Carthaginians in the ancient times. However, the armored war elephants in question here hark back to the later medieval times of India, corresponding to the period between 15th to 16th centuries, when the development of gunpowder weaponry was still in its relatively nascent stage.Indian War Elephants in battle with the Mongol successors. Illustration by Angus McBride.
To that end, the extensive armor system of these highly-valued war elephants (mostly comprising the male gender) consisted of intricately crafted face-masks with strategic vision holes that protected the ears and trunk of the humongous animal. In fact, the exhibited War Elephant Armor at the Royal Armouries in Leeds has a headgear so heavy that it requires three attendants to lift that particular section. As for the main body armor in itself, the panoply was crafted from sheet iron panels and chainmail woven across cloth or leather. And like in the case of the earlier mentioned Cataphract warrior armor, this sturdy sheath was accompanied by a padded cloth or leather on the inside, to keep the animal (partly) comfortable.Credit: Royal Armouries in Leeds Source: Pinterest
11) German Landsknecht Dress (15th – 16th century AD) –Illustration by Angus McBride.
The very term Landsknecht, first coined in the late 15th century, translates to ‘servant of the country’. But while this term suggests a scope of humility, the Landsknechts were anything but modest, with their florid, colorful uniforms (often bordering on the gaudy), flamboyant caps, and penchant for violence and rambunctious pursuits. Recruited as boisterous soldiers-of-fortune from mostly Germany, these medieval mercenaries possibly copied the weapons and tactics of the revered (and often expensive) Swiss Guards or reisläufer. At times, the rivalry between these two units reached vicious levels, especially when pitted against each other in battles where the quarter was neither asked for nor given – resulting in encounters known as schlechten krieg or ‘bad wars’.
In terms of warrior armor, the Landsknechts went rather light with simple breastplates with tassets (thigh guards) and steel skull caps, thus focusing on their offensive capabilities with weapons like pikes, halberds, and zweihänder (two-handed) swords. Such varied weapon types were accompanied by side-arms like katzbalger (cat skinner) swords with ‘S’ shaped quillons, crossbows, and later arquebuses. However, what lacked in armor was more than made up for by their garish warrior attires that were worn to flout the medieval rules of decency. These loud costumes translated to slashed doublets, striped hose, and tight (or sometimes oversized) breeches – most of which were flaunted to showcase their privilege in being exempt from laws that dictated certain decorum in dresses during the contemporary times.Landsknechts in battle formation with pikes. Source: militar.org.ua Source: Pinterest
12) Polish Winged Hussar Armor (16th – 18th century AD) –Source: Pinterest
While historically Hussars may have originated from the Serbian mercenaries who served as light cavalry in the 14th century, the Polish Winged Hussars epitomized the shock cavalry arm of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between the 16th and 18th centuries. Showcasing their stylized yet heavily armored avatars, partly fueled by the mid-16th century reforms of Stephen Báthory (one of the most successful kings in Polish history), the winged hussars serving under their dedicated banners (chorągiew) were essentially the elite of the effective (and often victorious) armies of the thriving Eastern European commonwealth.Illustration by Angus McBride.
The ostentatious warrior armor of the 16th century Polish Winged Hussars was undoubtedly inspired by their earlier Hungarian counterparts, along with influence from some regions of western Europe – like the lobster-shaped anima breastplate that originated in Italy (and possibly in turn influenced by the ancient Roman Lorica Segmentata). However by the 17th century, when the warrior armor of this elite cavalry force was arguably at its most stylish stage, the inspiration was clearly borrowed from the east, rather than west. The ornately burnished cuirasses were accompanied by helmets, mail sleeves, lances, koncerz swords and even fire-arms (sclopetum or rudimentary pistol).
