There was a lively debate on Facebook about my Vaiṣṇava-dress blog, so i decided to post a sequel to that blog containing some of the best parts of that debate, and more feedback on the issue.
• Anonymous bhakta - The instance of the Gosvāmī (Sanātan) dressing as a fakir, and Mahāprabhu asking him to change his clothes should be enough to silence all significant doubts that clothing is not inconsequential. Though it is not inconsequential, it is not all-important. Is that agreeable to you, Pandit Ji?
Advaita Das - The point of the fakir is well taken. In short, spirituality is absolute. There is no lower or higher issue, no external or internal. Dress is not to be played down nor to be overstressed. sevā sādhaka rūpena siddha rūpena cātra hi."
Anonymous bhakta- This is a brilliant application of sevā sādhaka rūpena siddha rūpeṇa siddha rūpena cātra hi" Thank you for that. I feel that we are in full agreement, "Not to be played down nor to be overstressed." I heard that covering of the head and perhaps the sārī itself (or the manner of wearing the top portion of it over the head) is introduced from non-indian sources during classical Indic history. If you can address this I would be grateful. Your pointing out that the gopis wear three outer cloths was also important in the post. Thank you. I love your scholarship and passionate (in a good way) presentation. i don't want to push you into a scholar's dry viewpoint - a devotees inspired viewpoint, which you already have, is certainly better. But since Vilāpa Kusmāñjali was written only a few hundred years ago it may not satisfactorily address the argument that the concept of covering the head is of non-indian or non "Vedic" (historically speaking) origin.
Anonymous bhakta - Another question: are you sure that Vilāpa Kusumāñjali describes a *saree* going over the head? Previously you established that gopīs do not tend to wear sarees, but rather wear a three-piece garment with a "top-cloth" separate from the "skirt.
Advaitadas: I asked the question to dr. Satya-nārāyana Dās, who replied: “The Sanskrit word for veil is ava-guṇṭhana (ghungat in Hindi or in Braja-bhāṣā comes from this). This word is found in old plays of Sanskrit such as of Kalidas. That means veil certainly existed but not like ghungat which you see in Vraj villages. You may search for avagunthana in old play of Kālidās, Magha, Bhavabhuti, Bāṇa Bhaṭṭa etc and i am sure u will find examples of veil.”
Advaitadas: I found the following evidence for the veil in the Goswāmīs books -
ākṛṣya mugdham avaguṇṭhanam uttamāṅgād
The sakhīs pulled the veil from Her head to comb her hair – Kṛṣṇāhnika Kaumudi [2.54]
avaguṇṭhana bhū-lekhau tathādho mukhatādayaḥ
“Covering the head with a veil is a sign of shyness” (Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu 2.4.113)
hari api parivṛtya tan nitamba
dyuti nihitekṣaṇa paṅkajo'vatasthe
vara-tanu-tatir apy atītya tad go-puram
vara-tanu-tatir apy atītya tad go-puram
avaguṇṭhanam īṣad asyati sma
As Śrī Rādhikā and Her girlfriends passed by through the towngate, their veils slightly slipped off their heads and Hari cast His lotuslike eyes on their effulgent buttocks. [Kṛṣṇa Bhavanamrita 5.45]
ālībhiḥ saha puropakānana
prānta vartma nihitāṅghri pallavā
hrī kṣapā kṣaya-vaśād avaguṇṭhanon-
muktam āsya kamalaṁ dadhe sphuṭam
When Śrī Rādhikā and Her friends placed their lotusfeet on the roads of the subforests of Yāvat, their lotuslike faces began to blossom. This made their night-like veils perish as they opened them, dispelling the darkness of their shame. [Kṛṣṇa Bhāvanāmṛta 8.41]
Adding a date to the Purāṇas according to composition would not be right. Regardless of the date of authorship, the contents are timeless. The fact that I translated the Goswāmī Granthas in the 1980s does not make them from the 1980s.
I received support from my friend Ananta Govinda who quoted verses from Caitanya Bhāgavat to prove the presence of the dhoti in śāstra –
Caitanya Bhāgavat Adi 6.64
keha bole,— "āmāra na rahe sāji dhuti "
Caitanya Bhāgavat Madhya 2.44
niṅḍaye vastra karo koriyā yatane ;
He carefully wrung out the water from someone's wet cloth and handed someone else his dhoti.
Caitanya Bhāgavat Madhya 2.57
sāji bohe, dhuṭi bohe, lajjā nāhi kore';
sambhrame vaiṣṇava-gaṇa hāta āsi' dhare
He did not feel shy as He carried their flower baskets and dhotis. The Vaiṣṇavas, however, respectfully caught hold of His hands in order to dissuade Him.
Caitanya Bhāgavat CB Madhya 2.286
nānā māyā kori' tumi āmāre vañcila!;sāji-dhuṭi-ādi kori' sakali bohila!
"You have deceived me through various illusions. You have even carried my flower basket and dhotis."
Ananta Govinda Das: “They say that it's because of local customs Mahāprabhu wore local clothes, right? But He is Bhagavan himself, and He is Nitya. Why he chose Bengal and not California then? It is said in śāstra that the Lord is coming in His eternal form and His dress and associates are not material - kṛṣṇa varṇaṁ tviṣākṛṣṇam sangopāṅgāstra pārṣadam: He is coming in His eternal form: so, how does His eternal form looks like then? “
Advaitadas: “They argue Kṛṣṇa could wear blue jeans and mobile phone. There was a riot around Banke Bihāri about this 6 years ago. In the 12th canto of the Bhagavat all clothes and ornaments of Kṛṣṇa symbolize something; the Kaustubha gem is all the jivas, f.i. How can you call this local and temporal custom then without being a complete māyāvādī?
Ananta Govinda Das: “The conclusion is that - DHOTI IS FULLY SPIRITUAL because Bhagavan Himself wears it. rāgānugā means following rāgātmikā: all nitya siddha rāgātmikās wore dhoṭī. Why should I challenge? It's so stupid."