Figure 1.--These children were from a village of farming and fishing people in Kerala taken about 1965. Notice that they do not wear Western-styles clothes. Since this photograph was taken, Western clothes have become much more widely worn.

India is a huge country comprising much of the south Asian sub-continent and with one one of the largest and most diverse populations on earth. The country streaches from the cool uplands of the Himilayas to tropical coastal Indian ocean areas. The country is composed of a large number of ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. Many of these groups have their own destinctive clothing styles and cultural traditions. The British colonial Raj also was very influential and played a key role in kniting modern India together. India id the world's largest democracy and the country's democracy has played a major role in creating a viable state out of such diversity--a monument to the remarkable leaders who have led India sych independence. Muslims insisted on a separate state at independence, although many Muslims chose to remain in India and rely on the democratic traditions planted by Britain to protect their minority rights. And modern western clothing and an increasingly consumer oriented economy have grown in importance. India is a very large country when regions that have different climates which has also affected fashion and clothing. At this time we have very limited information on Indian boys' clothes. Hopefully our Indian readers will provide information to better understand their dascinating country in general and fashion trends in paricular. Many children, especially boys, wear Western dress, but traditional styles are also important.


key concern in an assessment of Indian clothing, both ancient and modern, is climate. The majority of India - at least the populated areas - is tropical or subtropical. In moist hot climates, it is difficult to keep the skin dry all the day, especially during working or playing. A HBC reader reports, "My experiences stem from South India. I experienced such climate in Kerala about 10° North of the equator - in moist climate in Kerala and more dry climate in Tamil Nadu. I have heard that when in the 18th century British soldiers lived in this area, many died as a consequence of the too tight uniforms in fashion in those days. More died from overheating, permantly too much moisture on the body including growth of fungi and other parasites than of combat. The skin could not breathe and be kept dry. So the body was left in a totally unnatural and unhealthy condition." The dress of ancient Indians, still commonly worn in many areas, was much more adapted to the climate. Although much has changed in India, the climate has not changed and because the heat is such a major factor, this has been an importnt factor in the perpetuation of ancient styles.


India has an extraordinaryly colorful history in which the sub-continent's geography has played a central role. The Indus Valley was one of the great cradles of civilization. Less is known about the Indus Valley civilization than the other early civilizations, byr they are believed to have had contacts with Mesopotamian civilizations. Historian debate the role of Aryan invadrs. A succession of Hindu kingdoms fighting wars with each other dominate the history of India. Invaders have at times played in mportant rokles, but the Himilayas has effectively isolated India and its people from outside influence. In that environment two of the world's great religiins developed: Hinduism and Budhism. Invaders intriduced a third--Islam. Many invaders have fought to enter the mountain passes that connected India with the Middle East: Persians, Greeks, and Mongols. Other foreigners took sea routes: Arabs, Portuguese, French, and British. Hindu kingdoms resisted Alexander, but finally fell to the Moguhls and then go the British. Both empire have left a lasting imprint. One of the ironies of history is that the principal national elements that unite this vibrant, diverse countey come from the British Raj: democracy, law, and the English language. They are also key factors in the emergence of India as an economic powehouse in the 21st century.


Trade between Europe and India was well developed in ancient times. Just as China as noted for porcelin and silk, India was note for metalurgy and cotton. The Europeans had the same difficulty with the Indian trade that that that with China. The Chinese and Indians had many items the Europeans coveted, but relatively little too offer with the exception of gold and silver bullion. Important Indin trade goods were colorful cotton textiles. Cotton was a fabric not widely available in Europe until the 18th century. The Arab outburst and conquest of the Middle East (7th century) cut Europe off from India for eight centuries--almost a millenium. The Portuguese restablished contact with India (15th century). By this time the country was divided into many principalities, but still produced many valuable trade goods. The Europeans gradually expanded their footholds in India culminating in the struggle between Britain and France during the Seven Years War to control the Subcontinent. This led to the creation of the British Raj. The impact ot the Raj is still a widely debated topic in India. A united India, the English ;anguage, and democracy are three primary impacts, all with economic consequences. In more direct economic terms, the British brought modern technology and created the foundation of India's modern infrastructure. The British were interested in markets for the expanding output of the Industrial Revolution. This undercut domestic production which was largely handicrafts, thus adversely affecting the livlihoods of many Indians. The British also failed to deal with a terrible famine in Bengal. The British also implanted the foundation for a robust free market econonomy. This foundation was largely unappreciated by India's leaders at indeoendence. Ghandi was a champion of handicraft most notably domestic spinning and homespun textiles. Nehru and other Congress leaders were impressed with Soviet development and pursued statist solutions to development. Thecresultwas large state-owned industries which were inefficent and uncompetitive on the international market. The state industrues and huge beaureacracy proved an enormous drag on development. Ecoonomic reforms begun in the 1990s have begun to unleash the power of the free market. The result has been an enormous expansion of the Indian economy and growth of a prosperous middle class. India's economy today is probably the most diverse in the world. There is traditional village farming almost untouched by the modern world along with modern agriculture. There is handicrafts production alongside modern industries. There is also a large, increasingly sophisticated services sector. Much of the growth of the economy in recent years has come in the services sector which is responsible for about half of GNP using less than one third of the labor force.