In any case, the unique feature of the winged hussar armor obviously related to the ‘winged’ part, and unfortunately this is where history and legends combine to paint a rather unrealistic picture. From the archaeological perspective, experts know of the early wing-types that were made by simply attaching rows of the feather into a straight batten. It can be hypothesized that during the reign of John Sobieski these wings took more elegant forms with vibrant color schemes, possibly sourced from goose, eagles and even vultures. However, historians are not really sure about the actual purpose of these ornamental apparels. And while popular culture suggests how the elaborate feathers whistled their way into the thick of battle to terrify foes, (most) scholars believe that these wings were used to intimidate the opponents by sheer visual impact (complemented by the dazzling effect of the hussar warrior armor).Source: nigelcarren.co.uk
Book References: The Normans (By David Nicolle) / Mongol Warrior 1200-1350 (By Stephen Turnbull) / The Mycenaeans c. 1650-1100 BC (By Nicholas Grguric) / The Persian Army 560-330 BC (by Nicholas Sekunda) / Sassanian Elite Cavalry AD 224 – 642 (By Dr Kaveh Farrokh) / Polish Winged Hussar 1576-1775 (By Richard Brzezinski)
And in case we have not attributed or misattributed any image, artwork or photograph, we apologize in advance. Please let us know via the ‘Contact Us’ link, provided both above the top bar and at the bottom bar of the page.
India and the History of Cotton
Cotton it truly a miracle fiber: it has been spun, woven, and dyed since ancient times, and it is still the most widely used fiber for cloth today. It is soft and fluffy and grows in a boll around the seeds of the cotton plant. There is almost nothing that cotton can’t be turned into: clothes, bedding, tabletop, furniture, even art.
The first people in Eurasia to grow cotton for clothing, sheets, and towels were the Harappan people, an early civilization, who migrated from Africa to what is now modern Pakistan, but then the subcontinent of India. We owe our earliest information about cotton to a series of famous Indian poems written in 600 BC called the Rigveda—one of the most sacred texts of Hinduism. These poems were sung and recited publicly for hundreds of years until they were transcribed into Sanskrit circa 1000 AD.
The Rigveda tells the story of Prajapati, the first god who created the world. Prajapati, “Lord of Creatures” was sacrificed to himself by the younger gods Indra, Agni, and Varuna. From his body the whole universe was made. The Rigveda says that each of Prajapati’s other parts turned into a different group of people, which is why the Indian people thought of themselves as belonging to one of four castes or groups. Throughout the entire tale of gods and animals, cotton has a role within the story. In India today, as it was for thousands of years, no matter what caste you occupy or what job you hold you will be wearing a cotton garment, either elaborately adorned or a plain.
The Herodotus, wrote in 400 BC that in India there were "trees growing wild, which produce a kind of wool better than sheep’s wool in beauty and quality, which the Indians use for making their clothes.” During this period, the famous Ajanta Cave carvings show innovative cotton growers in India had invented an early roller machine to get the seeds out of the cotton.
By the Guptan period, circa 200 AD, the Indians were selling cotton as a luxury good to their neighbors in the east and west—the Chinese and the Parthians. Further west, the Roman considered cotton as luxurious and as expensive as silk, which they bought from Arabic or Parthian traders. Like Herodotus, the Roman author and philosopher Pliny wrote that in India there were, "trees that bear wool" and "balls of down from which an expensive linen material for clothes is made"
The English word for cotton comes from the Arabic “al-qutun.” The establishment of the Islamic Empire in the late 600’s AD spread cotton production westward across the Middle East to North Africa and Spain. By the 700s the Eastern Roman Empire also started growing cotton. In West Asia and North Africa, poor people began wearing cotton clothing, but in Europe cotton was still a very unusual luxury item, imported from the Islamic Empire. By 1000AD, Italian traders brought more cotton to Europe, but as a finished luxury good it was not well recognized in Europe.
Remarkably, very little cotton cloth was imported to England before the 15th century and the small amounts that had been imported were used chiefly for candlewicks. In the 1600s, European explorers found cotton plants grown and used in the Americas. These newly discovered species were introduced to Africa in the 18th century and later spread to India. The British desire for cotton would change by the 17th century when the East India Company began importing rare fabrics from India, and coincides with the 1793 invention of the cotton gin—a machine that separated the seeds from the fiber and allowed cotton to displace flax and wool during the Industrial Revolution.
American cotton yield doubled each decade after 1800 after the invention of the cotton gin. Demand for cotton increased by other innovations of the Industrial Revolution, including machines to spin and weave it and the steamboat to transport it. Between 1815 and 1859, Britain imported nearly 77 percent of American cotton and turned it into cloth. However, the American cotton market began to wane with the start of the Civil War Britain looked to other countries like India, Brazil, Turkey and Egypt as an alternative source for the raw material, which it would buy and sell back as a finished product. India whose own production was not mechanized and relied on a disparate, often changing labor force struggled to compete, and instead of exporting huge amounts of finished cotton goods, it became the largest importer of British cotton textiles.
