The Art Blog by Wovensouls

Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra

Textiles in the Chaurapanchsika Love Poem of the 16th Century

Chaurapanchasika is a love-lament poem from the 16th century (some say earlier).

The scenes in the sanskrit poem with 16 illustrations depict Bihana wooing Champavati. The erotic element is added in by the suggestive presence of a bed in almost all the illustrations.

Love and romance are all very good – but love stories of others do little to provide a feast for the soul …

And so the artist probably thought to add some art of the time into the paintings.

The variety of textiles seen in these paintings proves that textile art was highly evolved in the 16th Century in the Rajput / Gujarat region.

There are 18 paintings in the original poem similar to this one shown below:


Enter a caption

Let’s  first enjoy the textile art in the fashion of men and women and  then in another note the home decor style.

These paintings also allow us to study the construction of the garments worn at the time.

The ties on both sides of the chest for the man, his patkas with woven / embroidered ends, his loin cloth that was common for all men until a generation ago and his transparent mulmul are fascinating. But the garment that is intriguing is the piece that he has around his knees when he is seated. I have never seen any such format being used in real life. It seems like a great way to support the knees when one sits cross legged. But is it just a support or is there more to this cloth than meets the eye?

Her costume  is interesting as well. In some paintings, her lower garment could be a wrap-around sarong – but considering that even when she is seated we do no see any skin – it may be a dhoti format or pants like the Salwar for by then the Mughals had already arrived. In others it is a skirt with a contrasting flowing cloth like a patka. None of her lower body garments are made of mulmul but her upper body is covered in a sheer blouse and further with a sheer odhana.

The  acceptable standard of ‘show of skin’ in those days was remarkably different from that today.

This should offer food for thought for all those proponents of Indian “sabhyata” and norms of “decency” that are held up as ‘traditional Indian values”.  🙂

But the most exciting part is the sightings of Bandhinis and Patolas in these paintings.

The circular motifs could very well be large tie-dye Bandhej while the checkered ones could well be double ikat patolas!

What a wonderful hypothesis!

It is time to study these more carefully and look for more published paintings of the same type to see what we can find about the presence of our beloved textiles in historical paintings!!

And if the paintings themselves turn out to be interesting study subjects for students of fine art – that would be a bonus!


Nov 2016







One comment on “Textiles in the Chaurapanchsika Love Poem of the 16th Century

  1. Leonie Andrews
    November 16, 2016

    Thank you for guiding us through these paintings. There is so much to see when we have a knowledgeable person showing us. I love the way the transparent fabrics are painted, such beautiful craftsmanship.

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This entry was posted on November 15, 2016 by in Art Kaleidoscope and tagged , , , , , , .

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