HBC has not yet developed detailed information on chronolgical trends in Indian fashions. We have begun to develop a basic outline of Indian history. India has a marvelously colorful history which is not well known in the West. We do have some information on ancient India, the Mogul Empire, the British Raj, and the modern independent Indian Republic. Even at the time of independence, Western clothes were not widely worn in India, but that began to chsange in the late 20th century.


We do not have much information about boys' activities in India like art, dance, music, parties, relihio, school, and sports. We have just begun to address this topic. Here the British Raj and the growing middle class as a result of the economic reforms has played a major role in the activities pursued by children. There are activities based on both historic and Western traditions as well as many relihious fsiths. We do not know much about the arts in India, but there certainly is a rich tradition to draw from. A reader has sent us some information on outings to Indian parks. India is a very religious country and religion plays an importabt role in the lives of many children. We do have a school uniform section. Sports is a growing interest, especially among the Westernized middle class. Soccer is not as poular in Indias in most other countries, but cricket is a major sport.

Children's Clothing

Children'sclothing often lead fashion trends. This is because the clothes that children wear when young often affect fahion choices when they grow up. Since the environmental situation has always been the main factor to define the type of clothing, grown ups and children wore - and in many cases still wear - similar clothes. Only school uniform has created a new style like in many countries influenced by the British and Iberian culture: boys wear kakhi or blue shorts and white shirt, girls a similar short skirt and white blouse. This is true only for higher schools, not for everybody. New is that boys do not wear some kind of skirt to school but short pants, and girls´skirt is much shorter than in traditional - and still home- - clothing. In small village schools they wear ther common clothes: the girls a long skirt, a sari or the Punjabi dress plus blouse, the boys the lungi as usual. When the children come home from school, they have to take a shower, often meaning dosing themselve with water kept in a cool spot in the home, and put on traditional clothes - at least in more traditional families and casts such as brahminical casts. This may create a feeling af safety in the social layer they belong to. In villages and the common and mostly low cast-families this is not taken that much serious: children wear a piece of cloth (white or patterned) wound around the waist. For girls it resembles a real skirt, but for boys it is rather this piece of cloth which can be folded up as can be seen in some of my photographs to make it shorter and more comfortable and cooler for play. Often when a stranger appears thy let the lungi fall to full length. We notice in India an increasing trend away from traditiinal styles tgoward Western dres. Here a range of factors are at play. Two of the most important are practicality and India's phenomenal economic growth. Large numbers of Indians have bebefitted and joined the midke class with more disposal income which means that they can aford to dress better. Another factor is that the growing middle class often sees Western cloyhing as a sign of boith afflence and modernity.


Traditional clothes men and boys wear are normally a lungi and at the most a towel hung over one shoulder, and women also a lungi plus a short blouse. You see there is not much difference between children´s and grown ups´ clothes - apart from a little more freedom children observe. Here school is often an influence promoting Western dress. HBC plans to develop a glossary of Indian garments and plan to create a garments page soon. Traditional clothing was still commonly worn in the 1960s, especially in regional areas. We note that by the 21st century that Western-style clothing is becoming increasingly common, even in rural areas. Traditional clothing has not disappeared, but is much less common than it once was. This seems even more the case for children, in part because Wesern styles are normally worn at school. We are not sure if the children's preferences are a factor here.