The rise of Mahatma Ghandi empowered the people of India. Gandhi and his followers were angered by the laws that sent local Indian cotton back to Britain to be milled into cloth, and then sent back to India in which the people were forced to purchase British loomed cotton rather than hand woven khadi. Gandhi saw the revival of local village economies as the key to India's spiritual and economic regeneration and he envisioned homespun khadi as the catalyst for economic independence. He built his strategy around the revival of traditional craftsmanship and skills that would feed local demand with local production. As part of Gandhi’s policies of civil disobedience and non-cooperation, he encouraged people to boycott British goods, specifically cotton textiles, and encouraged Indians to use homespun and woven khadi. In India, he adopted the charka or spinning wheel as the symbol of his principle of self-sufficiency.
In 1921, Gandhi launched the movement for all Indians to spin their own cloth or purchase only hand-spun Indian cloth. In protest against the colonial practice of milling Indian-grown cotton in Britain before selling it back to India, Gandhi took to his handloom and wove his own clothes, urging others to follow suit. Soon villagers across India were making their own cloth as a political statement. This ‘cottage’ industry became a staple of the country’s rural economy. Khadi became the fabric of the freedom struggle. The khadi people made in home workshops and small-scale factories supplemented the small incomes they earned toiling in the fields. Gandhi used khadi as the uniform for the first Non Cooperation movement and the Gandhi cap symbolized the Indo-British battle over the looms of Manchester and a bid for a modern Indian identity
In modern, independent India, the cotton industry could, once again, compete on the world market. There is a still great diversity in the traditions and methods used to produce Indian cotton. Weavers often work in close family structures where ancient skills are passed from generation to generation and there is a great pride in the work, the fiber and the rich history surrounding even the most simple cotton fabric.
Royal Clothing of a Prince
The royal clothing of a Prince in the medieval period was meant to depict his status as the incumbent-ruler after his father. This status meant that the Prince was superior to the nobility of the period. Consequently, rich embellishments and decorations used in the clothing of a prince reflected this elevated status.
Although simpler than a King’s standard clothing, a Prince typically wore trousers, leggings, cloaks and tunic. The tunic, being the outermost garment, was decorated with embroidery, gold lacing and other elements. If the Prince wore a cloak on top of it, the cloak was designed specifically to clearly identify him as the Prince of the realm.
One among many hill forts of India, the Gwalior Fort stands on a vast rocky hill named Gopachal. Originally built in sandstone and lime mortar, the fort is one of the prominent structures in Gwalior. The fort has had a long history - sieged and captured by many rulers in the past. At one point of time, the Gwalior fort was regarded as north and central India's most invincible fortress. The fort houses two palaces, ‘Gujari Mahal’ and ‘Man Mandir’, which were built by Raja Man Singh Tomar during the 15th Century. It also houses numerous temples, built by various kings at different point of time. Over the years, the fort has undergone many changes, but remains an important marvel of Gwalior. The fort is also associated with an interesting legend and has a rich history behind it.
Early History of the Fort
The construction of the fort is associated with a legend and hence, the exact date of its construction is unknown. The legend has it that a local king named Suraj Sen ruled this region in 3 CE. The king developed leprosy, a deadly disease which couldn’t be cured in those days. When the king had lost all hopes, a sage named Gwalipa came to the king’s rescue and he miraculously cured the disease by asking the king to drink water from a sacred pond (it is believed that the present pond inside the fort is the same pond that helped the king). When the king was cured, he decided to build a fort to honor the sage and also named the city after the sage, which came to be known as Gwalior. The sage conferred the king with the title ‘Pal,’ meaning protector, and promised him that his descendants would rule over the fort as long as they bear the title ‘Pal’. After this incident, many descendants of Suraj Sen Pal ruled over the fort but his 84th successor, Tej Karan, lost the possession of the fort.
There are no historical records or evidences to prove the fort’s real age. Though inscriptions within the fort indicate that the fort must have been standing here from the 6th Century, but there is no solid proof to prove the same. However, there are certain evidences that suggest the existence of the fort from the late 9th Century. One such evidence is the existence of the ‘Teli ka Mandir’, a Hindu temple said to be built by the Gurjara-Pratiharas. From 10th Century onwards, the fort was ruled over by the kings of the Kachchhapaghata dynasty.
