The early reliefs are the only peep-hole affording an inkling into the life that existed when they were carved. Contemporary dress and ornaments are faithfully portrayed.
A Beautiful Portrayal Of Lifestyle
The chief drapery, as in the reliefs of Bharhut, consisted of a dhoti or sadi, often diaphanous in the case of women, tied by a waistband, with folds of the ends hanging in front. Both men and women usually were without any garment to cover the part of the body above the waist, but scarves were used on ceremonial occasions.
Men used to wear a turban, the rich often with crest jewels. Women sometimes wore veils, covering the head but not the face. The combing of women was varied and often decorated with ornaments. In contrast to the scantiness of dress, ornaments were profuse.
Both women and men of rank were decorated with ornaments- ear-ornaments, necklaces and bangles- women having girdles, anklets and head-ornaments in addition. The ear-ornaments were of two kinds: rings and studs, the latter very heavy and necessitating large perforations of the earlobes.
Furniture, like the bedstead, stool, table, and seat, utensils like the bowl, plate, pitcher and ghata, umbrellas, fans, toilet-trays and caskets are depicted. Only one relief gives an idea about a double- storeyed house, though there are some representations of pillared halls and ridged roofs with pinnacles. The houses were fenced with railings, of which we get a good many representations.
The reliefs also delineate the lighter side of life, like music, dance, sporting in the lotus-lakes and even amour. Dancing seems to have been the monopoly of women and the orchestra was also often formed of women. Four different kinds of musical instruments, the flute, harp, 'mridanga' and 'dhakka' (varieties of the drum), are portrayed.
Among outdoor games, only the hunting of deer with the bow and arrow and of lion with the spear and shield and fighting the elephant with cudgels are depicted. Fighting and duel also occur, the chief weapons of war being the bow and arrow, shield and long sword, the last portrayed both naked and sheathed. The sentries are armed with a staff or a spear besides a sword.
The king himself led the army, which consisted of the infantry, cavalry and elephant-force. A four-horse chariot is shown once, but not in a war-scene. In his campaigns two attendants invariably accompanied the king, one holding an umbrella and the other a banner, both insignia of royalty. After the victorious end of a campaign the king used to have been received at his capital with great ceremony, women bathing him with water poured out of pitchers.
The position of women seems to have been exalted. They appeared in public and accompanied their husbands to religious performances and festivals. Some of them were fully accomplished, knowing even elephant- driving. When need arose, they even fought animals and men.