India as the Birthplace of Luxury: Living with finesse was a way of life, luxury was about positive impact

November 18, 2021 4:14 PM

Even as late as the 19th century, multiple luxury brands took birth in Europe (including Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels ) and served the Indian royalty.

sustainability picLiving with finesse was a way of life and it pervaded whatever they did because luxury was about timelessness and positive impact. (Aranyani)

By Aravind Balasubramanya

Right from the times of Akhand Bharat to the times of modern India, luxurious materials, skilled craftspeople and the most influential aesthetic traditions on planet earth have graced this land. That is not surprising considering the fact that over a span of nearly 3500 years, more than 80 dynasties, each with its own uniquenesses, have ruled the Indian subcontinent. It was this land that gifted the world with its first taste of fine fabrics with intricate weaves, gold, diamonds and several other precious gemstones and metals in various colors.

Even as late as the 19th century, multiple luxury brands took birth in Europe (including Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels ) and served the Indian royalty. It would suffice to say that India is the birthplace of luxury and it continues to produce and support the most exquisite creations.

Indian Luxury – Priceless but never Costly

For the Indian Maharajas and Maharanis, luxury was not a boxed concept confined to opulence and extravagance. Living with finesse was a way of life and it pervaded whatever they did because luxury was about timelessness and positive impact. Allow me to explain.

The Uttarapath was the highway linking India to Central Asia built by Chandragupta Maurya in the 3rd century BCE. Today, we know it as the Grand Trunk Road and it continues to be part of the Indian Highway system. The road has not only withstood the ravages of time, it has flourished as well because even an invading king did not want to destroy it! History bears testimony to the fact that the Uttarapath was maintained by rulers as diverse in their mentality as Ashoka, Sher Shah Suri, the Mughals and the British. This highlights the timelessness and positive impact aspects of luxury. Whatever is created is made beautifully to last and benefit all stakeholders – including the enemy when it comes under his/her possession.

That is the reason why a king would commission the creation of a bejewelled personal sword gilded with gold. While everyone identifies with the ostentation indicated there, many miss the heritage and culture rooted in it which gets routed to generations ahead. The sword is preserved even to this day and it continues to tell a story of the glorious culture it represented. That apart, every such ‘sword’ supported a whole ecosystem of artisans, craftspeople, miners, traders and the like. It also ensured circulation of large amounts of money. The Indians understood very early that money is the life-blood of the economy and the more it circulated, the healthier the economy would be. Thus, the sword has a ‘positive impact at every touch point’.

Positive Impact is more than sustainability

Sustainability refers to the capacity for the earth’s biosphere and human civilization to co-exist. But ‘positive impact’ goes beyond. It refers to the capacity for them to synergize through a win-win relationship without harming or negatively impacting anyone or anything else. Adopting this Vedic Indian concept of luxury becomes vital for luxury and fashion brands in the world today. And for that, it is absolutely essential that we ensure a positive impact for all our stakeholders – customers, employees, community and nature. Using the highest quality materials sourced ethically, paying employees and craftspeople as per international standards (based on purchasing power parity), uplifting vulnerable sections of the community in which the business is based and maintaining as small a carbon footprint as possible are all important.

It is not an easy effort to ensure a positive impact at every touch point if we have a short term view. But if our view is like the true connoisseurs of luxury, it is for the ultra-long term.

(The author is a prolific blogger, content and social media influencer and YouTuber who currently works at Aranyani. Views expressed are personal and the author’s own)

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