As per the mythology, the story of Mahesvaris dates back to a Rajput king, Raja Khandelsen, the ruler of Khandela in Rajasthan who remained childless due to a curse given by a pregnant deer which the king killed. After having a discussion with Maharishi Yagyavalk, went to the Bhashkar state where there is a Pipal tree and under the tree was a Shivling was buried. The king was told to get that Shivaling out and make a beautiful temple for Lord Shiva. And said him to worship and embellish this Shivling with respect and devotion. The king did the same as he was told and he started reciting the prayer "Om, Namah Sivaya" for tow years which impressed Lord Shiva who blessed him with a son named Sujansen. After his marriage to princess Chadravati, Sujansen went into the forest to hunt with his 72 soldiers as part of his routine and being hungry, the king and his soldiers reached to a place driven by a beautiful aroma of food. That was the place where six rishis were performing a yagna for Lord Shiva. The king and his soldiers ate up all foods and used the water that the rishis reserved for the 'yagna puja'. Due to this reason the rishis got angry and cursed them to turn into stones. When the king did not return, Queen Chandravati, the wife to Sujansen went to Maharishi Jabali and he explained the entire situation to her. Jabali also suggested that she and the wives of the soldiers of the soldiers should go to the temple near the pond and pray to Lord Shiva for their husbands' lives.
During this time Lord Shiva and his consort Goddess Parvati came to visit earth and saw the women crying for the lives of their husband who were turned to stone. After having the view both Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati decided to bring their lives back. Then Lord Shiva said to the king that as he was the saviour of the life of the king and his soldiers, they would be reckoned as after Shiva's name as 'Mahesh-waris'. The king was barred to stop performing the role of Kshatriya and become Vaishya. They should be practicing the role of Vaishya Dharam, which is a role of non-violence. Sujansen had to compensate for his violent tendency. From then on he had to make a living through donations from his 72 Vaishya brothers and perform the task of documenting their family trees.
Since then the name of Maheshvari community were known to all. The appearance and the dressing style of the Maheshvari community are distinct though there are some similarities with the other tribal communities. The Maheshvari women traditionally remain within the confines of their homes. Their garments are elaborate and vary greatly, depending on the occasion. Unmarried girls usually wear the 'puthia' or the 'kabja' made of soft cotton, as an upper garment. Sometimes, a 'khadi kamiz' is also worn, which is designed like a man's shirt. The fabrics used to make this garment are white 'reza' or 'pichodi', red poplin or small 'chhint' in a medium weight. Prints in red, green, light blue and bright yellow are also popular. The different garments used for the lower part of the body are shorts or the 'ghaghra'. On special occasions older girls wear a 'ghaghra'. Cotton in large prints of dark green, blue and pink and plain voile are used to make the 'ghaghra'. The grown up girls of this community wear an 'odhna' and sometimes a 'bachkam odhna' is used. It is made up of brightly coloured poplin, 'pichodi', 'tul' or fine voile. Red is the most popular colour and yellow is generally avoided. Its edges are left raw and ornamented with gota work. Gola is appliquéd not only on to the edges but used to make floral designs on the main body as well.
The bridal dresses Maheshvari community is ornamented in a simplistic way. In contrast to bright colours and fabrics, a woman's bridal dress is simple, almost austere. During the wedding ceremony, the upper part of the woman's body is wrapped in a white sari, called a 'kavaljoliya', and no stitched garment is used. The 'kalidar ghaghra' is in 'tul' without any ornamentation. The 'odhna' draped on the body is called a 'kasumal chunri'. This is tie-dyed, with yellow dots on a red base with green edges. The people of this community have a custom to gift the 'hara-palla odhna' to the bride and this is a gift from the bride's maternal uncle.
Following the custom of marriage, the bride is dressed elaborately in a 'kanchli', 'ghaghra' and 'odhna' on the second day of her marriage and that is gifted to her by the groom's family. A 'phavri', which is a red 'odhna' with white tinsel printing, completes the ensemble. The 'ghaghra', called 'bafti-ka-ghaghra' is made of satin and has as many as 80 kalis. The three elements of dress 'kanchli', 'ghaghra' and 'odhna' are generally in different colours.
The daily attire of a married woman is bright and colourful. Everyday skirls are made of thin satin or fine printed-cotton. The 'ghaghra' is known as 'kaia-kajaliya', which is made with a minimum of fifty two kalis and is finished with red and yellow edgings. The most popularly worn 'odhna' are the 'phaguniya', 'leheriya', 'mothra', 'bandhani' and 'ladn bhat' or plain voile in red, pink or parrot green. These are all in a light fabric. The 'kesariya' and 'kasumal odhna', ornamented with 'gota', are also quite popular. Special occasions like festivals or the birth of a child are marked by a change in the odhna.
The adornment of a woman of Maheshvari community is incomplete without the jewellery. The most essential piece of jewellery for married women is an ivory 'chuda', put on the hands during the marriage ritual. Married women wear a gold 'bor' on their foreheads. The women also wear a charming gold necklace called 'kanthi'.
The dress of the widow is different from the dresses of the married women and the young girls of this community. A widow's dress is characterized by its plain colour. The 'kanchli' is full sleeved, while the 'kalidar ghaghra' is often replaced by the less attractive 'phetiya' made of rectangular panels and the 'odhna' is an unornamented length of fabric
The Maheshvari man's costume is characteristic of the affluent male attire in the region. These days, however, traditional costume is almost disappearing and urban alternatives in dress arc more prevalent. The men's 'angarkhi' is front-open and tied on the right side. It is a knee-length garment, made of soft cotton 'khaadi'. Underneath the 'angarkhi', a sleeveless 'bandi' made of soft cotton voile is worn. The lower garment is the 'khuli-laang-ki-dhoti', which reaches down to the ankles. It is made of soft, white and almost transparent cotton. One of the most important and popular things in the dress items of the men of Maheshvari community is headgear. The headgear is called 'pagadi', 'pag' or 'mandil'. The cotton fabric used may be in a single colour or it may be printed with several colours. It may, sometimes, even have gold and silver-thread work done on it.
The men usually wear their hair short. Usage of jewelleries is perceived not only among the women but also among the Maheshvari men although very little jewellery is worn on the person and their ornaments are made of gold. A chain on the neck or a ring is sometimes worn. Maheshvari men may or may not wear gold earrings but the ear-piercing ceremony is mandatory for a male child. Footwear for men and women is the fine quality camel-leather 'juti', decorated with colourful embroider.
Though the Mahesvari community has its origin in long past and are said to be the descendants of the Rajputs, they have earned their own distinct characteristic with the passage of time.
(Last Updated on : 25-02-2014)
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