It all began a few years ago when I visited Chennakeshava temple, a 12th century Vishnu temple in Belur, Karnataka. I vividly remember the tour guide showing us around the temple and explaining how each sculpture had a unique and different hairstyle. When I returned from my trip, I was left inspired and I had some questions. I began searching for Indian hairstyles from older days on the internet and to my surprise there was nothing beyond simple three strand braids and a classic bun. If there are so many hairstyles on different sculptures in just one temple and when we have so many temples and even more sculptures within that, why are we not aware of it or trying to preserve this rich history in Indian hairstyling.
This realisation led me to begin my research. I decided to capture these looks from temples, monuments, and museums and recreate them back at the academy.
I realised it was not practical to have a photographer following me on my quest throughout India. So I took a three months class on photography and picked up the camera myself.
For my first stop of the research tour, I decided to revisit the temple in Belur that had inspired me to begin this project in the first place. In the temple, I saw exquisite sculptures on the exterior walls, most of them still intact showcasing elaborate hairstyles. Pin curls, bouffant, braids and asymmetric hairdos were set in and decorated with jewelry, flowers, and accessories. It was almost unreal and I couldn’t help but imagine how exquisite women must have looked back then. And if they could create these looks without any modern tools, equipment or products, that was a fascinating feat in itself. I created the cover page image with the inspiration from a sculpture at the Belur temple, replicating the hairstyle with the accessories.
I was glad that I had picked up on some photography acumen to help me capture the details of these majestic hairstyles.
The sculpture above is from Padmanabhapuram Palace and Museum of antiquities located in the Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu. I came across a pillar figurine, her hair was arranged in a heavy bee-hive shaped bun and decorated with jewelry which was recreated on the model.
In addition to my temple visits, I watched movies of the 1950s, like Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje, Amrapali, Mughal-e-Azam and Navrang with a specific aim to discover hairstyles from the old days.
One of my references was from the movie Amrapali which was the story about a beautiful courtesan from 600 BCE, the hairstyles from the movie really fascinated me.
I was inspired by Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings during my visit to Kerala and even sourced a saree to recreate a look similar to his paintings.
All this research and work meant I had to take time away from my teaching and commit to this extensive study. And since this was my first experience in not only writing a book but researching, photographing and editing, it has been an overwhelming journey. When I started, I had no idea on how to go on about it, I’m after all a hairstylist and educator with no exposure in the literary world. I only knew I had a story to tell but I didn’t know where to start. It was then when I met Georgiy Kot, (an ace Russian hairstylist twice world champion) on his trip to Mumbai. I spoke to Georgiy about my book and he inspired me to not only write about Indian hairstyles but also try to showcase the rich history and culture behind it. I knew I was on the right track, his explanation gave me clarity on how I can get started and present the book in a way that not only showcases looks from traditional India but also helps hairstylists across the world discover styles rooted in the Indian culture.
These artworks and pieces of historic significance have been brought alive in my book Art of Indian Coiffures.
In this state-of-the-art book, I have presented a collection of 18 stunning hair and makeup looks that includes 6 Inspirational, 6 Traditional and 6 Contemporary Looks.
The Traditional Looks features step-by-step traditional hairstyling guide for the quintessential Indian bride and Contemporary Looks, which is a more modern take of wedding hairstyles which are explained with elaborate instructions in English and Hindi and detailed photographs for each step.
Art of Indian Coiffures, is a compilation of my decades of experience that will create a strong foundation and set a benchmark to empower and inspire hairstylists and make-up artists from all over the world and continue to preserve the art of Indian hairstyling for the future generations.
Art of Indian Coiffures, behind the scene:
Art of Indian Coiffures is available and can be ordered from www.svjacademy.com.