India is a huge country comprising much of the south Asian sub-continent and with one one of the largest populations on earth. The country streaches from the cool uplands of the Himilayas to tropical coastal Indian ocean areas. Modern Indians generally divides itself into five regions: 1) East India, 2) North-East India, 3) North India, 4) South India, and 5) West India. Givem India's shape, rather like a shallow cone, the assignment of the various states into one of these regions is rather arbitrary. The northeastern region added to the four standard quandrants results from the cone spill over east beyond Bangladash (former East Pakistan). We have only limited information on this time on India's various regions and states. One Northeast state is Arunachal Pradesh is the eastern-most state of India. Altitude in the state in can exceed 3,000 meters and the weather can get quite cold. One southern state along the Western Arabian Sea coast is Kerala. A HBC reader has provided us information about clothing styles in Kerala, which is a southwestern state on the Arabian Sea. The climate in southern coastal states like Kerala is tropical. Kerala in fact is one of the warmest areas I have ever visited. The Indian islands are often considered to be part of southern India. One of the groups is the Andaman Islands with a colorful history and a stone age native population.


Family portrait provide useful insights as to how the entire family dressed. Many JBC images are of a single noy. It is interesting to see how boys of different ages, sisters, and parents dressed so we know what fashions were worn at the same time and how trends fluctuated over time. . It is interesting to see in India how Western abnd traditional clothing was mixed. Here we will include images of the entire family as well as just the children of the family.

Social Class and Caste

India is the second most populace country in the world, second only to China. There are more than a million people in the country. The population is higly diverse ethnicity, religion, caste, social class, and other factors. Traditioinally Indian society has been strictly sepsrated into castes based on Hindu teachings, with untouchables at the bottom ostrcized by the higher classes. This situation was an important part of the appeal of Islam to many Indians. Since independence, the Government has tried to remove the stigma of untouchibility with some success, but the problem persists. India upon becoming independent made a number of important choices. Unlike many British colonies, they decided to implement a democratic, parlimentary system and the British legal system. They rejectd, however, free market ecinomics and persued Soviet style planning. The result was a stagnant economy and limited economic progress. Indian politicans in the 1990s began to implement free-market economic polices which has brought dynamic economic growth. Studies of countries around the world show that the poorest countries tend to be those with dictatorial government and socialist command economies. The most properous tend to be denocratic countries with free market economies. The progress India has made is yet another confrmation of that basic dynamic, namely that people want to be free and it is political and economic systems offering that freedom that unlock the mnate capabilities and energy of human beings. The result has been a huge expansion of the country's middle class. Government studies suggest that about 30 ercent of the country now belong to the middl class. Many are nw entrants to the middle class from humble origins. The country still has a terrible poverty problem with huge numbers of people living in abject poverty. India has higher rates of malnourished children than sub-Saharan Africa. One study shows that 46 percent of Indian children under the age of 3 years suffer from malnutrition. That figure, however, is an improvement and the country's increasing economic success apears to be bringing prosperity to more and more Indians. In many ways life in traditional India was much less complicated than in our more socially mobile western societies, and the habits of clothing were much less compulsory. A rapidly growing economy, however, is creating tensions among the more traditional elements of Indian society.


India's ethniciuty is a tremnenbdously complex subject intertwined with linguistic and regional issues. The ethnicity of India is perhaps more complex than that of any other country. The size and large population of India is another factor. Thus the assessment of Indian ethnicity can not be compared to that of the natiin states with whivh most readers are familiar. One source suggests,"To gain even a superficial understanding of the relationships governing the huge number of ethnic, linguistic, and regional groups, the country should be visualized not as a nation-state but as the seat of a major world civilization on the scale of Europe." The first people to reach India was the initialmigration out of Africa which appear to have followed a coastal route as they spread east. Subsequent groups came from the Near East. Many different Indian principalities, kingdoms, and empires of varying importance rose and fell over time. The initial civilization was the Indus River people. Over time, many groups have migrated or invaded the Subcontinent. The barrier of the Himalayas have generally prevented the migration of Han Chinese. Invaders from central Asia and the Near East have entered India. The primary Indian ethnic group is categorized as Indo-Aryan (about 70 percent). The other major group is Dravidian (about 25 percent). The Mongoloid populaion is very small (about 3 percent). There is aregional divide of the two major grouos. Peoplke in northern Indoia are primarily Aryans meaning Indo-Aryans. People in the south are primarily Dravids. This of course relects the fact that the Dravids were the original ethnic group dominating the Subcontinentwhich was invaded by Aryan peoples from the north. And this affected the caste system. The Aryans dominate tge upoper castes while Dravids the lower casdtes. Into this basic pattern are mixed in many smaller regionally based ethnic groups, including the Burmese, Kol, Bhil, Munda, Afghan, and many others. There are also various tribal groups of both external and domestic origins that have special status under current Indian law.

