Post No. 10,654

Date uploaded in London – –    12 FEBRUARY   2022         

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Neither in the Indus Valley Civilization nor in the Rig Veda we come across purdah or veil that covers face and head.

Neither in 2000 year old Sangam Tamil literature nor in Sanskrit literature we see face veil or Purdah

All the Temple statues and paintings are semi nude; no veil; we see only bra and covering clothes from waist to foot.

2300 year old sculptures in Buddhist centres Barhut, Sanchi and Amaravati show beautiful ladies without face veil.

The only thing on women’s head is some crown or diadem. In all statues or idols of South Indian goddesses, we see this. Even in the Indus valley one with lot of necklaces, a Mother Goddess, wears a crown/ or headgear in a crude form.

Some people have pointed out that something like a veil is referred to in 8-33-19 and 10-85-30 of the Rig Veda.

In the footnote to 8-33, it is clearly told they referred to one named Asangan was cursed to become a woman and she became a man again. A strange story indeed. In that context the garment is spoken of. Griffith translated it as VEIL and the general meaning of veil is ‘that which conceals, covers’. Only in the context of Muslim women, it means a face cover.

It is a known fact that Muslim women who lived in desert conditions of North Africa and Middle East covered their faces to protect them from sand storms. Muslims in Turkey and several other countries including Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia did not wear veil. Now only fanatical religious leaders force them to put on veil. Even in Iran we saw it only after revolution under Khomeini.

With the background of 2300 year old sculptures, paintings and 4000 year old Indus Valley clay figures we can boldly say Hindus never worn anything like face cover or head cover.

After Muslim invasion in 8th century, North Indian women started covering their head and if necessary their faces to protect their honour.

Bharatiyar ,the greatest of the modern Tamil poets, criticised face veil as the custom of Delhi Turks. Tulukkan or Tuurkkan is the Tamil word for a Muslim. R=L change is universal

Here is what Bharati said:-




The liana waist and the jutting breast

Are to be veiled, as Sastras so prescribe

2.By veiling the breast and liana -waist

Beauty is not under a Bushel hid;

Amorous art is not taught by word of mouth

Can love flourish behind a veiled visage?

3.’Noble are Aryan customs’ you say

Did ever Aryan dames their faces veil?

Having met more than once and love exchanged

Wherefore this coy persistence- all formal?

4.Who will then dare essay, me to obstruct

If by force I pluck the veil from your face?

Of what avail is pretension idle?

Can ever rind of fruit the eater defy?

–Translation by Dr T N Ramachandran from Tamil

One may wonder why did poet Bharati describe his imaginary lady love Kannamma with a veil? The whole poem is against veil ; perhaps he wanted to boldly attack veil under some disguise. He was disgusted to see Hindu women in North India  covering their head with sari. He lived in Kasi/ Varanasi for some time, and he had widely travelled in North India.

Bharati knew that Hindu women wore it because of Muslim atrocities against Hindu women. Bharatiyar described all these atrocities in two long poems on Guru Govinda Simhan and Veera Sivaji in Tamil.

Rig Vedic references from 8-33-19 and 10-85-30 are not about face veil or head cover. Rig Veda gives three words for dress worn by people

Vaasaas 1-115-4; 7-72-2

Adhivaasas 1-140-9; 10-5-4

Atka or drapi or uttariya , later days sipra  5-54-11, 6-172, 8-7-25

This was called usnisa or pugri in later times.

They can be broadly classified as upper garment, lower garment/ loin cloth and Usnisa, a turban or a diadem or a crown in kings and gods.

