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Indian Dress Styles
Hardly anyone pays attention to the other gem composed by the same memsahib:

Burn that saree onlee
Fight the good fight onlee
I may seem brown from outside
But my heart and soul is white onlee

Written in fond memory of Sir Lord Macaulay, Esq.
"O Mac why did you leave us?" (Patent 652M, Tea and Biscuits Society of India)
Speaking of sari, I think it will go extinct in daily life in a few years in urban India, Shalwar Kameez (anyone know the proper origins of this dress?) and western clothing will replace it, but as long as rural India holds majority the sari will also hold the majority.
I agree. Same fate as what has happened to the dressing sense of men in India. Has undergone overall transformation in a matter of less than a century. Just two generations back, majority Hindu men, including urban educated youth, preferred to wear Dhoti-kurta. 1 generation back, majority still wore Dhoti at least on occasions like festivals or weddings. Today, Dhoti is largely lost forever except for a few pockets.

Direction of cultural trend comes largely from the trend leaders like actors, intellectuals, wealthy, politicals, other succesful people. Whatever is made out to be hip gets set as trend and glamorous - and drives traction for the rest of the soceity. Look at our prime ministers. Out of the long list only Shastriji, Chandra Shekhar, HD Devegoda, AB Vajpayee wore dhoti as the common dress. No chief minister wears dhoti any more other than Mulayam Singh probably. Howmany intellectuals do you see wearing dhoti any more? Literary circle has taken to Kurta-Pajama. I have not seen a movie in a long time with hero wearing a dhoti.

Dhoti is less useful, due to work reasons? A friend of mine told me a story about his college. One new lecturar (Bengali) used to wear dhoti to college. This is a top engineering college in India. After a few days, department head called him and asked not to wear dhoti to college - in pretext of laboratory safety regulations.

Air India still has Sari as dress code for its staff? Or changed?
A lot of Indians claim "comfort level" for the decline of traditional clothing but it has more to do with the dominant trend in the world today, the West holds the dominant position so naturally their culture will percolate to other nations, take the native languages today, you will find that in many of them half the time english words are mixed in with the local language, does this also have to do with comfort level?

I do not feel uncomfortable to use Telugu words instead of English one's and neither do other's, but I still use English words unconciously even though they have common Telugu equivalents, the reason for that has nothing to do with comfort level, it has everything to do with the fact that English is the dominant language in the world today and not enough emphasis is put on the native languages by the middle class.

So comfort level I don't think is a valid reason, how the hell is a cumbersome jeans more comfortable than the plain old panche, yet people prefer jeans in the hot Indian climate because that is what is marketed as being cool and hip in the media and in the movies.

But I think Sari still has it's base in rural India along with other traditional attire, so it's not all doom and gloom, that is why rural India need's to be the majority if our uniqueness and cultural heritage has to survive, otherwise we will end up like Japan where people have dumped Kimono's and wear plain old western clothes.
Here is more information on Jayaprabha.
She is a feminist poet who writes mostly in Telugu. Unfortunately for all of us, some of her works were translated by PVNarasimha Rao. I just lost some respect for the man. Did he have to translate this crap?
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Shalwar Kameez (anyone know the proper origins of this dress?) <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Greater Punjab (pre partiton) and Afghanistan.
Protect legs during harsh winter. Initially, local dress was Kameez/shirt and Ghagra.

Sari was considered fashionable high society girls attire in North. Even now Sari is not popular among North Indians(Punjab, Himachal, Jammu, Harayana).
I think Indian Cinema made it very popular.

<img src='http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/8/84/Hindu_girl_karachi.jpg/170px-Hindu_girl_karachi.jpg' border='0' alt='user posted image' />
Portrait of a Hindu girl from Karachi, Sind in narrow salwar & kameez. c. 1870. Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library.
vishwasji thanks for the info, she is a blot on Andhra Pradesh and I don't know why Rao had her trash translated, in most cases these feminists are all white wannabe's trying to foist anglo saxon women's ideals on all women.

She would do us all a big favor if she burnt herself, this kind of nonsense really pisses me off, what do these people want, all third world countries turning into carbon copies of the west by dumping our dress, food, culture and festivals, why don't they get out of India if they detest Indian's so much.
Mudy thanks for the info, yes I knew that Sari is not very popular in those states, that is why down south salwar kameez is also sometimes called as Punjabi dress, in South India Sari is worn by all women especially in villages.

