Post No. 10,781

Date uploaded in London – –    26 MARCH   2022         

Contact – swami_48@yahoo.com

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tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com

Rig Veda, the oldest book in the world, dated between 1500 BCE and 6000 BCE, talks about weaving. Sangam Tamil  literature , which covers the first three centuries of modern era, has references to weaving. Surprisingly, it was done by , mostly women. Half baked Westerners tried to project Vedic Hindus as nomads, but the references to farming and weaving in the Vedas , explode those myths.

Bhagawan Singh , in his scholarly work The Vedic Harappans , says

“Harappan spinning and weaving activity has been described  by Marshall (1931 to 1933),

‘That spinning was common in the houses of Mohenjo-daro is evident from the finding of numerous spindle whorls in the houses; and it was practised by the well to do and the poor alike is indicated by the fact that the whorls are made of more expensive faience as well as of cheaper pottery and shell. For warmer textiles wool was used; for lighter ones cotton.’

Bhagawan Singh gives us the following list of terms which will throw some light on spinning, weaving and needle work in Rig Vedic period:

Atka – a protective cover (RV.5-74-5; 6-29-3; 8-41-9)

Adhivass – Upper garment (RV.1-140-9; 1-162-16; 10-5-4)

Uurna mrdaa – soft as wool (5-5-4; 10-18-10

Ota – warp (6-9-2/3)

Gandhaari avika –  sheep from Gandhara (Afghanistan) RV 1-126-7

Citra rasmi – colourful yarn (1-134-4)

Tantu – yarn (i-12-1; 2-3-6)

Tantra – loom (10-71-9)

Tasara – shuttle (10-130-2)

Tasaraani – woof/ the cloth in the loom; (10-130-2)

Trika – three fold (10-59-9)

Tri tantu – three ply thread/cord

Damsa rasmi  – wonderful yarn; very fine yarn (1-134-4)

Dirgha tantu – long yarn ( 10-69-7)

Dhanutri – carding bow? Quick  (3-31-6; 9-93-1)

Drapi – protective covering  (1-25-13; 1-116-0;  4-53-2)

Pesa – embroidered garment (2-3-6; 4-36-7; 7-34-11)

Vayan – weaving  (5-47-6)

Vaara- wool (1-128-6; 5-16-2)

Vaasa – dress (1-34-1; 10-26-6)

Vaasovaaya  – weaver (10-26-6)

Vemana – loom (Yajur Veda 19-83)

Vesi – needle (7-18-17)

Siipraa – head dress (2-2-3; 4-37-4; 10-96-4)

Sukra vaasa – white robed (1-113-6)

Siri – shuttle (1-71-9) also weaver

Suuci – needle (2-32-4)

Saptatantu – seven ply thread/rope (10-52-4; 10-124-1)

Suvasan – well dressed (6-51-4; 9-97-50)


Bhagawan Singh adds,

The term vaasovaaya indicates that there were professional weavers in the Vedic society. Spinning and weaving appears to have a very long tradition as we have a large vocabulary evolved from the root signifying spinning.

There is a rare touch of delicacy in allusions to weaving:-

The radiant dawns weave lovely garments with wondrous threads (beams), multi coloured newly twisted threads for Vayu(1-134-4)

Good work for us the glorious Night and Morning, like female weavers , waxen from afore time.

Yielders of riches, they interweave  in concert the long extended thread, the web of worship (2-3-6)

I know not either warp or woof, I know not the web they weave when moving to the contest… For both the warp and woof he understandeth, and in due time shall speak what should be spoken (6-9-2/3)

Most of the verses indicate that weaving was done by women.

It is interesting that textiles constituted one of the items of Indian exports as early as Mature Harappa (Marshall 1931)

Karpaasa , Sanskrit word for cotton, is found only in later Sutra literature; but it doesn’t mean the Vedic Hindus did not know cotton at all.


My Comments

1.It is amazing to see such a large vocabulary in a prayer book like the Rig Veda. No religious scripture of ancient world has such a vocabulary.

2.There are similarities between words in the Rig Veda and later Tamil literature

Tantra in RV= Thari/loom in Tamil

Suuchi in RV= Uusi/needle in Tamil

Warp and woof = Paavu, Uudu (W/V=P)

The most important similarity is Sutra= Book or Thread in Sanskrit. Tamil used the same concept copying the  Vedic people; in Tamil also Nool= Book or thread.

More over even the oldest Tamil book Tolkappiam used Sanskrit word Sutra/aphorism

Tunic = Thuni in Tamil

Vastra = Vest in English= Veshti in Tamil


Bhagawan Singh summarises his weaving chapter in six points:

1.As stated by Shrader , loom could be used for weaving linen and cotton only as woollen clothes were made by plating in those days.

2.Cotton textiles are attested from at least from two other important areas Greece and Iran

3.It is most inconvenient to take a bath with woollen garments on. The Rig Veda mentions thieves or lifers of clothes which could be possible from a public bath or ghata alone, which presupposes bath with clothes only betaking.

4.Ladies are supposed to wear clothes in such a way as to cover their entire body, not exposing even their ankles—kasaplakau. It was most inconvenient with woollen garments.

5.there was some clothing , such as sipraa or Pagadi and atka which could be  conceived of only  with wide use of cotton clothes. It must not be forgotten that the Harappans also used woollens in winter definitely at the time of their business tours through northern countries (Mackay 1938)

6.There are also words tantra and vemana used for loom in the Rig Veda. We feel that the first referred to loom for cotton and the latter to the device for weaving woollen sheet. We are also tempted to suggest the term Uurnamrdaa was used for woollen shawls manufactured from the fine wool of sheep and goats from Gandhara and it is still alive in the namadha of Kashmir


Foreign Links

Marshall observes (1931) about the cotton textile of the Harappans:—-

To be continued……………………….

tags– weaving, dress, Harappan, Tamil, needle, embroidery

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