Later History of the Fort
Around the 10th Century, many Muslim rulers tried their best to capture the fort. Mahmud of Ghazni besieged the fort in 1022 CE, but he lifted the siege when presented with 35 elephants. Qutb al-Din Aibak, the first Sultan of the Delhi Sultanate, captured the fort in 1196, only to lose it a few years later. However, Iltumish, the third ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, recaptured the fort in 1232 CE. Around 1398, the fort was captured by the Tomars and it remained with them for a long time. Raja Maan Singh Tomar constructed several structures within the fort, changing its appearance forever. Meanwhile, rulers of the Delhi Sultanate were constantly trying to recapture the fort. One such attempt by Sikander Lodi failed in 1505, but his son Ibrahim Lodi managed to capture the fort in 1516, which resulted in the death of Raja Maan Singh Tomar. The fort was, however, soon taken by Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty. However, the Mughals lost it to the Sur ruler Sher Shah Suri, in 1542. In 1558, Mughal Emperor Akbar recaptured the fort and turned it into a prison, where he executed his prisoners and rivals.
Post the reign of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire weakened, resulting in the loss of the fort, which was now captured by the Rana chieftains of Gohad. Mahadaji Shinde of the Scindia dynasty captured it from Gohad Rana Chhatar Singh, but eventually lost the fort to the British. In 1780, the British gave away the fort to the Ranas, in exchange for their support during the Sepoy Mutiny in the 18th Century. The Marathas then captured it again from the Ranas, but lost it to the British during the Second Anglo-Maratha War. The British then largely controlled the fort and sometimes even gave up its ownership to the Scindia family for political reasons. In 1886, after capturing the whole of India, the British gave the fort to the Scindias, as the fort was of little importance to them at that time. The Scindias then ruled over the fort and even came up with their own structures within the fort, until it was finally taken by the government of India post-independence.
Layout of the Fort
The Gwalior fort spreads out over an area of 3 square km (741.3 acres), surrounded by concrete walls of sandstone. The fort encloses several structures, temples and two main palaces. The fort is divided into five parts. Each part is named after the direction on which it lies. There are two main gates, namely the Elephant Gate and the Badalgarh Gate. The Elephant Gate or the ‘Hathi Pol’ lies in the southeast and leads to the Man Mandir palace. On the southern side of the fort, stand an impressive set of temples (21 in number), dedicated to the Jain Tirthankaras. Other significant structures within the Gwalior Fort include the Karan Palace, the Jahangir Mahal, the Shah Jahan Mahal and the Gujri Mahal.
Temples within the Fort
There are several temples within the fort. Some of them are mentioned below:
- Siddhachal Jain Temple Caves – There are many idols of Jain Tirthankaras that are carved inside caves and on rocks. Carved during the period of 7th to 15th Century, the tallest among these idols is the Rishabhanatha or Adinatha, which stands at 58 feet 4 inches. The second tallest idol at 35 feet height belongs to Suparshvanatha.
- Idols on the Gopachal Hill – The Gopachal hill houses more than 1500 idols, many of which are carved on the rocks. The idols are said to be carved during the reign of Keerti Singh and Dungar Singh of the Tomar dynasty. One such idol of Bhagwan Parsvanath stands at an imposing 42 feet (height) and 30 feet (width). Many such idols were destroyed by the Mughal emperors when they captured the fort.
- Teli-ka-Mandir – The Teli-ka-Mandir is the most famous of all temples within the Gwalior Fort. This temple was built in the Dravidian architectural style and is notable for its generously sculpted exterior. The temple is the oldest part of the fort and houses Buddhist architectural elements as well. Teli-ka-Mandir, which originally housed Vishnu as its main deity, now has Shiva as the main deity.
- Sas-Bahu Temple – These are basically two pillared temples that stand next to each other, one larger than the other. Originally, there was only one temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This temple was frequently visited by the queens of the Kachchhapaghatas. Later, another temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was built next to this temple, so that the daughter-in-law of the king, who was an ardent Shiva devotee, could worship her favorite deity. Since the temples were visited by the queen and her daughter-in-law, the pillared temples were collectively known as the Sas-Bahu Temple.
