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Clothing a Maharaja

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Suit of Armour

Examine the suit of armour closely. What types of fabric is the body of the suit made of? What material binds the fabric and decorates the suit? How would you describe the pattern?

Imagine wearing this suit of armour and fighting with a sword or danda, a stick or rod. How would it feel? What do you think is the purpose of this object?

Instructions:
Hover over the image to enlarge. Explore the details of the artwork to answer the questions above.

Suit of Armour
Udaipur, 18th century
Layers of cotton, velvet, silk and gilded copper
Victoria and Albert Museum
© V&A Images / Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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Suit of Armour

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While the function of this suit of armour is to protect the wearer, a lot of effort went into making the suit look beautiful. Can armour be fashionable? Can fashion be a type of armour?
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The body of this suit of armour is made of layers of cotton, velvet and silk. The layers are bound together with gilded brass rivets that also decorate the suit. This suit of armour is a rare surviving example of the hazaar-mukhi (“thousand-headed”) technique and would have been worn by a noble Mewar warrior. The rivets create a floral pattern and the sunburst on the back of the armour is a symbol of those Rajputs who claim descent from the sun.

The weight of the layers of fabric and gilded brass rivets would feel heavy. The purpose of this suit of armour was to protect the warrior from physical injury when fighting one-on-one with enemies. Maharajas were expected to exercise rajadharma – the duties, behaviours and court practices appropriate to a king including leading troops in military campaigns.

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