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The externals
Date: Wed May 19 1999 - 09:21:12 PDT

Dear members:

Now that the subject of clothing has been written about recently, I wanted to
quickly point out an important change that has come about in our perception of
women's traditional podavai.  Historically the blouse as we know it today did
not exist (and I am certain that it was unknown during AnAL's time, for
example).  I know that my koLLupAtti never wore a blouse ever, and I grew up
with the understanding that extremely maDi women from previous generations
didn't wear blouses.  Later on I was to learn that (correction?) that the
"podavai" blouse was introduced by the British all over India, to help "cover"
native Hindu women in keeping with Victorian standards of modesty.  I'm not
sure how well this fact is known; for that matter I don't know enough to even
date the origin of the podavai-blouse in India.  What I do understand is that
stitched clothing (involving the use of needles/tailoring) is a very recent
phenomenon in South Indian Hindu society (say a couple of centuries or so).
Historically I contend that only flowing, unstitched garments like podavai,
vesthi, angavastram, kopINam, etc. were in use.  Knowing this (or at least,
believing it to be the case) is what makes me question the authenticity of
dress codes in certain movie/drama depictions of Hindu mythologicals.

Will like to hear comments/suggestions from any of you.

-Srinath Chakravarty