The world is full of beautiful people and cultures to admire.
Many times we look back to our own specific for inspiration without taking a moment to recognize the beauty of others. One of the most overlooked cultures for hair inspiration is that of Indian women. And although their hair history is strikingly similar to other cultures, the representation of Indian hairstyling continues to be unique in its own way.
Many of the prominent traditional Indian hairstyles can be viewed through the creation of sculptures and other forms of artistry.
During World Heritage Week (November 19-25), an exhibition of terracotta statuettes showcased women with a variety of unique hairstyles. The sculptures represented the evolution of Indian women’s beauty styles from an earlier time. Some consisted of long, heavy pulled back masses of coils, while some sported uniquely styled plaits and braids. Like other ethnic groups, these hairstyles carried meaning signifying different stages or events in an Indian woman’s life such as marriage and motherhood. It’s within cultural normalities to preserve the traditions of those before us, however, with some changes added over time.
Recently, the popularized YouTube series 100 years of Beauty had an episode of the transformative hairstyles of women in India from the 1910s until the present day. This video shows how elements of traditional hairstyles were kept alive but also fused with the fade of the decade to create a fresh, yet authentic look. The transformation of Indian hairstyles started incorporating braided crown halos in the 1920s, light waves in the 1940s and 1950s, and popular minimalist hairstyles of the 1990s.
Like many surrounding ethnic cultures, hairstyling plays a role in many levels of identity.
The traditions of Indian hairstyling serves as symbols for specific life events, both tied to religious and social. At an early age, a young girl can pledge her hair to their deity as a commitment of worship; as a result there’s a ceremony where a bunch of young girls shave their head. This process is not just for young girls, either. Adult Indian men and women pledge their hair to their deity in exchange for answered prayers. Shaved heads are important segments of the history of Indian hairstyles because, like the unique styles having meanings and purpose, they can carry a significant meaning regarding religion and lifestyle.
Throughout the history of Indian hairstyles it's important to speak about the hairstyles of Indian men as well. They, too, wore a variety of hairstyles that are similar to styles we would see on young men today, such as a partially shaved head with a bun on top (the "man bun").
The history of Indian hairstyles is a unique and beautiful display of tradition meets edgy trends. In the near and surrounding regions, the evolution of Indian hairstyles took steps to be apart of the culture trends of the times without losing the cultural identity that was established by their ancestors.