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(41) Dress and ornaments of a Hindoostanee lady [[192-200]]

[[192]] The Hindoostanee ladies do not wear shoes; and for walking they use slippers which, soon as the lady returns to her seat on the satrinje, or carpet, are thrown aside. Those without heels, with the back part made to flatten down under the foot (for that part is seldom, if ever, raised) are called k'hous; while those made without any backpiece, the quarters terminating under the ankles on each side, and that have raised heels, to perhaps the height of an inch, are named chinauls.

In either kind, as well as in the jooties worn by men, the toe-part is terminated by a long pointed strip, usually of leather lined with cloth, that curls inwards over the toes: without this, the shoes would be considered both unfinished and vulgar. Men commonly wear only embroidered shoes, but women have an abundance of various-coloured foils, principally purple or green, fastened down to the body of the vamp (which is of some bright-coloured broadcloth), and serving, by the manner in which they are disposed, to fill up the pattern of the embroidery. This [[193]] may be either of gold or silver thread, or very small bugles, not dissimilar to seed-pearls. Those who cannot afford such decorations, are content with silken ornaments.

Williamson 1810 vol. 1: ((418)) The low price of a pair of shoes ornamented as above described, cannot fail to strike the reader, who will be yet more astonished to learn that an admirably well-dressed hide may be had in any part of the country for less than five shillings; such as would sell with us for about thirty shillings, or even more. Those stout shoes worn by our native soldiery rarely cost more than from four to eight annas the pair (equal to from eight to sixteen pence).

Neither men nor women use stockings; though during the winter months, the more opulent wear a joor-aub, a short kind of sock, made of cotton or silk, or both intermixed, and of various colours. These, which are remarkably thick, rarely reach above the ankle. Persons of the first rank have their jooraubs, as also their dustannahs, or gloves, made of shawl. These are of the form used in England for children; having a receptacle for the thumb, but the fingers are all contained in the same bag, or cyst.

It is, however, very uncommon to see a woman, of whatever rank, wear gloves. This is no doubt owing to the pride they take in their hands, which are invariably ornamented with gold or silver rings, &c., to the utmost extent of their purses. In fact, the whole attention of a Hindoostanee woman retained in the family of an European, is directed towards the accumulation of trinkets. These may be supposed to be tolerably expensive, when it is understood that nothing less than solid silver is admissible. Gilt, or plated ornaments, are held to be disreputable and unlucky; hence, the moolumbak, or plating trade, is very little followed in India; though the jewellers will sometimes pass off a coated, for a solid, article; especially in gold work.

The following are the ornaments chiefly worn by the Hindoostanee ladies. The maung-teekah, or frontal ornament, has usually a star, or radiated centre, of about two inches in diameter, set in gold, and richly ornamented with small pearls, of which various chains are attached, aiding to support it in its position on the centre of the forehead. A triple or quadruple row of pearls passes up the centre of the maung, or front; the hair being divided, [[194]] and kept down very flat.

The centre piece (and occasionally each end piece also) is composed of precious stones, such as the topaz, the emerald, the amethyst, the ruby, &c. Sometimes the centre is of one colour, and all the rays of some other; or the latter are alternate. Thus, the maung-teekah is not a very light ornament, but it is extremely splendid and, being generally set in gold, often very valuable. One of a very ordinary description will cost full twelve or fifteen guineas, though composed of coloured glass, or crystal, or foils. When made of precious stones, the price may reach to any extent.

The kurrum-phool is not unlike the centre piece of a maung-teekah, and about the same size, except that it is somewhat less in diameter. This ornament is fastened to the lobe of the ear, both by the usual mode of piercing, and by a chain of gold passing over the ear, so as to bear the weight of the kurrum-phool; which would else cause the lobe to be greatly extended downward. It is, however, to be remarked that most of the inferior women have large holes in that part of the ear, wide enough to pass a finger through; and that even the higher orders consider an aperture such as would admit a pea, rather honourable than otherwise; from its indicating the great weight, and consequent value, of their jewels.

The joomkah is always of solid gold, and consists of a hollow hemisphere or bell, curiously filigreed, and about three-fourths of an inch in diameter. The edges suspend small rods, or pendants of gold, each furnished with one or more small pearls, garnets, &c.; sometimes a dozen pendants being attached to the circumference of each joomkah. In the upper part is a small perforated stud, sometimes ornamented, through which a ring about the thickness of a fine knitting-needle, and not less than half an inch in diameter, is inserted, it previously passing [[195]] through the ear in the part usually pierced. This ring, like every other fastening made to pass through the ears or nose, is of the purest gold. It is so pliant that the little hook made at one end by bending the wire, to fix it into a minute loop or eye formed at the other end, by twisting it may be straightened at pleasure by means of the nail only.

European ladies are content with one appendage at each ear; while the females of Hindoostan think it impossible to have too many. Thus they affix a number of small rings of pure gold, or in case of poverty, of silver or even of tin, all along the border of the ear, which is pierced for that purpose in at least a dozen places, to receive these ornaments, from which much inconvenience often arises, owing to the veil (already described) frequently hitching upon the small hooked ends of the wire.

