The Grace of Four Moons

The Grace of Four Moons

Dress, Adornment, and the Art of the Body in Modern India
Pravina Shukla
Distribution: World
Publication date: 10/13/2015
ISBN: 978-0-253-02121-2
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Winner, Millia Davenport Publication Award, Costume Society of America
Winner, Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize
Because clothing, food, and shelter are basic human needs, they provide excellent entries to cultural values and individual aesthetics. Everyone gets dressed every day, but body art has not received the attention it deserves as the most common and universal of material expressions of culture. The Grace of Four Moons aims to document the clothing decisions made by ordinary people in their everyday lives. Based on fieldwork conducted primarily in the city of Banaras, India, Pravina Shukla conceptualizes and realizes a total model for the study of body art—understood as all aesthetic modifications and supplementations to the body. Shukla urges the study of the entire process of body art, from the assembly of raw materials and the manufacture of objects, through their sale and the interactions between merchants and consumers, to the consumer's use of objects in creating personal decoration.

Author Bio

Pravina Shukla is Associate Professor in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University. She is author of Costume: Performing Identities through Dress (IUP, 2015) and editor (with Ray Cashman and Tom Mould) of The Individual and Tradition: Folkloristic Perspectives (IUP, 2011).


"For folklorists and cultural anthropologists, this is a treasure trove of information. For students of religion, it provides the material reference to the system of beliefs. . . . Highly recommended." —Choice , September 2008

The Grace of Four Moons provides a wealth of information about clothing and jewelry as an outlet for women seeking freedom of expression in India, while staying with a traditional framework." —India Currents Magazine

"The book is skillfully organized, written in a clear, jargon-free, unpretentious style . . . and it is an outstanding first work by a most promising young scholar." —Charles G Zug III, Journal of Folklore Research , October 15, 2008

"Well-researched and well-produced,
The Grace of Four Moons is a welcome addition to the scholarly canon for a wide range of academic as well as more popular objectives." —Western Folklore , 69.1, 2010

"Pravina Shukla refines folklore scholarship and its study of material culture through her pioneering work on women and their body art." —William Ferris, co-editor of
Encyclopedia of Southern Culture

"Shukla's book will stand as one of the benchmarks for future material culture scholarship." —Gerald Pocius, author of A Place to Belong

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Table of Contents


Part 1. Introduction
1. Body Art in Banaras
2. Getting Ready
3. Gaze, Sacred and Secular

Part 2. Production and Commerce
4. Shopping for Clothes
5. Weaving Saris
6. Making Jewelry
7. Kanhaiya Lal
8. Shopping along the Vishvanath Gali
9. Assembling Bangle Sets

Part 3. Personal Adornment
10. Nina Khanchandani
11. Neelam Chaturvedi
12. Mukta Tripathi

Part 4. Body Art in the Lifecycle
13. After the Wedding
14. Before the Wedding
15. The Wedding

Part 5. Conclusion
16. The Study of Body Art