Palaces within the Fort
There are many palaces within the fort that were built by different kings at different point of time. Some of them are mentioned below:
- Man Mandir Palace – Built by Raja Man Singh Tomar in the 15th Century, Man Mandir Palace served as the main residence of the rulers of the Tomar dynasty for a long period of time. Styled tiles of various colors, including turquoise, green, and yellow are used to decorate the interiors of the palace.
- Gujari Mahal – This, too, was built by Raja Man Singh Tomar for his beautiful wife, Mrignayani, a Gujar princess. It is said that the queen of Man Singh demanded a private palace for herself, which resulted in the construction of the famous Gujari Mahal. Today, the palace has been converted into a museum, which houses rare artefacts and sculptures of Hindu and Jain deities, dating back to the first and second Centuries BC.
- Vikram Mahal – This was originally built as a temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, by Vikramaditya Singh of the Tomar dynasty. The palace was restored after it was destroyed by the Mughal emperors during their reign.
- Karn Mahal – This palace is named after the king who built it. Karn Mahal served as the private residence of Kirti Singh, who was also known as Karn Singh. He was the second king of the Tomar dynasty.
Other Important Structures
There are several other important structures that stand within the premises of the Gwalior Fort. Each structure has its own historical significance and was built with multiple purposes. Some of the structures are mentioned below:
What was normal attire for Hindu kings in the 15th century? - History
The Inca first appeared in the Andes region during the 12th century A.D. and gradually built a massive kingdom through the military strength of their emperors. Known as Tawantinsuyu, the Inca state spanned the distance of northern Ecuador to central Chile and consisted of 12 million inhabitants from more than 100 different ethnic groups at its peak. Well-devised agricultural and roadway systems, along with a centralized religion and language, helped maintain a cohesive state. Despite their power, the Inca were quickly overwhelmed by the diseases and superior weaponry of Spanish invaders, the last bastion of their immense empire overtaken in 1572.
Listen to HISTORY This Week Podcast: The Inca&aposs Last Stand
The Inca first appeared in what is today southeastern Peru during the 12th century A.D. According to some versions of their origin myths, they were created by the sun god, Inti, who sent his son Manco Capac to Earth through the middle of three caves in the village of Paccari Tampu. After killing his brothers, Manco Capac led his sisters and their followers through the wilderness before settling in the fertile valley near Cusco circa 1200.
The Inca began expanding their land holdings by the reign of their fourth emperor, Mayta Capac. However, they did not truly become an expansive power until the eighth emperor, Viracocha Inca, took control in the early 15th century. Bolstered by the military capabilities of two uncles, Viracocha Inca defeated the Ayarmaca kingdom to the south and took over the Urubamba Valley. He also established the Inca practice of leaving military garrisons to maintain peace in conquered lands.
When the rival Chancas attacked circa 1438, Viracocha Inca retreated to a military outpost while his son, Cusi Inca Yupanqui, successfully defended Cusco. Taking the title of Pachacuti, Inca Yupanqui became one of the Inca’s most influential rulers. His military campaigns extended the kingdom to the southern end of the Titicaca Basin, and hundreds of miles north to subject the Cajamarca and Chimu kingdoms.
The expanding reach of the Inca state, Tawantinsuyu, prompted strategic logistical considerations. Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui is believed to have been the first Inca emperor to order forced resettlement to squash the possibility of an uprising from one ethnic group. In addition, he established the practice in which rulers were prevented from inheriting the possessions of their predecessors, thereby ensuring that successive leaders would conquer new lands and accumulate new wealth.
Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui also focused his efforts on strengthening Cusco, the center of the empire. He expanded Sacsahuaman, the massive fortress that guarded the city, and embarked on an expansive irrigation project by channeling rivers and creating intricate agricultural terraces.
Although Tawantinsuyu was comprised of more than 100 distinct ethnic groups among its 12 million inhabitants, a well-developed societal structure kept the empire running smoothly. There was no written language, but a form of Quechua became the primary dialect, and knotted cords known as quipu were used to keep track of historical and accounting records. Most subjects were self-sufficient farmers who tended to corn, potatoes, squash, llamas, alpacas and dogs, and paid taxes through public labor. A system of roadways adding up to approximately 15,000 miles crisscrossed the kingdom, with relay runners capable of advancing messages at the rate of 150 miles per day.
