[INDOLOGY] A few Indian clothing items

Gaia Pintucci gaiapintucci at gmail.com
Sun Aug 22 12:37:01 UTC 2021

Dear list members,

I have a few questions about (ancient/medieval) Indian clothing items.

My starting point is Amaruśataka 100:

kānte talpam upāgate vigalitā nīvī svayaṃ bandhanād

vāso viślathamekhalāguṇadhṛtaṃ kiṃcinnitambe sthitam |

etāvat sakhi vedmi sampratam ahaṃ tasyāṅgasaṅge punaḥ

ko 'yaṃ kāsmi rataṃ nu vā katham iti svalpāpi me na smṛtiḥ ||

Once the nāyikā's nīvī falls off by itself, her dress (vāsas) hangs a
little bit from the “threads” of her mekhalā. So there are (at least) three
layers, which, from the innermost to the outermost, are: 1) mekhalā 2)
dress 3) nīvī.

A mekhalā should be a belt made of metal, so I guess it has some wires or
thin chains (the guṇas of the stanza) that hang and that might be decorated
with pearls and the like. This explains how it is that in the stanza the
dress is said to hang from the mekhalā: it gets caught on the wires/chains
and the decorative items.

But the nīvī is the item I am especially curious about. It is defined in
Amarakoṣa 3.3.213 (I follow Oka's 1913 edition with Kṣīrasvāmin's
commentary, p. 217) in this way: strīkaṭīvastrabandhe 'pi nīvī [paripaṇe
'pi ca]. An Amaruśataka commentator called Caturbhuja glosses nīvī as
vastragranthiḥ. A different commentator, Sūryadāsa, explains the sentence
nīvī svayaṃ bandhanād vigalitā with the words nitambasicaye bandhanāt
saṃniveśād granthiḥ visrastaḥ. It seems to me that a nīvī should be both a
sash that steadies the clothes on the hips and the knot of the sash.

Now, my questions/requests are:

0) Please, kindly let me know if I am on the wrong track with regard to the
mekhalā and the nīvī.

1) In one manuscript of Sūryadāsa's commentary the word nīvī is followed by
the word dhudhurikā, which might well be a gloss. The scribe was active in
Bundi (Rajasthan), is dhudhurikā a Rajasthani word?

2) Can anyone show me a painting or other kind of image of a lady wearing a

3) Does anyone know roughly when and where the kind of clothing I described
above was in use?

4) As far as I know, in present-day India nivi is the name of one of the
sari binding styles. Is this word related to the Sanskrit word nīvī?

Sorry for the long brainstorming and the many questions.

All the best,

Gaia Pintucci
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