Dress and diversity: costumes traditions of the Indian subcontinent

Across daily life as well as festive occasions in the Indian subcontinent, we see the prominent use of forms of clothing that date back thousands of years. While these are related closely to individual and collective identities, they also reflect how textiles can lend themselves to so many styles and silhouettes.


Video transcript and image captions

To learn more about Textiles from the Indian Subcontinent, sign up for MAP Academy’s free online course

Terms to know

Gandharan Sculpture
A genre of sculpture that arose and developed between 100 B.C.E. and 700 C.E. in the ethnically diverse and religiously tolerant cultures of the ancient region of Gandhara, in the northwest of the ancient Indian subcontinent. The body of sculptural art from this period, in the form of reliefs and freestanding work serving mostly as expressions of Buddhist faith, is unique for its syncretic character, combining stylistic influences of the Hellenistic, Persian and Kushan cultures. 

Within the Mahayana tradition of the Buddhist faith, it refers to any figure who has renounced society and is on the path of enlightenment. The term is a combination of sattva, meaning “sentient being,” and bodhi, meaning “enlightenment.” In the Theravada tradition, however, it refers specifically to stories from the life of the Buddha before he achieved enlightenment.

From the MAP Academy Glossary

Additional resources

To learn more about South Asian Art History, visit The Map Academy

Pooja Savansukha, Is Renaldi’s Muslim Lady Reclining a Subject to Voyeurism? (from the MAP Academy)

15 Variations on the Sari: India’s Iconic Drape

The Sari Series, Border and Fall


From our partner, The MAP Academy

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Cite this page as: The MAP Academy, "Dress and diversity: costumes traditions of the Indian subcontinent," in Smarthistory, August 17, 2022, accessed April 23, 2024, https://smarthistory.org/dress-and-diversity-costumes-traditions-of-the-indian-subcontinent/.