But I was wondering how salwar came into India, I read that it reached India with Islamic influence and looking at the men's version of this that Muslim men wear it appears true, so I think sari or other native dress such as ghagra was replaced during Muslim rule, kinda like how dhoti is disappearing even in rural Punjab (if my info from my Punjabi friend is right) and is being replaced by the men's salwar worn commonly by Muslim men.

Here is some info I found (don't know how accurate it is):
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The fabric has its origin in the 16thcentury; its first patrons were the fair and well endowed women of the rugged land of Afghanistan. It was primarily, introduced by them to ward off the fierce dust storms that are a common sight in their nation. In addition to this, the fabric also presented them in a look which suited them to the hilt and nicely. Its journey across the frontiers of its land of origin has been a fascinating one. How the same came to India is something a classic one.

The Mughal dynasty ruled the roost in the Indian heartland during the 17thand 18thcenturies and their long reign brought about a total transformation of the Indian society. Some of their offerings were oppressive and repulsive, and at the same time some were truly gems, which have stuck on till date. Salwar Kameez, elegant attire was one such gem left behind by them. Those days it was confined to the Muslim women population. With the arrival of the Britishers in the late 18thcentury the fabric saw a slow fade out and was relegated to the background.

Its sudden revival in the late 1950s and the early 1960s by the glamour brigade of Hindi filmdom spawned its rebirth again. Well-known glamour dolls of that era (very correctly described as a rollicking and fun era) Saira Banu, Sadhana. Nanda and Asha Parekh led the way and took it to every reach of India. Who can forget their prancing and romantic dialling with their soul mates in Hindi film after film of that golden era? Hindi movies as everyone knows are a chord, which binds the entire nation, and getting the attire famous in them transported its reach faster and much better. It was a revival, initially confined to Kashmir and Punjab it really took off in the early 1980s, spread to other parts of India and never looked back since then. Over the passage of years the attire has become more refined, richer and more sophisticated.

1. Both "Salwar" and "Kameez" are profoundly Arabic words. These dresses must have been brought to India from Iran and Afghanistan, and then internalized by Punjab, Kashmir, Himachal. Do any of the paintings, statues, murtis, temple arts of Gandhar Shaili show women (or men) wearing Salwaar-Kameez?

2. Just like south and Bengal, in the rest of North (UP, MP, Bihar, Nepal) and West (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra), Saree is pre-dominant, with different styles of Sarees of course. Salwaar has become popular over last few decades, as a cultural influence from Punjab.

3. Another very popular dress in past was Ghaghra-Choli, especially in west (Rajasthan, Gujarat), but also in central India. In Mughal period this may have been replaced by Saree, and Salwar.

Salwar Vs Sari - here is a good article...

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The spread of the salwar

AMONG the most curious of the "culture shocks" I have received was while flipping through the pages of the Islamabad telephone directory. I was in the Pakistani capital for an academic seminar; but had arrived a day earlier than scheduled. This was back before the days of email, so I could not inform my host (the economist Tariq Banuri) of the change beforehand. Thus I was at the airport, looking through the telephone book for the name of "Banuri". When I found it I also noticed the entry just above, which was of the "Banaras Sari House".

That, certainly, was not the kind of establishment one expected to find in the heart of an Islamic state. When Pakistan was ruled by a woman, Benazir Bhutto, she only wore the salwar kameez. So, as I was to observe, did other women in Pakistan. Besides, Banaras was a holy city of the Hindus. How then was there a "Banaras Sari House" in the Pakistani capital?

Alas, in the three days I was in Islamabad I was too busy to find out. But later enquiries revealed that there was a time when the sari was very widely worn by ladies of the Pakistani middle and upper classes. Look at the pictures of the founding of the nation, taken at midnight on August 14/15 in Karachi. Mohammed Ali Jinnah is being sworn in as Governor-General; next to him, wearing a chiffon sari, is the country's official First Lady, his sister Fatima Jinnah. Fatima always wore a sari in public, as did Benazir's own mother, Nusrat Bhutto.

