Vedic Hindus’ Hair Style

Compiled by London swaminathan

Date: 22 April 2015; Post No: 1821

Uploaded in London 22-08

Vedic literature is an encyclopaedia of the life of ancient Hindus. Though the Vedas are religious books, we have got lot of information about the normal secular life of people. We have got some interesting information about the Vedic hair style.

Shiva, One of the gods of Hindu Trinity, has a name due to his hair style. Kapardin is his name. It means matted locks. Even today lot of ascetics have this hair style. This name occurs in the Vedas. Rudra and Pusan wore their hair plaited or matted.

The use of the word ‘apasa’ indicates that plaits were worn by women in dressing the hair. There are undoubted references to the custom of wearing hair in braids or plaits. A maiden had her hair in four plaits (RV 10-104-3). It is very interesting to compare it with the plaited hair of Yazidis of Iraq. I have already explained in my two articles that they were ancient Hindus isolated in the hills of Iraq (Please read my articles “Hindu Vestiges in Iraq” and “Trikala Surya Upasana” ,posted on 12th and 23rd of August 2014 respectively).

The Yazidi youths wore a hair style as described in the Veda.

Yazidi boys of Iraq

Sangam Tamil literature described the Tamil women doing five types of hair styles (Aimpaal Kunthal in Tamil). This has been explained by the commentators as five different hair dos.

Kesa / hair is mentioned in the Atharva Veda (AV 5-19-3, 6-136-3), Vajasaneyi Samhita 20-5; 25-3and Satapatha Brahmana  2-5-2-48

In the hymns of Atharva Veda plenty full growth of hair is desired

Cutting and shaving of hair were in vogue. Scissors, razors and knives are mentioned in the Vedas.

Long hair was regarded womanly (SB 5-1-2-14). This shows women had long hair and they prayed for long hair. In the Mahabharata Draupadi vowed not to tie her hair until Dusshsana was killed and his blood is smeared in her hair. Women don’t dress their hair when their husbands were away.

When a woman was pregnant the ‘seemanta’ ceremony is done and lot of bangles are given to the woman. This seemanta means parting the hair. Kataka Samhita 23-1 mentioned this parting with the thorn of a porcupine – ‘salali’

Beautiful Hair style on a statue

Another term for hair style is ‘stuka’ which means a tuft of hair or wool RV 9-97-17; AV 7-74-2

The word ‘pulastin’ (KS 17-15) occurs in the sense of ‘wearer of plain hair’ as opposed to ‘kapardin’ ‘ wearer of braided /matted hair.

Locks were known as ‘sikhanda’, parting of hair ‘siman’ and top knot as ‘sikha’

We see top knot in Buddha statues. A sage had the name Pulastya, may be due to his hair style.

Rama’s hair style was described as Kaka Paksha in Ramayana (like the two wings of crow)

Siva Kapardin

Hair Treatment

Vedic Hindus were very keen to have good dense hair. In order to stop hair from falling, herbs were grown  in water and other selected places. In order to make the hair grow a paste of heated sirsa (vanquiena spinosa) and nuts of aksa (bellerica Terminalia) were applied to the head.

In short they cared much for healthy hair and they did decorate their hair with different styles. This shows that they were well advanced in fashion and style. That stood as a proof for their happy and prosperous life. Foreign “scholars” deliberately concealed all the positive things about the Vedic society and projected them as nomadic migrants.

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4 Comments

  1. R Nanjappa

     /  April 23, 2015

    Caring for the hair, grooming it well is a mark of cultured Hindu upbringing. Boys also used to have long, thick and lovely sikhas. Girls and boys used to have regular weekly oil baths ( on Fridays and Saturdays respectively), when the oil was washed down with herbal ingredients, That day, the hair was left to dry, but was exposed to herbal fumes. The hair in the case of girls used to be oiled and plaited the next day- it was such a ritual. The hair was invariably plaited, before they went to school.

    Unplaited hair is considered uncultured. Arunagirnatha Swami mentions in some places those with unplaited hair. Two instances readily come to mind. One is Kali in the burning ghat or ranging the battlefields- *”Sari valai Viri jatai er purai vadivinal” in Devendra Sangha Vaguppu. Another is Rakshasas! “Viritta kunjiyar enum avunar” – in Tirupparangkunram Tiruppugazh (Vunai dinam- No 7 in Variar’s edition)*

    This practice of properly plaiting hair is now being given up, especially in the case of girls attending English medium schools, and colleges, especially in cities and big towns. Parents give many reasons such as odd timings of schools, nuclear families, working parents,etc. Working young women too do not plait their hair.( Some companies do advise that hair not be plaited) This is a sign of modernity or may be women’s lib! It used to be said of Albert Schweitzer that as a young boy he had such a shock of thick hair, it was unruly. And he did have an unruly temperament too. So, his nurse used to say “Unruly within, unruly without”! May be our youngsters keeping the hair unplaited is a sign of their wanting to be free of social constraints!

    The pictures of Yazidi boys of Iraq with plaited hair is revealing. I have seen similar pictures of Chinese boys. Kanchi Mahaswami mentioned this in his talks.

    Oiling and combing the hair with two types of combs, carefully removing the small knots, parting and plaiting and the exclusive attention the entire process was paid when the girl and the mother or someone else gave up everything and sat absorbed in this for those 10 or so minutes always seemed to me to be of some therapeutic or accupressure value! I had always noted that it had a calming effect on children, especially on tension-ridden days, like when facing a test!

    I must share one more incident connected with plaiting. Devotees used to bring children along when visiting Ramana Maharshi and they used to play freely in his presence. Once Prof. Gurram Subbaramayya had brought his young daughter along. Her hair was neatly combed , with two plaits. Bhagavan observed her and exchanged words as usual and remarked seemingly casually,’ why two plaits; one is beautiful enough’. Bhagavan never used to give unsolicited advice in any matter and we do not know how he made this remark that day. The good devotee that Subbaramayya was, he has recorded in his reminiscences that the girl never wore two plaits again!

  2. THANKS FOR GIVING VERY INTERESTING DETAILS AND ANECDOTES.

  3. Dear Sir,

    Can any one let me know where is the beautiful hair style statue is located.

    Really made me to stop and think

    Regards,
    Sriram V B

  4. பின்னல் அழகி ஆவுடையார்கோயில் சிற்பம்

    Aavudaiyaar temple

    This is not my photo. I took it from face book.
    Hope they have attributed it to the correct source.

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