“International fashion has not evolved for the last 2000 years. High fashion and artistic styling existed in ancient India and the same essence is resonating now.” These sentiments were expressed by Prasad Pawar, an acclaimed researcher and restorer for painting at Ajanta Caves.
The recently held exhibition of Ajanta and Ellora Caves which was curated by him showcased the restored ancient paintings of these caves described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art. These paintings embark the repertoire of fabrics that are still prevalent and styling that inspires fashion designers internationally.
With his 27 years of research work in this field, Prasad knows the minutest details about the textile patterns, aesthetics and fashion trends of Vedic India. These paintings clearly illustrate myriad of modern fashion elements such as delicate translucent see-through fabrics, heavy jacquards, glazing silks, patterned textiles, embellishments, block prints, ornate jewellery and feather-lite accessories like hair ribbons and all of these combined together in the most imaginative sense of elitist styling.
The Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra are about 29 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE.
Sheer & Embellished Trend
Haute couture fabrics for exquisite apparels often consist of fine sheer fabrics combined with an embellishment of the finest quality. This trend was prevalent in the Ajanta times as the paintings bear evidence to it. The ancient Indian knew to make havaa se halke (lighter than air) sheer fabrics and sheerness trend have been endorsed by most expensive luxury brands of the world such as Chanel, Prada, Gucci, YSL, Valentino, Armani and acclaimed Indian brands such as Sabyasachi, Rohit Bal, Rahul Mishra, Anju Modi, Varun Bahl and AM:PM.
Printing is another trend reflected through these paintings and block printing was practised at that time. Block print being one of the major global trends for many centuries have been almost practised the same way. National award-winning fashion designer Anju Modi has built a fashion empire based on block printing.
Check & Stripes
The check pattern shirts and stripes which are quite a rage from Scotland to mainstream fashion in the United States seems to have been clearly inspired by the Indians who used these 2000 years back.
Fashion similar to history repeats itself over time but there are some timeless traditions that never go out of style. Ikat is one such style of weaving that uses a resist dyeing process as similar to tie-dye. Predominant in the ancient times, Ikat still finds relevance in the modern world of fashion.
There is no such thing as too much glitter and red carpet events wherein celebrities adorn metallic gold attires prove that the golden trend has and will dictate the fashion scene all over the world. The Golden Globe Award 2017 was certainly a proof of that but it is thought-provoking to know that the world has to thank the Ajanta-Ellora caves for this trend. Paintings in the cave clearly depict women and queens wearing golden costumes.
The Ajanta Caves carved out of volcanic rock in the Maharashtra Plateau was near to the ancient trade routes and attracted traders and pilgrims through whom the Ajanta art style spread as far as China and Japan. This influence is visible even today as the elaborate headgears worn by people of that time can be still seen in Sabyasachi’s or Chanel’s show. The elaborate styling through jewellery and accessories goes as a separate laborious course curriculum today for a stylist to qualify and indulge in beautifying the supermodels with jewellery but this trend was followed 2000 years ago by the ancient Indians, proofs of which lie in the Ajanta caves.
The fashion intellect of ancient India created a trend that had global influence and would never fade. When enough is said about the speed of hanging fashion a little peek into our Vedic history re-establishes our ancient wisdom and thought-process that would have holistic and eternal relevance for mankind. When designers call out trends to be their original, it is joyous to know that the direction of aesthetics and technology was set thousands of years back.