History of footwear in India can be traced back through centuries old Hindu, Buddhist and Jain scriptures as well as several sculptures, coins and paintings.

Footwear have been in usage in ancient India as a necessity as well as luxurious item. There are found a large number of written and physical evidences, which prove that history of footwear goes back to centuries old Vedic period. Let's cast a glance over the history of shoes and sandals along with interesting facts.

Written evidences of the origin of footwear in India
Footwear find mention in plenty of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain scriptures thereby testify that these were being worn by Indians since an erstwhile era.

* In ancient Indian texts Rigveda, Yajurveda Samhita, Atharvaveda, Brahmans and Panini Grammer, footwear has been mentioned with Sanskrit term ' Upanah' or 'Upanat'. These footwear (sandals and shoes) were made from grass, wood and leather.
* As per great epic Ramayana, Bharata rerurned from Chitrakuta carrying the Rama's paduka (toe-knob sandal or khadau) and ruled the Ayodhya after placing the paduka on a throne in Nandigram, as Rama's proxy. Ravana also holds an umbrella and wears shoes while assuming the form of ascetic for Sita's abduction.
* According to Mahabharata,once Jamadagni got enraged seeing her wife Renuka exhausted in scorching sun and started sending arrows against Sun god. Then Sun god presented him a pair of sandals and an umbrella to protect against the heat from below and above. In this great epic, shoes (upnate) and sandal or toe knob sandal (paduka or padu) are clearly differentiated. It also mentions that footwear stealer is born as an “Otikyata” (a lizard)
* In Shrimad Bhagwat Puran, Lord Vamana is mentioned wearing umbrella and shoes. Lord Krishna never wore shoes while herding the cows.
* As per Brahma Vaivarta Purana, one should not wear the shoes already worn by others.
* According to Garud purana, sandals and umbrella should be gifted on `Sraddha' day. Shoes stealer is born from sheeps' wombs.
* As per Vasstue shastra, footwear should be placed in south-west direction of hall and never in bedroom.
* While leaving the princely life in 5th century BC, Lord Buddha is mentioned in scriptures having taken off his sandals.
* n Mahavagga, a section of Buddhist scripture Vinaya Pitaka (5th century BCE ), sandals made of fancy materials were forbidden for monks and nuns. It mentions 4 types of shoes, which include Putabaddha (covering ankle), Tittirapttika (shape like partridge wings and adorned with horns of ram or goat), Padigunthima (full boot) and Tulapunnika (padded with cotton wool). Sandals with separate point like scorpion's sting and adorned with peacock feather were largely demanded but were forbidden for Buddhist monks.
* Banabhatta, the court-poet of emperor Harsh Vardhan has mentioned in his book Harshacharita (7th century) footwear.
* Mahavyutpatti (800-815 CE), which contains the Sanskrit and Tibetan terms for understanding Buddhist texts has mentioned the footwear as Padavestanika, Pula, Manda-pulah etc.
* n Jain scripture Brihat Kalpa Sutra Bhasya the guidelines for the attires and footwear of monks and nuns are given.
* Abhidhan Cintamani of Hemchandracharya (11th century) footwear are classified in several categories including Upanat (shoes), Paduka (sandals), Padarakasana etc.
* Paduka Sahasram” of Swami Vedantha Desika (1269 AD-1370 AD) contains the 1000 verses on the padukas of Lord Vishnu, whose statue is enshrined in Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple (Tamil Nadu).

Physical evidences of the footwear in India
Following sculptures, coins and paintings also throw a light upon the centuries old history of footwear in India:

* During the archeological excavation in Chandraketugarh (West Bengal), footwear of 200 BC with raised heel and floral motifs are found. Further, a terracotta sculpture (1st century) also wears a V shape sandal or chappal.
* Buddhist statues (3rd & 4th century) of Gandhara are portrayed wearing strapped sandals
* Numismatics have found the coins of Kushan period (130BC to 185AD) and Gupta period (320 to 550 AD), which feature kings wearing full boots.
* Ajanta cave paintings (4th to 5th century) also portray the people wearing stockings along with full boots.
* n some early Sanchi sculptures (3rd to12th century BCE) foreigners are depicted wearing boots.
* Amongst all Hindu deities, only Sun god is portrayed wearing the footwear. Modhera Sun temple ( 11th century CE) of Gujarat shows him wearing a belt and long shoes. The granite Sun statue of Dakshinaarka Sun Temple (13th century) of Gaya depicts him wearing a jacket, waist girdle and high boots.
* Bronze statue Chola period (11th to 2th century AD) also depicts the Bharat holding Ram's paduka over his head. Pahari Miniature painting of (17th century) shows Bharat worshiping Ram's paduka.

Interesting facts about the footwear
Below mentioned are some interesting facts about the footwear in Indian during modern era:

* Paduka of Lord Rama are worshiped even now also in Ram Paduka temples situated in Rameshwaram (Tamilnadu), Ramtek (Maharashtra) and other places.
* In Chencherimali Temple of South India, devotees carry leather sandals in honor of Lord Subrahmanya (Kartikeya, Murugan), as he is believed to wear leather shoes. His wife Valli is worshiped in form of sandal pairs in Marudhamalai, Chennilais, Palani and Sivanmalai (Tamil Naidu).
* In Vithoba festival, pilgrims travel to Pandharpur temple (Maharashtra) carrying the Padukas of saints Tukaram and Dnyaneshwar in a silver palanquin.
* In dian oleograph of Ravi Varma (19th century) shows Rama’s padukas and sword placed on a throne.
* Mahatma Gandhiji learnt the art of handcrafting shoes in South Africa and made a pair of shoes in African jail. While leaving the Africa, he presented shoes to president General Smutts, who was cruel towards Indians. Smutts kept it for 24 years and returned it to Gandhi on latter's 60th birthday. Gandhi also set up a tannery in Sabarmati Ashram (Ahmedabad) and made simple chappal a symbol of India's self-sufficiency during 20th century independence movement.

Author's Bio: 

Satyajit Banerjee is an expert writer in handicraft arena and writes for Craffts.com, an eCommerce portal for handcrafted and Handmade products. It offers wide range of products across various categories ranging from women footwear designer bags, Women Apparels, Accessories, Necklaces, Home Décor products and much more.