<b>A question of culture </b>
The sari is, without argument, the most graceful form of attire invented by homo sapiens. That is why the Begums Jinnah and Bhutto wore it on formal occasions, to be followed in this respect by the less privileged women in their society. They would have worn the salwar kameez too, but in the home. Over time, however, the salwar came to replace the sari even in public. Was there a larger significance in this? The respected Pakistani columnist M.B. Naqvi thought so. I remember reading a fascinating piece by him on how Pakistani society was torn between identifying with West Asia or South Asia. Naqvi suggested that a woman's choice of dress intimately embodied this dilemma; thus to wear a sari was to see oneself as part of a wider subcontinental culture, while to don a salwar was to place oneself in an Islamic world alone.

The sari was once viewed as something that could be owned by all Indian women, Hindu or Muslim, Christian or Parsi. The salwar, on the other hand, was viewed by some as a dress worn exclusively by Muslims. Thus, when my wife and I went to see Nirad Chaudhuri in Oxford in 1994, the great little writer asked how I had permitted her to wear what he called "this Islamic dress". (He added: "In Bengal, we would never allow our women to wear it.") I was too polite to disagree. But I knew, from my own childhood in northern India, that the savant was not being entirely accurate here. Hindu and Sikh women I knew often wore the salwar kameez. At the same time, the Muslim women in my home town, Dehra Dun, were quite happy to wear the sari.

<b>Salwar Islamic, Sari Hindu? </b>

Nirad Chaudhuri's equation of the salwar with "Islamic" is the mirror image of the equation — made by many Pakistanis today — of the sari as "Hindu". After Jemima Goldsmith married Imran Khan and went to live in Lahore, she was visited by her close friend, Diana, Princess of Wales. Soon afterwards, Jemima and Diana were photographed wearing the salwar kameez. Sections of the Pakistani press saw this as evidence of the superiority of their own culture over the Indian. "Would Lady Di ever wear a sari?," they crowed.

The correct answer to that question probably was: No, because it would be a hell of a job teaching her how to get into one. Still, the way the question was asked made it clear that the salwar was seen as a Pakistani dress, the sari as an Indian one. Fortunately, the reverse is not true. For in recent decades the salwar kameez has spread to parts of India where it was never worn (indeed never seen) becore. I cannot speak for Nirad Chaudhuri's Bengal, but in the State where I now live, Karnataka, the salwar is worn now by many more Hindu women than Muslim.

<b>The victory of the salwar </b>

The victory of the salwar is most conspicuous not in big cities like Bangalore, but in the smaller towns of the hinterland. Two months ago I was driving from Mangalore to Manipal, on a road dotted with schools, inside which one could see plenty of girls talking or playing in the salwar. Last month I was in Dodballapur, a weaving town north of Bangalore, speaking to a group of college students. The girls, all clad in salwar kameez, sat on one side; the boys, all wearing pant-and-shirt, lined up on the other. It struck me that 30 years ago many of the boys in the town would have worn a dhoti; while the girls would have worn the pavade, a kind of long skirt sometimes called the half-sari. Yet within one generation they had so easily, and comprehensively, shed an older, so-to-say traditional, form of dress for a previously alien one.

Dodballapur was the home town of D.R. Nagaraj, the brilliant Kannada scholar who died young. My talk was in memory of Nagaraj, and meeting those students made me wish, more than ever, that he was still around to guide us. For "D.R." uniquely combined the skills of the social historian, the cultural anthropologist, and the literary scholar. And to properly tell the story of the spread of the salwar one needs all those talents. Is it better to see the salwar as a peasant dress, worn by women in the Punjab countryside because it made their work easier, rather than as a specifically Islamic dress? What is the significance of the Bengali term dhoti-panjabi? When did the salwar first come to rural South India? What has been the role of television and film in facilitating its spread? And how and why has it become so popular among young girls, regardless of caste or religion?

These questions call for serious investigation, by a scholar interested, as D.R. Nagaraj was, equally in history, culture, and language. I can here only answer, very tentatively, the last one. Why has the salwar become so ubiquitous in a region where it was unknown only a generation before? The answer must be that this is a dress not seen as "Western" or immodest, and yet a dress that allows one to go to school or college, and to participate in the work force. Jeans and tops can be worn in cosmopolitan Bangalore, but in Dodballapur they would be quite unacceptable. The salwar is suitably "decent", yet it allows far more mobility than either the pavade or the sari. One can walk in it, one can bicycle in it, one can even run a 100-metre race in it.