The Inca religion centered on a pantheon of gods that included Inti a creator god named Viracocha and Apu Illapu, the rain god. Impressive shrines were built throughout the kingdom, including a massive Sun Temple in Cusco that measured more than 1,200 feet in circumference. Powerful priests depended on divination to diagnose illness, solve crimes and predict the outcomes of warfare, in many cases requiring animal sacrifice. The mummified remains of previous emperors were also treated as sacred figures and paraded around at ceremonies with their stores of gold and silver.
Upon ascending to the throne in 1471, Topa Inca Yupanqui pushed the southern border of the empire to the Maule River in modern-day Chile, and instituted a tribute system in which each province provided women to serve as temple maidens or brides for celebrated soldiers. His successor, Huayna Capac, embarked on successful northern campaigns that carried to the Ancasmayo River, the current boundary between Ecuador and Colombia.
Meanwhile, the arrival of Spanish explorers had already triggered the collapse of the state. The Spanish carried such alien diseases as smallpox, which wiped out a huge chunk of the population before killing Huayna Capac and his chosen successor around 1525. That sparked a civil war as would-be emperors battled for power, with Atahualpa eventually outlasting his half-brother, Huascar, to grab the throne.
Enamored by the stories of Inca wealth, Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro lured Atahualpa to meeting for a supposed dinner in his honor and kidnapped the emperor in November 1532. Atahualpa was executed the following summer, and although the Spanish were far outnumbered by the locals, they easily sacked Cusco in late 1533 with their superior weaponry.
Attempting to keep the peace, the Spanish installed a young prince named Manco Inca Yupanqui as a puppet king, a move that backfired during a spirited rebellion in 1536. However, Manco Inca Yupanqui and his men were eventually forced to retreat to the jungle village of Vilcabamba, which remained the last stronghold of the empire until 1572.
As the only written accounts of the Inca were composed by outsiders, its mythology and culture passed to successive generations by trained storytellers. Traces of its existence were mainly found in the ruins of cities and temples, but in 1911 archaeologist Hiram Bingham discovered the intact 15th century mountaintop citadel of Machu Picchu, its magnificent stone structures reflecting the power and capabilities of this massive Pre-Colombian state.
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on May 20, 2019:
During the Middle Ages clothing followed traditional designs based on a person&aposs status, profession, and region. The elite suggested details to tailors and seamstresses. Styles showed slight changes due to the availability of textiles and input from master tailors who often had a signiture style.
Laws mandated who wore what when. Priests delivered sermons on clothing and critiques of garment designs decrying pride and vanity.
There are records kept by tailoring guilds. Look for lists of master tailors in the records kept by guilds such as the Fraternity of John the Baptist. You can find this information by checking out British History Online.
Anonymous on May 16, 2019:
Hi. Has there ever been an names of people who created and designed the clothes? Or even the occupation and who was allowed to design clothing?
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on June 22, 2017:
Hi Moxie - I&aposve been researching historic costume and writing these simple overviews to help people imagine how people (mostly women) dressed when they are reading historic novels. If you are actually writing one, you should plunge into some deeper research. Locate some books on the subject. There are many used books on historic costume available for purchase online, often used for bargain prices. There are many out there but I would recommend one with lots of pictures so that you can create a mental image of how people dressed at that time. Good luck!
Moxie on June 21, 2017:
These articles on Middle Ages fashion have been SO SO helpful as I&aposve been working on my novel! It goes through a lot of time periods, so I&aposll definitely be checking back here for more! I absolutely love the reference images, because they make description so much easier! Keep up the great work, thank you so much!
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on May 26, 2017:
Hi Maria - this article is a general overview. For more detailed information, there are many books available on Amazon, including
"Medieval Clothing and Textiles" Edited by Robin Netherton and
"Textiles and Clothing c 1150 - 1450 (Medieval Finds From Excavations in London)" by Elizabeth Crowfoot and Frances Pritchard
Maria Nabih on May 22, 2017:
I know you posted this a while ago, but do you have any details on 1300&aposs fashion?
Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on February 03, 2011:
Amy - well the people who wore the most outrageous of these fashions of the Middle Ages would not have been doing a lot of work. Common folk who worked wore simple clothing. Just like today - how many field hands wear high heels, haha! Thanks!