Rig Veda Mandala 8 Hymn 33-17/19

1. WE compass thee like waters, we whose grass is trimmed and Soma pressed.
Here where the filter pours its stream, thy worshippers round thee, O Vṛtra-slayer, sit.
2 Men, Vasu! by the Soma, with lauds call thee to the foremost place:
When comest thou athirst unto the juice as home, O Indra, like a bellowing bull?
3 Boldly, Bold Hero, bring us spoil in thousands for the Kaṇvas’ sake.
O active Maghavan, with eager prayer we crave the yellow-hued with store ol kine.
4 Medhyātithi, to Indra sing, drink of the juice to make thee glad.
Close-knit to his Bay Steeds, bolt-armed, beside the juice is he: his chariot is of gold.
5 He Who is praised as strong of hand both right and left, most wise and hold:
Indra who, rich in hundreds, gathers thousands up, honoured as breaker-down of forts.
6 The bold of heart whom none provokes, who stands in bearded confidence;
Much-lauded, very glorious, overthrowing foes, strong Helper, like a bull with might.
7 Who knows what vital ower he wins, drinking beside the flowing juice?
This is the fair-checked God who, joying in the draught, breaks down the castles in his strength.
8 As a wild elephant rushes on this way and that way, mad with heat,’
None may compel thee, yet come hither to the draught: thou movest mighty in thy power.
9 When he, the Mighty, ne’er o’erthrown, steadfast, made ready for the fight,
When Indra Maghavan lists to his praiser’s call, he will not stand aloof, but come.
10 Yea, verily, thou art a Bull, with a bull’s rush. whom none may stay:
Thou Mighty One, art celebrated as a Bull, famed as a Bull both near and far.
11 Thy reins are very bulls in strength, bulls’ strength is in thy golden whip.
Thy car, O Maghavan, thy Bays are strong as bulls: thou, Śatakratu, art a Bull.
12 Let the strong presser press for thee. Bring hither, thou straight-rushing Bull.
The mighty makes the mighty run in flowing streams for thee whom thy Bay Horses bear.
13 Come, thou most potent Indra, come to drink the savoury Soma juice.
Maghavan, very wise, will quickly come to hear the songs, the prayer, the hymns of praise.
14 When thou hast mounted on thy car let thy yoked Bay Steeds carry thee,
Past other men’s libations, Lord of Hundred Powers, thee, Vṛtra-slayer, thee our Friend.
15 O thou Most Lofty One, accept our laud as nearest to thine heart.
May our libations be most sweet to make thee glad, O Soma-drinker, Heavenly Lord.

16 Neither in thy decree nor mine, but in another’s he delights,—
The man who brought us unto this.

17 Indra himself hath said, The mind of woman brooks not discipline,
Her intellect hath little weight.

18 His pair of horses, rushing on in their wild transport, draw his car:
High-lifted is the stallion’s yoke.

19 Cast down thine eyes and look not up. More closely set thy feet. Let none
See what thy garment veils, for thou, a Brahman, hast become a dame.

नहि षस्तव नो मम शास्त्रे अन्यस्य रण्यति |
यो अस्मान्वीर आनयत ||
इन्द्रश्चिद घा तदब्रवीत सत्रिया अशास्यं मनः |
उतो अह करतुं रघुम ||
सप्ती चिद घा मदच्युता मिथुना वहतो रथम |
एवेद धूर्व्र्ष्ण उत्तरा ||
अधः पश्यस्व मोपरि सन्तरां पादकौ हर |
मा ते कषप्लकौ दर्शन सत्री हि बरह्मा बभूविथ ||

nahi ṣastava no mama śāstre anyasya raṇyati |
yo asmānvīra ānayat ||
indraścid ghā tadabravīt striyā aśāsyaṃ manaḥ |
uto aha kratuṃ raghum ||
saptī cid ghā madacyutā mithunā vahato ratham |
eved dhūrigvedaṛṣṇa uttarā ||
adhaḥ paśyasva mopari santarāṃ pādakau hara |
mā te kaṣaplakau dṛśan strī hi brahmā babhūvitha ||



In South Indian weddings the bride and bride groom must play competition like games in the evening on the wedding day. It is called NALUNGU. Probably this is absent in North Indian weddings. So to surprise the bride groom, they decorate and dress up the bride nicely and put a curtain between the bride and bride groom. After a great suspense it is removed, and the bridegroom will be stunned at the beauty of his bride. He has seen her before several times, but not dressed as a bride. So to make it a memorable moment they introduced a veil or a curtain. Otherwise, it was never a part of Hindu women’s dress until the Muslim invasion; we know the famous story of Padmini and Aladdin Khilji. Just to protect her honour Chittor Rani Padmini  entered fire with hundreds of her girlfriends and servants.

Last but not the least, 3000 year old Egyptian, Greek, Roman statues of females did not wear veil.


 tags- Purdah, Veil, Muslim, Women, Bharati, Rig Veda, Indus valley

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