Costume & Jewelry Culture of the Dard Aryan People, Himalayas
October 28, 20132 min read
It seems to me that all Himalayan cultures have spectacular costumes!
One that stands out as distinct and unique is the Dard ethnic group in NorthWest India. Spread over a handful of villages, they number less than 5000 and live close to the Indo-Pak border.
In fact some of the Dard villages now fall under Pakistan.
The religion that was originally followed dictated several tenets that influenced the lifestyle of this group. Their costumes are made mainly of undyed wool across the entire community. They consider shells very valuable. The reasons for these are probably lost to history as there was no custom of scripting or documentation. And so what we know today has been transmitted through word of mouth from one generation to the next. Transmission that occurs not separately in classrooms or libraries or seminars but during the course of daily life. And verbal transmission is so susceptible to losses and attenuation!
So we know very little about the reasons behind these customs.
Despite the absence of the answers to our ‘why so’ questions – the costume culture is a delight and a total visual feast!
Presenting the magnificent Dard costumes and jewellery:
Helping each other to dress up
Note the typical embroidery on the front and back of the pants. Hand stitched shoes.
An exorbitant amount of jewelry is worn by all Dard women. This reminds me of the custom when Rajas were weighed in gold and precious metal – I’m speculating that the women were given jewelry equivalent to their own weight!
Conch shell accessory worn on each shoulder
Hair braid decorated with conch shells and coral beads
I have seen noserings connected to earrings and earrings connected to hairpieces and payals connected to toe-rings. But this was the first time that I saw necklaces connected to earrings.
Earrings connected to the necklace
A Man’s hat – decorated with needles & flowers – both essential components of Dard culture.
Braiding Hair – a family event:
Adding false hair for length and volume
And of course no society is complete without our young people – and as they do in my own home – the young people here too wear jeans and t-shirts as they move towards convenience! So easy to comprehend their point of view but how then shall we hold on to our wonderful past?