Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Thought behind the thought: 
I was at a programme the other day at a school function. It was a formal prize distribution ceremony, followed by a small entertainment programme for parents. There was an act performed by the little ones that talked about the cultural heritage of India. Little kids wearing clothes belonging to different states and religions of India walked on the stage one by one. The first thought that came to my mind was that dress, gives away so much information about us in just a glimpse. It’s an unspoken communication about where we hail from what our culture is about and so much more. It instantly assigns an identity and individuality to the person donning it.

About the art: 
India is a very diverse land. You move from one state to another state and chances are that the local language, food customs, and traditions will hugely differ.This rich cultural diversity makes India an indulgence that is to be savoured. All sensory organs are involved if one has to truly absorb India and its culture. India has a number of tribes and they are strikingly different from one another. Normally the first thing that’s distinctive about tribes is their costume. It not only announces where the tribes hail from but also talks about their individualistic creative sensibilities. Beautiful colours, jewellery, and hairdos make these tribal costumes a visual treat. Along with tribal costumes there are innumerable costumes used in dance and theatre in India. Let us limit ourselves today and take a look at some of the most striking tribal and regional costumes.

Ladakhi costume with heirloom headdress called Perak . The colours ,textures and materials in the costume are outstanding. The headdress is very important and becomes a focal point, adorned with flowers if brings life to the costume. Colour is used to give accents to the costume not overpower it.

Rignai and Risa are the traditional costume of the tripura women. The pattern of the "rignai"are so distinct that the clan of a Tripuri woman can be identified by the pattern of the rignai she wears.

The marvelous bead work in the costumes of the Bonda tribe from the hilly regions of Malkangiri, Odisha bring so much vibrancy to the tribe. The lightness, delicacy and detail makes this costume stand apart.Colour plays a very dominating role here as well.

The Rabaris' from northwest India are well known for their exquisite embroidery work. The way the costume is accessorized also make it distinct and bold. Probably because the colour pallet is so vivid, the accessories are muted in colour but bold in design.

Dimasa and Bodo are one of the many tribal groups of Assam. Dimasa and Bodo girls wear their traditional attire during festivals. The delicate aesthetic sensibility and ability to use bold colors deftly, are the two strong points for designers of this costume. Use of pattern, contrast and colour make this costume truly remarkable. Interestingly like most other costumes in India, these are woven, designed and made by the women themselves and artistic temper is an intrinsic ability present among most women.

Tribals' are self taught artists and probably their only guide and teacher is nature , which is abound with inspiration.The headdress is again a focal point of this costume probably inspired from the peacocks of the forest. The Baigas in the costume above are very colourful and are primarily found in Mandla and Balaghat districts of Madhya Pradesh.

The Jaintia or Pnar is a tribe from the Jaintia hills of Meghalaya. Not all tribes in India are about color and vibrancy and opulence. The costume above makes a very minimalist statement. Muted colors offset bright accents. There is an interplay between beautiful patterns and and textures to produce an almost contemporary style statement.


The aesthetic sensibility of the Nagas of Nagaland is extremely refined. A single bold color becomes a canvas, on which beautifully crafted jewellery and accessories, are displayed. The little trinkets and ornaments are so well crafted and compliment the costume so effectively that together it is a style statement in itself.

The Limbu tribe of Nepal and the Garo and Khasi tribe of Meghalaya all boast of a refined sense of accessorizing a costume. The fine understanding of color , its use and its attributes are seen in them. The tribals are possibly way ahead of us in terms of artistic understanding. Probably because they know something that cannot be taught in an art school. The all important thing they know, is to respond to one's intuitive creativity, be individualistic , be bold and be true to who you are as a person.