The nose has its share in the decorations of the Hindoostanee ladies, and usually bears two ornaments. One, called a n'hut, commonly passed through the left nostril, is only a piece of gold wire as thick as a small knitting-needle, with the usual hook and eye, and furnished at the centre, or nearly so, with several garnets, pearls, &c., perhaps to the number of five or six, separated by a thin plate of gold, having usually serrated or escaloped edges, and being fixed transversely upon the wire, which passes through their centres, as well as through the garnets, pearls, &c. The common diameter of the circle of a n'hut is about two inches and a half. On the coast of Coromandel, a similar ornament is worn in each ear by men of respectability.

The other nasal trinket, called a bolauk, is flat, in form not unlike that article of furniture called a footman, and has at its narrowest part a small ring with hook and eye. [[196]] It is thus appended to the middle of the nose by means of a gold ring passing through the septum, or division between the nostrils; the ornament lying flat upon the upper lip, and having its broad end furnished with pendants, similar to those on a joomkah. It is inconceivable what some women undergo for the sake of displaying their riches in this way. Not only does the bolauk interfere with the motion of the lips during meals, but it occasions sores, the most unsightly, in that very tender part to which the ornament attaches.

The neck is not forgotten among those lavish decorations of which the native ladies are so fond. It is furnished with various kinds of necklace, especially the chumpauk-gully. This is made of separate rays, each intended to represent a petal of the chumpauk (a flower indigenous throughout Asia); and, having a fixed ring or staple at its butt, the whole may be strung close together, to the number of forty pieces, or more. This ornament is usually worn rather loose, that it may reach halfway down the bosom. The mounting is gold or silver, according to the means of the wearer; and the rays or petals are in imitation of the maung-teekah; either crystals set on foils, chiefly white, or precious stones of one colour throughout the ornament.

The haunseah is a solid collar of gold or silver, weighing from four ounces to nearly a pound. The latter must be highly oppressive to the wearer, especially as they are only used on high days and holidays: the general standard may be computed at about six or seven ounces. Being made of pure metal, they are easily bent, so as to be put on and off. Haunseahs are commonly square in front, under the chin, for several inches, and taper off gradually to not more than half their greatest diameter, terminating at each end with a small knob, cut into a polygonal form. [[197]] This ornament is sometimes carved in the Oriental style, either through the whole length, or only on the front.

Most of the Hindoostanee women wear round their, necks, strung upon black silk threads, tabeejes, which are silver cases, enclosing either quotations from the Koran or some mystical writings, or animal or vegetable substance. Whatever may be the contents, great reliance is placed on their efficacy in repelling disease, and averting the influence of witchcraft (j'haddoo), of which the people of India, of every sect, entertain the greatest apprehension. Hence, it is not uncommon to see half a dozen or more of these charms strung upon the same threads.

The upper parts of the arms are adorned with semicircular ornaments made hollow, but filled up with melted rosin. The ends are furnished with loops of the same metal, generally silver, and secured by silken skeans. This trinket is called a baujoo-bund. The wrists are always profusely decorated. The more ordinary classes wear rings made of kaunch, or chunk (the common sea-conch), cut out by means of very fine saws into narrow slips, which when nicely joined appear as if formed from the most circular part of each shell. This, indeed, is sometimes done; but such entire rings are very scarce, and usually preserved carefully in their original pure whiteness.

The city of Dacca, so famous for its muslins, carries on a large intercourse with Chittagong, and the coast of Aracan, for conchs, which are used for beetling the finer cloths manufactured in that populous and rich emporium of cotton fabrics. The noise made by chunking the cloths, which being laid many folds thick upon a large board, are beat with conchs wherein handles are inserted, is peculiarly distressing to an unaccustomed ear; especially as the operation continues night and day without intermission.

The small process, or button, at the [[198]] base of each shell is sawn off and, after being ground to a shape resembling that of a flat turnip, is perforated for the purpose of being strung. When so prepared, these receive the name of kuntahs; two rows of which, each containing from thirty to forty, are worn round the neck of every Sepoy in the Company's service, as a part of his uniform. This simple ornament affords a pleasant relief to the sable countenance of a native, and serves to fill up a space that would otherwise appear extremely naked, between the collar-bones and the chin.

Williamson 1810 vol. 1: ((426)) The rings made from the sea-conch are called kaunch ka t'choory, or t'choories made of conch: in contra-distinction to a common kind of t'choo-ries made by persons who follow that profession only, from a species of silicious clay which speedily vitrifies, forming a semi-transparent mass, that is worked into rings of about a line in diameter, but having rather quadrangular than circular surfaces; so that the inner circumference may be rather easy to the wrist, and the upper part (or outer circumference) be sufficiently flat to exhibit various embellishments, ((427)) given by aid of gold leaf, and little enamelled or lacquered specks, &c., applied thereto, and afterwards burnt in.

