This volume is an outcome of the many years of fieldwork among various groups by successive teams of anthropologists aided by the members of the Photography unit of the Anthropological Survey of India. Hairstyle is more than just a statement of fashion; it embodies aspects of aesthetics, skills, and customs and indicates in many ways, the social-structural dimensions of society. Tradition, heritage and social identity are also embodied through hairstyle as is sometimes, individual identity or status within a social group. In other words, hairstyle is a marker of many aspects and tells us about the people. Hairstyle tells us about the mind-set of people, permits us to glimpse into the myriad word of ideas and concepts and helps us attain a more complete understanding of group’s vis-à-vis others.
A cursory glance at the famous bronze statuette of Harappa, frescos of Ajanta, images of Khajuraho or Konark evinces an appreciable number of detailed depictions of human figures. The skillful maneuvering of hair `received equal importance from the artists along with the gestures of human body. The art of hairdo drew attention of writers and poets. It impressed them so much that this art has found a place in many great literary works of all times.
Lifestyle of the tribal people of India shows a wide range of hairdo. The hairstyle in many tribes is emblematic of age, sex, social rank or civil condition of individuals.
Both clean shaving and part shaving are practised by the tribal people. Front shaving is practised by a number of tribes, namely Kuvi Kondh, Bhatra, Dhurwa, Yanadi and others. They themselves do the shaving irrespective of sex with the help of a glass piece, shell, razor or knife, as available. Utilization of the services of a barber is prohibited as a custom in many societies like the Kamars of Madhya Pradesh.
The knowledge of taking proper care of hair varies from society to society. A kind of locally available alkaline earth is used by a number of tribes for cleaning hair. They identify the particular type of earth with the help of their traditional knowledge. The tribes of Bastar and the Chik Baraiks of Rinchi refer to this kind of earth as manmitti and chiknamitti respectively. The Bhils use mud, milk or soap for the purpose. The Nicobarese apply a handful of grated coconut to clean the hair. Soap or shampoo for cleaning hair is a recent introduction among many tribes.
Oil of coconut, mustard, castor, seasame, karanj, mohowa or kusum are applied on the hair by a number of tribes all over India. The Baigas of Madhya Pradesh or the pastoralist Todas of the Nilgiri Hills use ghee for luster.
Hair is combed very softly and made free from unwanted clots. Wooden or bamboo combs are used for the purpose. Plastic comb has also been introduced nowadays.
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