The South Indian has a generally prejudiced view of Punjabis and Punjabi culture. But here is one Punjabi artefact whose successful conquest of the South can only be welcomed. For it has greatly enriched the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of young girls. In viewing the sari as Hindu, Pakistanis pay a price which is merely aesthetic. But in refusing to see the salwar kameez as a North Indian dress, the girls of Dodballapur, and other such towns, garner benefits that are economic, social, and — in the broadest sense of the — political.

Ramachandra Guha is an author and historian based in Bangalore. E-mail him at ramguha@vsnl.com
By the way, about "Banaras Sari House" mentioned above. Most of the Banarasi Saree manufacturing business is in the hands of Muslims. So is the Bengal Saree manufacturing business. Acharya Hazari Prasad Dwivedi has done extensive research in how Julahas got converted en-mass to Islam during Ibrahim/Sikandar Lodhis time throughout North India.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Is the dhoti dying?

This month's feature stories hail the fact that most Hindu women, to this day, maintain traditional dress and are proud of it--an ancient legacy standing tall above masses of world fashions that have come and gone. Sadly, it is not the same with men's apparel.

Ananda Coomaraswami, the Anglo-Sri Lankan art critic and philosopher, returned from England to Sri Lanka at age 25. He was horrified upon seeing mens' "vulgar imitation" of the West. In 1905 he published the book Borrowed Plumes, describing adoption of European dress as "destruction of national character, individuality and art." He set aside his own pants and suits and adopted a dhoti (waist-cloth) kurta (Indian-style long shirt) and turban--ironically imitating the natives he had been urging not to imitate his English brothers. His campaign failed, as any subsequent visitor to Lanka can testify.

Similarly, during India's struggle for independence from Britain, Mahatma Gandhi changed from a lawyerly South African suit to a dhoti, urging others to "follow suit." He generally failed too--today most Indian men wear borrowed plumes. But he was successful in keeping the indigenous textiles industry in India alive and competitive with British fabrics. On an optimistic note, the dhoti recently appeared in a Paris fashion show. It is a glimmer of hope for renewed use among Hindus themselves.
Kumaraswami was half Tamil and half English, he was born in Jaffna and had a life long admiration for Sanatana Dharma and Indian culture, he wrote many interesting books on Indian art and also religion.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--> how dhoti is disappearing even in rural Punjab (if my info from my Punjabi friend is right) and is being replaced by the men's salwar worn commonly by Muslim men<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
In Punjab, Lungi (<i>Tamba, as they say in Punjabi</i>) is still very popular. Male Salwar, I think started by Afghan Pathans. Male Salwar was fashionable in middle of 90s in Punjab, but not anymore. Lungi will stay for ever in rural and urban area.
<img src='http://www.khyber.org/images/history/tribesman1879.jpg' border='0' alt='user posted image' />
Pathan Tribesmen 1879
<img src='http://i5.pbase.com/v3/64/556764/1/47350237.TraditionalVillagePunjabidress.jpg' border='0' alt='user posted image' />

Traditional Village Punjabi dress
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Both "Salwar" and "Kameez" are profoundly Arabic words.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->Salwar Kameez sounded Iranian (Farsi) to me, but then I don't know Iranian, was just comparing 'Salwar' to 'Anwar'. So for some reason, it made me think it might have been Zoroastrian dress taken over by muslims in Iran and then brought into India.
So the dress itself is Afghan, is it. That's actually very interesting. Even if the words are Arabic, it's not actually Arabian dress.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The South Indian has a generally prejudiced view of Punjabis and Punjabi culture. But here is one Punjabi artefact whose successful conquest of the South can only be welcomed. <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->Don't know much about the Punjab, and don't have any prejudiced view of it... But not a big fan of salwar kameez. It's too loose and hides all form.

I think my sister once said that churidar is Hindu, but ought to ask her again, to check. In any case, it is Indian, and could well be North Indian, although younger South Indian women and girls have been wearing it for decades. It looks a little like salwar kameez, but its pants are really tight (and sometimes like western bootleg pants) and the top is not as long as salwar top. The churidar top is also more tightly fitting than the really formless salwar the women of Pakistan wear. And either the dupatta is traditionally a very sheer thing for the churidar or there was none and this was borrowed from the salwar. Can anyone else confirm about the churidar being Hindu? In any case, I'd never seen a Muslimah wear it, either on TV or in reality. Whereas I've seen many, many Tamil Hindus wear it.