It is inconceivable how expert the women who vend the t'choories, and who are thence called t'chooriars, are in applying these ornaments; which, after being once passed over the hand, often are found to fit the wrist admirably: persons unacquainted with the dexterity of these women would, on seeing the rings before they were on, consider it impossible to get the hand through; yet by means of a little oil, or even of water, and compressing the verv flexible member into a suitable form, the rings are successively made to glide over the joints with tolerable facility; very few, in proportion, being broken during the operation.

It is to be remarked, that, as probably forty or fifty t'choories are to be worn upon each wrist, those appropriated to the thicker part of the arm being of course the first to pass, the hand becomes gradually suppled, and disposed to receive each succeeding ring, which is imperceptibly of less diameter than its predecessor. To say the most of t'choories, they have a very heavv appearance, and are: always highly uncomfortable to Madam's most intimate acquaintances, in consequence of their being peculiarly brittle.

Some ladies wear on each wrist a massy ring of solid silver, weighing from three to five ounces. These rings are commonly hexagonal or octagonal, of an equal thickness throughout, and terminated by a knob at each end, the same as in the haunseah. This ornament, which is called a hurrah, being of pure silver, may be opened sufficiently to be put on or off at pleasure; the ends being brought together by an easy pressure of the other hand.

A bracelet formed of small pointed prisms of solid silver, each about the size of a very large barley-corn, and having a ring soldered to one of its sides, is very common. These prisms are strung upon black silk, as close as their pointed, or perhaps rounded, ends will admit, in three or four parallel rows, and then fastened, the same as the baujoo-bund. Some of the bracelets, which bear the general name of poanchies, are of gold, intermixed with pearls; affording a very rich appearance. They are certainly more ornamental than t'choories, which are, in the end, very expensive, on account of the immense numbers that give way in the wearing.

The thumb of each hand has generally an ornament called ainah (or looking-glass), formed of a ring which fits the thumb and has a small mirror, about the size of a half-penny, fixed upon it by the centre, so as to accord [[199]] with the back of the thumb. Each finger is provided with angooties, or rings, of various sorts and sizes, generally of gold; those of silver being considered mean. The ainah should correspond in this particular; but on account of the quantity of gold required wherein to set the glass, many content themselves with silver mounting. That a small looking-glass may at times be commodiously situated at the back of the thumb, will not be disputed; but what shall be said for that preposterous custom, which Europeans have witnessed, of wearing a similar ornament on each great toe?

A lady at all priding herself on the splendour of her dress, must have a pair of very substantial kurrahs, or rings of silver, not weighing less than half a pound each, upon her ankles. She must also have a pair of paum-jebs, made flexible, and ornamented with little spherical bells, all of which tinkle at every motion of the limb. The ordinary pattern of the paum-jeb is mural, each piece being kept in its place by wires passing through its two ends vertically. The toes have likewise their rings, called chellahs, usually about the fifth of an inch broad, very thin, and for the most part, with beaded edges.

The women of Portuguese extraction wear their hair in a large top-knot, secured by an immense silver pin, or rather a skewer; the broad part of which is either filigreed, enamelled, or engraved. The Hindoostanee ladies wear no such ornament. They comb down their frontal hair, while abundantly moistened with tissy (the mucilage obtained by steeping linseed in a small quantity of water); and causing it to part from the centre in two diverging sweeps, or crescents, which come down to the exterior corners of the eye-brows, falling in immediately above the ears; they thus render the whole smooth, compact, and glossy.

All the hair appertaining to the hinder [[200]] part of the head, is braided together for its whole length, and ultimately blended with black ribbon; which continues the braid for many inches, or even a foot or more, so as to render it doubtful, at a certain distance, whether the hair does not occupy the whole length. This is a point of the utmost importance with a native lady, for one of the greatest punishments a judge can inflict on a woman, is to have her head shaved. And it is very common for a native to cause the hair of his baundy, or female slave, to be taken off for any trifling offence.

Coral beads are in high estimation throughout Hindoostan, for necklaces and bracelets for women. Though these beads are manufactured from the red coral fished up in various parts of Asia, they are very costly, especially when they run to any size. They are generally sold by the sicca-weight, or tolah; that is, by their weight in silver, two and a half rupees weighing about one ounce; or eighty to the seer of nearly two pounds avoirdupois.

Williamson 1810 vol. 1: ((431)) A tolah of high-colored, sound beads, as large as a marrow-fat pea, may commonly be had for about three or four rupees; sometimes cheaper: consequently, an ounce of coral beads, called moongahs, will cost near a guinea. This, which is four times the value of silver, appears to be a high price, considering the low wages of laborers, and proves that coral cannot be advantageously imported from India to England. The ladies of Asia are very particular in often steeping their moongahs in pigeon's blood; under the firm belief of their color being heightened by such immersions! This recipe may, however, be matched by many, of equal efficacy, highly valued among ourselves. .


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