The Sahitya-Darpana refers to it. If a woman of a respectable
family is desirous of meeting her lover, she can do so by crouching (literally melted or
absorbed into her own limbs-making herself as small as possible) with all her (tinkling)
ornaments silenced, and covering herself with an Avagunthana'. 23
In the fifth Act of Abijnana Sakuntalam, the heroine comes to
the court, accompanied by two hermits. She comes with her Avagunthana on. The king
expresses his admiration thus: Who could she be, with a veil and with the gloss of
her body not fully manifested, standing in the midst of anchorites, like a tender sprout
lit the midst of scarred leaves?"
In the above stanza the word Avagunthana means more than a veil of the
face. It was an outer garment loosely covering her form hence the beauty of her figure
wits partly hidden from view. It is thus clear, from the survey of the literature contemporaneous with early law-books, that one of the important changes forcing its way into
society, was the seclusion of women.
But whether it originated in India, based on the Vedic injunction to
keep a close watch on women, as has been enjoined by the law-givers, or whether it was
taken from the tribes that swept over the country about that time, and were adopted into
society, it is difficult to determine. The Vedic injunction to keep a close watch on
wives, for fear or their being seduced seems to give a reason able and strong basis for
adopting it in Hindu society, even if it were of a foreign origin, or at least provided a
canonical precedent for the continuance of the custom.