Saree is not just Indian, it is particularly Hindu. (As also confirmed by those missionaries that disapprove of inculturation, the evangelicals and some other non-catholic kinds. They did their research for once - that's why they ban the saree for their converts.) In Tamil Nadu and Karnataka women wear it the way Aishwarya Rai is nowadays seen wearing the saree. Are there other parts of India where they wear the saree the same way, I'm rather ignorant about this? The Gujarati style of saree looks very interesting too. Though it looks more special occasion because I've seen it so rarely.

In Tamil Nadu, the youngest girls wear a long Indian skirt (pavadai) with a blouse piece, kind of like the Gagra, but top covers all of torso. Teenage to young adult Hindu girls wear half-sarees, this was especially in the past decades.

IMHO sarees and half-sarees are the most beautiful on women, I also like the gagra choli equally as much (don't know spelling). North Indian women in gagra choli all look like Kshatriya princesses. (South Indian women would too, of course, but I've not really seen any Tamil women wearing this yet...) Anyway, it's magnificent.
Although if you're in a western country these three items wouldn't probably be comfortable for everyday wear, so it makes sense to wear what's comfortable there and keep the saree/gagra for special occasions.
Husky here is what I found about the word:
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The pants, or salwar, are known as salwar in Punjabi: ਸਲਵਾਰ ਕਮੀਜ਼, salwaar or shalwaar શલવાર કમીઝ in Gujarati, and shalwar in Urdu: شلوار قمیض‎ and Hindi: शल्वर क़मीज़. The word comes from the Persian: شلوار, meaning pants, ultimately from Arabic سروال, note the inversion of the letters ل and ر which has happened in the adaptation process. The shirt, kameez or qamiz, takes its name from the Arabic qamis.

Most of the time foreign origin words in Hindi are instantly recognisable, it's obvious when you hear them being spoken, words like takleef, tasvir, ishq, mohabbat, zeher, wazir etc, even though I can't speak Hindi properly I can still tell the Persian or Arab origin words apart most of the time.

If you want to check the origins of words to confirm their origins then go here:


For shalwar it gives a Pahlavi origin:

S shalwār [Pehl. śarvār; Zend śāra-vāra; prob. akin to S. शिरस्+उरस्], s.m. Trousers, drawers (reaching to the feet), breeches.

And an Arabic origin for qamiz.

As for churidar, I don't think it's of Indian origin, from what I found on google it's a variation of salwar kameez.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->In Lucknow, the baggy pajamas are replaced by tight and long leggings that form many folds at the ankles. These are called churidars, suggesting 'bangles'.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The traditional Salwar has taken different shapes and styles like Churidar, Parallel and Patiala.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->As for churidar, I don't think it's of Indian origin<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

chudidar is especially popular amongst the hill people of uttaranchal, himachal and especially Nepal. Recall King Birendra with white chudidar?

<img src='http://www.buddhistview.com/site/pics/225/2862/11289/8382/TFATVK-15.jpg' border='0' alt='user posted image' />

<img src='http://indiancostumes.indianetzone.com/images/077.jpg' border='0' alt='user posted image' />
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Saree is not just Indian, it is particularly Hindu<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Yes, it is very much Hindu. Hindu scriptures recommend wearing clothes without knot while performing religious ritual. I think they are connected. In MP/Chattisgarh, tribal women wear sari knee length without blouse.
My great grand mother (both side) never wore Salwar and they are from Punjab, Either they used ghagra/ghagri or Sari without front plates. Blouse was not like now a day’s style which shows stomach, but something like long shirt without collars.
<b>Gupta Period [Early Fourth to Mid-Eighth Centuary A.D.] - Ancient Indian Costume</b><!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->In northern India where climatic conditions were more suitable there was greater emphasis on the stitched garments, but in the south, as is apparent even today, the indigenous antariya, uttariya and kayabandh held their own. Strangely enough, although royalty on the Gupta coins is shown wearing the sewn garment of the Kushan Kings, in the Ajanta paintings the king and other members of the nobility are still seen in their fine silk or muslin antariyas.
Thank you Mudyji! That is a great article. Also great repository of images from cave art clearly demonstrating contemporary dress styles in Gupta period.

Sure enough, here is Churidar in Ajanta art.
<img src='http://www.4to40.com/images/discoverindia/ancient_indian_costume/guptas/gupta_dynasty_guard.gif' border='0' alt='user posted image' />

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