Indian English

Many English people were enamored by the exotic sights, tastes, and smells of India, the jewl in the British crown. One of the activities they encountered in India was a huge garment/cloth industry. England at the time they seized control of India froim the French and Moguls was just beginning the industrail revolution. English mills were to drive the Indian garment./fabric infistries to bankruptsy, but still large numbers of Hindu terms assocated with clothing entered the English language through the British Raj. Some terns came from other colonies, but India was the primary source. Some but not all were eventually exported to American English as well.


A HBC reader writes, "Especially in Tamil Nadu, another south Indian state, I have observed that younger boys often wear white or pastel coloured shirts printed with pink rose flowers and other sweet patterns. The white lungi is folded up, and thus the boys look sweet as is loved by the mothers, sweeter than their daughters. Black or dark colours are seldom worn in everyday´s attire (different to recent days habits in the west). Only for certain religious procession men wear totally black lungi and shirt."


One of the most notorious Indian cults is the Thugees--the inspiration for the English word "thug". Their patron godness was Kali who represented "wild female power". They actually existed, but there numbers and effectivness may have been exagerated by the racist English army officer William Sleeman who hunted them down in the 1830s. [Rushby]

Youth Groups

At this time we have little information on Indian youth groups. I believe the Hindu nationalists have a youth group. The only page we have on Indian youth groups is the Boy Scouts.

Institutional Clothing

We do not yet have much information on Indian child care institutions. The most important is of cource schools which we have also archived under activities. India operates one of the largest school systems in the world. Many of the schools require uniforms. Another institution is orphanages, many of which are supported by Christian churches. India has a terrible problem with abandoned children. We do not have a lot of information on Indian orphanages, but uniforms do not seem common.


India was under British control by the time that photography was invented in Europe (1839). This history of photography in India thus begins with the British Raj. Photography did not develop as rapidly in Britain as it did in America. Thus we find relatively few Daguerreotypes and Ambrotypes from Britain. The same is true of India. Er do not know if there were any Dag or Ambro studios yey, but suspect there were very few if any. We suspect that some the Indian princes had photographs taken. There are, as a result, few Indian photographs until the 1860s. Several developments came together at about the same time. The Indian Mutiny occurred (1857) and was not supressed until the following year. The British rushed reinforcements to India. This was just after the first war was photographed--the Crimean war. The outcome of the Mutiny was a greatly expanded British presence in India, both military and civilian. And some of the Brits that came were interested in photography. At the sane time, as a result of the Mutiny, the British public wanted to see images of the places and people they had been reading about in the newspapers. This created a commercial demand for Indian photographs. And this interest only increased as India came to be seen as the Jewel in Crown meaning Empire. The British East Asia Company actually employed photographers. The first interest was archaeological sites. Other company employees as well as subequent colonial officials were avid amateur photographers. Photography thus became became an important element of the `Archaeological Survey of India` (1861). The British public's interest was not just limited to archaeology, but wanted to see images illustating people, places, culture, scenery, and other interesting aspects. The missionaries who came in increasing numbers included some avid photographers. The increasing number of British subjects and other Westerners in India, as wll as affluent Indians created a demand for photographs. The introduction of the albumen print and CDV print simplified the process as wll as reduced the price. Not only were photographs taken for the normal reasons, but British officials and businessmen and their families want them for scrapbooks and family albums that they would taken home with them. An important early photograopher was Samuel BourneWe. We do not know when the first photographic studio was opened, but know that there were studios by the 1860s. One was Tho. A. Rust Rust in northern India. We note Rust taking portraits that were between CDVs and cabinet cards in size. We do not know how common this was in India. As in America and Europe, the expansion of amateur photography with the snapshot greatly expnded the wealth of photographic images.


