Interesting facts about the history of belts

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Published: 15th February 2012
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Belts are being used in India since Indus Valley civilization for holding the upper attire on place as well as like a fashion accessory.

Belts have been the part of women and men clothing since Indus Valley civilization. These were designed in several types including Kayabandh, Cummerbund (Patka), Mekhala etc. Belts were used for holding the upper attire on place as well as in form of a fashion accessory.

* Waist chain or waistband

Waist chain or waistband is also called as cummerbund or patka. The archeological evidences including temple sculptures, miniature paintings and frescoes of Indus Valley civilization testify that waist chains were popular jewellery in India.

Several Hindu deities like Lord Krishna used to wear waist chains. According to Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad, Shiva devotees should wear five hundred Rudrakshas round the waist. Waist chain was also worn by upper class Rajasthani people during medieval period. Classical and folk dancers also wear sparkling waist chains as an accessory.

* Kayabandh (Waist belt)

During the Kushan Period (130BC- AD185) and Mauryan & Sunga Periods (321-72 BC), popular costume Antariya was secured at waist by a kayabandh or sash (Waist belt or cloth girdle). It featured fringed ends and was tied in a looped knot at center of waist. Kayabandh became a loosely worn apparel piece. It was worn in form of a wide twisted sash by women in several styles to enhance the suppleness of their slender waist.

It was designed in 4 styles, comprising of Vethaka (simple sash), Muraja ( with drum-headed knot at ends), Pattika (embroidered and elaborated flat band) and Kalabuka (multi-stringed). The women sometimes used to wear a Patka, a decorative cloth piece, which was attached to kayabandh in front by tucking in one end at waist. The patka was made from plaited wool or cotton, twisted yarn or leather. Female sculptures of these periods are also portrayed wearing Mekhla.

* Girdle (Mekhala)

Girdle (Mekhala) was a hip belt or hip bracelet, which was embellished with multi-stringed beads made from the red seed kaksha. But, a celibate used to wear the girdle made of munj grass during Vedic period. Sanskrit poet Kalidas (4th Century AD) has portrayed charming women wearing Girdle on big rounded hips in his poetry. In Geetgovinda of Jaydev (12th century), Radha requests her lover Krishna to make a girdle wear.

“Rasana” girdle was made of a linked chain embellished with pearls, beads and stones. “Kanci” girdle was decorated with tinkling bells.

Court lady sculpture of Begram, Afghanistan, depict the women wearing two types of Kayabandh. First belt is is a wide sash tied with loop on both end. Other “Kakshyabandha,” was a thick belt decorated with jewels and a large clasp at left hip. It was worn aslant. The Mekhala, 5 layer peal hip belt was worn to hold antariya and kayabandh in place. Female sculpture of Gandhara wears a Kayabandh in simple sash style with twisted patterns.

Donor figure of Mathura shows a lady sporting a belt with granulated pattern. This belt was worn short to waist and higher than antariya. King Kanishka sculpture in Mathura museum shows him wearing a belt decorated with metallic decorative plaques.

* Belts in different Indian states

Namboothiri people of Kerala used to wear a flattened 3 layer gold string around their waist. In this Indian state, when a baby is born, on the 28th day Irupathettu ceremony is celebrated in which baby is given its name along with first jewellery Aranjanam (Gold or silver waist chain) along with eye makeup and sweet porridge. The script of Malayalam movie Savithriyude Aranjanam (2002) pivots around a golden Aranjaanam.

In Lakshdweep, both men and women wear a silver thread. The women wear a golden or silver waist belt Aranchan, which comes in two types. Kannadi Aracha is around one inch broad with a lock. Adippu belt is a type of round chain. In Silvassa, Dhodia and Kathodis also wear waist ornaments.


Satyajit Banerjee is an expert writer in handicraft arena and writes for Craffts.com, an eCommerce portal for handcrafted and Handmade products. It offers wide range of products across various categories ranging from Handmade Belts, Indian Kurta Pajamas,Online Shopping India Women Apparels, women's clothing Accessories, Necklaces, furnishing products and much more.

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