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Seclusion of women from public observation by means of concealing clothing (including the veil) and walled enclosures as well as screens and curtains within the home. The custom seems to have originated in Persia and was adopted by Muslims during the Arab conquest of what is now Iraq in the 7th century. The Muslim domination of northern India led to its adoption by the Hindu upper classes, but it was discarded by Hindus after the end of British rule in India. The custom of purdah still continues in many Islamic countries.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on purdah, visit Britannica.com.