Indian royal lines are an extremely complicated topic. This is a topic that would take a maot study to address. Today India is one country. Historically it was more of a continent which included modern Pakistan and Bangladash. There were many different monarchies rather like Europe, but with less well thorough documented hostories. . Rather than one are a few royal lines, In India there are hindreds if not thousands of lines. There have been many Indian empires as well as kingdoms in addition to countless small principalities. Sorting all this out is a danting challenge. The most important was the empire established by the Islamic Mogul invaders who for the first time united most of India. The resulting Mogul Dynasty included some truly remarkable rulers, including Barbur and Akbar . For a brief moment in time it looked like the Mogul emperors were suceeding in establishing a highly tolerant multi-cultural and inited India. The final great Mogul Emperor, however, embraced a stidently Islamic vision for India tht atrmpted to supress Hinduism. The result was a series of costly wars which weakened the Empire and dynasty. It was the beginning of a long period of decline. By the time the British arrived in India, the Mogul emperor in Deli had lost most of his authority. India was divided into many small principalities. We have not yet assessed these principalities. In addition there was the Aga Kahn who was a hereditary Islamic religious leader. When Indias became a republic at independence (1947), the princes or nabobs, with a few exceptions, surrendered their authority to the republic.


We have no information on Indian literature at this time. Hopefull our Indian readers will provide us some information on Indian literature with boy characters. The Rig Veda appears with the Aryan Vedic culture. It is believed that it was written About 1500-1200 BC. One reader describes it as 'the oldest book in the world'. The word book confuses the issue, but it does appear to be one of the oldest extant texts in any Indo-European language. Of course the story of Buddha is about the transformation of a spoled young prince. Today Budahism is associated more with Tibet, China (before the Revolution), and Southeast Asia, but it originated in India before it was virtually irradicated by Hindus. We do know of two books about English boys in India. The first is Kipling's classic Kim. The other is a beautiful, but less well known Old Mali and the Boy.


The suject of Indian science is facinating, both because many of the West are not aware of the level of technological adanves in ancient and medieval India and many Indians seem unaware as to what sciene is. One of the great tchnical adances in human history was the creation of moderm mthemtics now known as Abic numbers--because the west learned of it through the Arab world. The mathematical concepts developed in India wold play n importnt role in science, once invented in the west. Indians elaborated many important scientific concepts earlier thn the west. One source describes the Sushruta Samhita (6th century BC), as the 'oldest medical and surgical encyclopedia known to mankind'. We are not sure this is the case. There are earlier Mesopotamian texts, but noting as detailed or well organized. According to the source, "The Sushruta Samhita contains 184 chapters with descriptions of 1,120 illnesses, 700 medicinal plants, 64 preparations from mineral sources and 57 preparations based on animal sources. Its author Sushruta is also considered to be the first ever human to perform medical surgeries on humans. The book also has vast details on embryology, human anatomy, along with instructions for venesection, the positioning of the patient for each vein, and the protection of vital structures (marma). The oldest documented evidence (9000 years) for the drilling of human teeth of a living person was found in Mehrgarh along with the evidences of orthopedic surgeries." [Sharma] Indians appear to be the first to understand the workings of the solar system including the fact that the earth revolves around the sun. The ancient Indian text reads, "Sun moves in its orbit which itself is moving. Earth and other bodies move around sun due to force of attraction, because sun is heavier than them.” [Rig Veda 1.164.13] We note efforts to justify ancient religious texts by finding scientific concepts in them. We note a good deal of this among Muslims and the Koran. This Rig Veda quote is different. It is clear, precise and accurately explains the working dynamic of he solar system--gravity. And Indians correctly explained eclipses, “O Sun! When you are blocked by the one whom you gifted your own light (moon), then earth gets scared by sudden darkness.” "[Rig Veda 5.40.5] Saura, a Vedic tradition, very precisely estimated the length of the day, a tribute to Indian matamatics and astronomy. Indian matamatician Aryabhata correctly calculted the approximat value of Pi (π) and its irrationality (489 AD), a milenium before Lambert in 1761. Aryabhata also deduced a formulation proving that the Earth is rotating on an axis. Then, by estimating the value of pi to be 3.1416, he concluded that the circumference of Earth was approximately 39,736 kilometers (km). The actual circumference of Earth, as deduced by scientists today, is 40,075 km. We notice Indiian cliams to have calculated the distance of the sun and the speed of light. These claims are impossible to assess, however, because the methodolgy is unknown. As with oher ancient socities, India despite all the important advances and achievements, India sid not incent science--meaning the experimental method. This fundamental chievement occurred in the West..


Rushby, Kevin. Children of Kali: Throughout India in Search of Bandits, the Thug Cult, and the British Raj (Walker, 2003), 304p.

Sharma, Prateek.

Rig Veda.


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Created: August 30, 2002
Last updated: 3:14 PM 12/5/2015