Indian Traditional Garments


Figure 1.--This photo illustrates that the Indian idea of clothing is quite varied. The boys in this middle-class urban family of Rajahmundry (Andhra Pradesh) usually wear western-style clothing, but they also wear only the traditional waist-laces. This is only at home, but this is quite prevalent among less well off fanilies in rural areas.

We do not yet have a lot of information on Indian traditional clothing. Hopefully our Indian readers will provide some information on traditional clolthing. The traditional clothes men and boys wear are normally a lungi and at the most a towel hung over one shoulder, and women also a lungi plus a short blouse. It seems that the original Indian clothing was a cloth wrapped around the waist both for men and women. However also the women sari was used in ancient times. There are presumably regional differences. You see there is not much difference between childrenīs and grown upsī clothes - apart from a little more freedom children observe. One reader noted traditional clothing was still commonly worn in the 1960s, especially in regional areas. When the author visited Kerala in the 1980s, we noted traditional clothing being widely worn. We note children, especially boys, commonly wearing Western clothes. We are not sure why that is. We suspect it is the practicality. School uniforms are for, example, almost always Western styles. A few girls schools had traditional styled uniforms. Very young boys may wear waist laces. This is the case even with Westernized middle-class families. These laces are used also in upper classes. It seems to me that the waist-laces are not a lack of clothing. They are purposely worn as the only garment. We don't understand the puropse of waist laces.

Dhoti

The dhoti is a a rectangular piece of broadcloth worn as a loose skirtlike loincloth. It is wrapped about the waist and the legs and then knotted at the waist. It is known by different names like Laacha in Punjabi, Mundu in Malayalam, Dhuti in Bangla, Veshti in Tamil, Pancha in Telugu, Dhotar in Marathi and Panche in Kannada. The dhoti in the north is worn with a kurta top. The kurta os a long, loose fitting shirt. The dhoti kurta dress is called dhuti panjabi in east India. This dhoti differs from a lungi as the lungi cloth is stitched to form a circle. Dhoti is still commonly worn in rural areas, but has been declining in recent years, presunably as a result of India's growing prosperity.

Lungi

The traditional clothes men and boys wear are normally a lungi and at the most a towel hung over one shoulder, and women also a lungi plus a short blouse. The origins of the lungi are not known. The fact that it is like a dhoti a simple swath of cloth rather than a more elaborate and expensive sewn garment suggests strongly that it has ancient origins. The lungi is wrapped around the waist to cover the lower part of the body. It was worn by both men and women. It is not only worn in India, but is comparable to the Malaysian sarong. Lingis are the most common traditional form of male dress in rural areas and among the poorer city residents, Men of the educated classes prefer light cotton trousers called pajamas. The torso remains bare above the waist, except when it gets cooler. Adults may wear a lungi with a short vest, but this is less common for boys. There are regional differences. The lungi is especially prominant in the south and east. There is not much difference between childrenīs and grown upsī clothes - apart from a little more freedom children observe. One reader noted traditional clothing was still commonly worn in the 1960s, especially in regional areas. When the author visited Kerala in the 1980s, we noted traditional clothing being widely worn. We note children, especially boys, commonly wearing Western clothes. We are not sure why that is. We suspect it is the practicality. School uniforms are for, example, almost always Western styles. A few girls schools had traditional styled uniforms.

Pajamas

The lungi was the most dominate garment in India, orimarily because it was a simple cloth swath and not a sewn garment. The nore affluent, educated class wore light-cotton trousers. This of course was the prigin of the sleepwear now worn in the West.

Sari

Also the women sari was used in ancient times.

Turban

The turban is a male headdress made up of a long scarf-like single piece of cloth wraped around the head in various ways. The word "turban" in English refers to several sorts of wrapped headwear. In Western countries men wearing turbans in are most likely to be Sikhs who Have a religious requirement to cover their uncut hair. The origins are apparently Persian and the English word is derived from the Persian "dulband". The turban today is most common on the Indian sub-continent in India and Pakistan as well as Afghanistan. . They are worn by men and boys, although they are more common among adult men. Wearing turbans varies a great deal in modern Indian. There are regional and religious variations expressed in various ways, such as color , size, and wrapping style. In Rajasthan the turban continues to be an important garment. Jats and Rajputs from the Indian state of Rajasthan both wear turbans, but distinctive ones. The Rajputs wear colored turbans. The Jats wear white turbans. The Marwaris wear light-colored turbans. There is also astatus element. Royalty may have distinctively styled silk turbans. Peasants may just wrap a small cloth strip around their head. Turbans are most common with Sikhs, especially the boys. They are also worn by Hindus, Muslims, and Indians of other faiths.

Waist Laces

Very young boys may wear waist laces. This is the case even with Westernized middle-class families. These laces are used also in upper classes. It seems to me that the waist-laces are not a lack of clothing. They are purposely worn as the only garment. We don't understand the puropse of waist laces. We note children in urban areas wearing them mostly at home. They are vmuch more common in rural areas. We even note some younger children wearing them along with Western clothing.







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Created: 12:17 AM 10/29/2009
Last updated: 5:04 AM 12/3/2009