India has an ancient civilization, perhaps the oldest in the world. Women have been part of this civilization since then. In addition the women have had their beauty extolled by poets and philosophers. Many paintings of that period give us a vivid picture of the beauty of women in Indian thought from those ages. The advent of Muslim rule led to a certain puritinism creeping into Indian thought and ethos and the purdah was introduced.
Earlier Indian sculptures ( before the invasion of Muslims) show women in their natural beauty. They are shown even nude with large hips and buxom breasts and narrow waists. The poems of that period( Prose was unknown then ) extoll the beauty of women. The criteria of beauty was fairness and lovely slim figure. Great stress was laid on the face and eyes, which formed the subject of innumerable verses. Fairness was one of the greatest virtues of beauty of a woman.
The Indian concept of beauty was a little different from the western and Greek concept of beauty. In India the stress of beauty was always the face. The body was mentioned , but only as a adjunct to the face. Beauty was closely associated witha fairness and the face. The concept of fairness was so deeply engrained that even the dark Dravidian women aspired to be fair.
The Greek concept of beauty centered on the body and legs. Thelegs of a woman were given great importance in Greek and western concepts of beauty. Thus the ancient greek sculptors show nude women with small breasts and lovely long legs. In India the legs did not have the same veneration as in Greek sculptor. One reason for this was the fact that in India the legs were invariably covered with the type of dress worn here. The Muslim rule established a complete purdah system and if at all anything was extolled it was only the face. this was different from the western concept.
With the passage of time India is also changing and western concepts of beauty are creeping in. An example is the number of Indian women with lovely legs who have won world beauty contests.
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