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Costumes and Clothing of Keezhadi’s Vaigai Valley Civilisation

keezhadi excavation site

Keezhadi Excavation Site | Image: Department of Archaeology, Government of Tamil Nadu

Madurai, also described as “Athens of South India” due to its ancient cultural heritage, is home to various Palaeolithic, Neolithic, and Megalithic sites. It was previously proposed that urbanisation of ancient Thamizhakam began with 3rd century BCE. However, the scientific findings at Keezhadi pushes the date behind to 600BCE. The remains of Vaigai Valley Civilisation debunks the theory that 2nd urbanisation of India started in Gangetic plains and later spread Southwards. Knowledge of costume and clothing of Vaigai Valley Civilisation comes from Keezhadi archaeological excavations which include items of golden ornaments, ear ornaments, spindle whorls, terracotta beads, and semi-precious stones like agate, carnelian, crystal etc. Archeologists & historians have also speculated that ancient Thamizh country might have traded commodities like pearl, gemstone, textile, and perfumes with South-East Asian countries, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Rome, Greece and China.

 

CLOTHING OF VAIGAI VALLEY CIVILISATION

Excavations at Keezhadi include weaving tools like spindle whorls, bone-tip & copper needles, hanging stones of the yarn, terracotta spheres, and earthen vessels to hold liquid which clearly attest the various stages of weaving industry from spinning, yarning, looming and weaving, later for dyeing.

keeled weaving tools

Spindle whorls & bone tips excavated at Keeladi

 

Unlike the weaving artefacts which has survived over thousands of years, the fabric itself doesn’t stand the test of time. However, Akam & Puram poetry of later Sangam era specify that people wore clothes called “Kalingam”. Puram states that people of ancient Thamizhakam wore clothes of spun cotton and silk. Akam also suggests that Ashoka tree leaves, punnai flowers, coconut fibre, animal hair (wool) were used for the purpose of clothing. With the evidence of weaving industry from Keezhadi excavations, it is likely that the clothing material culture mentioned in Sangam texts have been in use at least since 600BCE at Vaigai Valley Civilisation.

 

Excavations from another archaeological site Adhichanallur, about 15 kms from ancient Pandyan capital of Korkai contained various artefacts dating from 1800 to 600 BCE. A palm size bronze figurine excavated from Adhichanallur, dating to 1500BCE featured waist-wrap costumes similar to Indus Valley figurines. References from Silapathikaram, Kalithokai and other Sangam works composed in 1st millennium CE confirm that even women (like Kannagi and Madhavi) wore only lower garments from the loins downwards to the ankles. The artefacts found at Keezhadi dates to a period between that of Adhichanallur artefacts & Sangam compositions of 1st millennium CE. It is very likely that people who lived in Keezhadi during 600BCE primarily covered only the lower part of the body – a costume culture that’s evident in Adhichanallur figurine and survived well until the times of 1st millennium CE.

Palm sized bronze figurine dating 1500 BCE excavated from the archaeological site at Adichanallur, located along the Tamirabarani river in Thoothukudi district

Palm sized bronze female figurine dating 1500 BCE excavated from the archaeological site at Adhichanallur, located along the Tamirabarani river in Thoothukudi district. The figurine is wearing dangling earrings, oddiyanam (udharabandha/waistband), and possibly a keeludai/antariya.

 

JEWELLERY & ORNAMENTS OF KEEZHADI

The occurrence of seven gold ornaments, copper articles, beads of gems, more than 4000 beads of semiprecious stones, glass beads, shell bangles, ivory bangle pieces, comb and terracotta objects indicate the cultural richness and economic prosperity of Vaigai Valley Civilisation.

Gold Ornaments of Keeladi

7 gold ornaments excavated from Keezhadi

 

glass beads keeled

Glass beads from Vaigai River Civilisation

 

Agate & Carnelian beads excavated from Keezhadi

Agate & Carnelian beads excavated from Keezhadi

 

Ivory comb from Vaigai Valley Civilisation

Ivory comb from Vaigai Valley Civilisation

 

 

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN VAIGAI VALLEY CIVILISATION & INDUS VALLEY CIVILISATION

The urban town planning, structural engineering, brick structures, terracotta ring wells, fallen roofing tiles with double holes
and deeply finger pressed grooves to draw rain water as well as the material culture of artefacts, evidence of cattle rearing, and graffiti of Keezhadi carry uncanny resemblances to that of Indus Valley Civilisation.

Artifacts & archaeological remains at Keezhadi.

Artifacts & archaeological remains at Keezhadi.

 

Brick structural remains from Indus Valley Civilisation

Brick structural remains from Indus Valley Civilisation

 

Comparison of Keeladi graffiti with Indus Seals

Variety of beads from Keezhadi

Variety of beads from Keezhadi

 

Carnelian beads from Indus Valley Civilisation

Carnelian beads from Indus Valley Civilisation

 

Keeladi terracotta figurines

Terracotta figurines of Vaigai Valley Civilisation

 

Terracotta figurines of Indus Valley Civilisation

Terracotta figurines of Indus Valley Civilisation

 

 

Pottery at Keezhadi

Pottery at Keezhadi | Image: The Hindu

 

Pottery from Indus Valley Civilisation

Pottery from Indus Valley Civilisation

 

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