Robes for the heart : exploring love and devotion through sartorial symbolism in Urdu literature
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This paper explores the aesthetics of love and devotion in Urdu literature vis-à-vis sartorial symbolism. I analyze the ways in which love and devotion are constructed, imagined, and experienced through clothing by surveying selected examples from different genres such as the ghazal (lyric), qawwali (devotional songs), hamd (praise of God), na’at (praise of Prophet Muhammad), and nasr (prose). I map the thematic development of sartorial references and elucidate their aesthetic and discursive functions within and beyond written and oral texts. I question to what extent the different roles and meanings of clothing are reused, expanded, or problematized across genres. In doing so, I illustrate how discourses of love and devotion for one’s self, beloved, family, community, nation, and religion are formed and performed through clothing.