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Statue of Gandhi wearing a dhoti

The ढॊति Dhotī or डॊति Doti in Hindi, called ધૉતિયુ Dhotiyu in Gujarati, চওৰকীয়কা Suriya in Assamese, வயட்டி Vaytti or வெஷ்டி Veshti in Tamil, ঢুতি Dhuti in Bangla, ಢೊತಿ/ಕಛ್ಛೆ ಪನ್ಛೆ Dhoti or Kachche Panche in Kannada, ढॊतर्/आङॊस्तर्/आअद्ँऎस्छॆत्/पुद्वॆ‌‌ Dhotar, Angostar, Aad-neschey or Pudve in Konkani, മുന്ദു mundu in Malayalam, ढॊतर्‌‌ Dhotar in Marathi, ਲ਼ਾਛ‌‌ Laacha in Punjabi and పంఛ Pancha in Telugu is the traditional men's garment in Indian subcontinent. It is a rectangular piece of unstitched cloth, usually around 7 yards long, wrapped around the waist and the legs, and knotted at the waist.

The highest number of dhoti wearers are found in the western states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Dhoti wearers are predominant in the state of West Bengal too. In the northern parts of Gujarat and southern parts of Rajasthan the dhoti is worn with a short kurta called 'kediya' on top. In northern India and West Bengal, the garment is worn with a Kurta on top, the combination known simply as "dhoti kurta". In Tamil Nadu, it is worn with an angavastram (another unstitched cloth draped over the shoulders) or else with a chokka (shirt) in Andhra Pradesh or jubba (a local version of kurta). The lungi is a similar piece of cloth worn in similar manner, though only on informal occasions. The lungi is not as long and is basically a bigger version of a towel worn to fight the extremely hot weather in India.

Contents

Custom and usage

A Chakravati wears a pancha in an ancient style. First century BCE/CE. Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh. Musee Guimet

The dhoti is considered formal wear all over the country. Apart from all government and traditional family functions, the dhoti is also considered acceptable at country clubs and at other establishments that enforce strict formal dress codes. The same is true across the Indian subcontinent, particularly in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. In many of these countries, the garment has become something of a mascot of cultural assertion, being greatly favoured by politicians and cultural figures. Thus, the dhoti for many has taken on a more cultural nuance while the 'suit-and-tie' or, in less formal occasions, the ubiquitous shirt and pants, are seen as standard formal and semi-formal wear.

Styles of dhoti seen in Amaravati sculptures of the Satavahana dynasty (from 2nd century BC to 3rd century AD). The draped waistbands are known as kamarbands (source of the Western cummerbund), and are sometimes accompanied by a buckle at the waist (Fig 10).

In southern India, the garment is worn at all cultural occasions and traditional ceremonies. The bride-groom in a south Indian wedding and the host/main male participant of other rituals and ceremonies have necessarily to be dressed in the traditional pancha while performing the ceremonies.

Unspoken rules of etiquette govern the way the dhoti is worn. In south India, men will occasionally fold the garment in half and this reveals the legs from the knee downwards. However, it is considered disrespectful to speak to women or to one's social superiors with the dhoti folded up in this manner. When faced with such a social situation, the fold of the dhoti is loosened and allowed to cover the legs completely.

The dhoti is worn by many orthodox Jain males when they visit the temple for prayer as they are required to wear unstitched clothes in accordance to their belief in ahimsa. They wear a loose ,unstitched cloth, shorter than the dhoti on the top.

Pancha are worn by western adherents of the Hare Krishna sect, which is known for promoting a distinctive dress code amongst its practitioners, with followers wearing saffron or white coloured cloth, folded in the traditional style. Mahatma Gandhi invariably wore a pancha on public occasions[citation needed], but he was well aware that it was considered "indecent" in other countries and was shocked when a friend wore one in London. (See The Story of My Experiments with Truth/Part I/Narayan Hemchandra.)

The genteel Bengali man is stereotyped in popular culture as wearing expensive perfumes, a light kurta and an elaborate dhuti with rich pleats, the front corner of the cloth being stiffed like a Japanese fan and holding it in his hand; whilst feverishly discussing politics and literature. It is considered the most elegant costume and is worn at Bengali weddings and cultural festivals.

Over the past century or more, western styles of clothing have been steadily gaining ground in the region, gradually rendering the pancha a garment for home-wear, not generally worn to work. It is less popular among the youth in major metropolises and is viewed as rustic, unfashionable and not 'hip' enough for the younger age-set. However, use of the pancha as a garment of daily use and homewear continues largely unabated.

The dhoti is not a sign of primitiveness, as it is believed by some. It is one of the simplest types of unstitched clothing, and dhoti wearing is a novel way of dressing up.

Usage in Nepal

In Nepal the word Dhoti is also often used as an ethnic slur against the Madhesi community of Nepal and Indians by the majority population of Nepal. This may be because of the popularity of dhotis in the Terai region and the bordering Indian states.

Styles and varieties

Dhotis are commonly worn with western-style oxford shirts by Indian males.

The garment is known as the vaeshtti in Tamil Nadu and Mundu in Kerala. It is called pancha in Andhra Pradesh and panche in Karnataka and dhuti in Bengal. The word is related to the Sanskrit pancha meaning five; this may be a reference to the fact that a 5-yard-long strip of cloth is used. It is also related to the sanskrit word 'dhuvati'. In one elaborate south Indian style of draping the garment, five knots are used to wrap the garment, and this also is sometimes held to have originated the word.

A dhoti purchased from Delhi. The stamped text is water-soluble and washed off before use.

It is usually white or cream in colour, although colourful hues are used for specific religious occasions or sometimes to create more vivid ensembles. Off- white dhuti is generally worn by the groom in bengali weddings. White or turmeric-yellow is the prescribed hues to be worn by men at their weddings and upanayanams. Silk panchas, called Magatam or Pattu Pancha in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh respectively, are often used on these special occasions. Vermilion-red dhotis, called 'sowlay', is often used by priests at temples, especially in Maharashtra. Kings and poets used rich colors and elaborate gold-thread embroideries. Cotton dhotis suit the climatic conditions for daily usage. Silk panchas are suited for special occasions and are expensive.

There are several different ways of draping the panchas. The two most popular ones in south India are the plain wrap and the Pancha katcham or (five knots or five folds). The first style is mostly seen mainly in Tamil Nadu and Kerala] as shown in the picture. It is a simple wrap around the waist and resembles a long skirt. It will be folded in half up to knees while working. Second style is folding around the waist in the middle of the garment and tying the top ends in the front like a belt and tucking the falling left and right ends in the back.

The style in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and in North India; also worn in the West by devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, consists of folding the cloth in half, taking the left side, pleating it vertically, passing it between the legs and tucking it in the waist at the back. The right side is pleated horizontally and tucked in the waist at the front. (See image of Gandhi statue)

Along with dhoti, the angavastram or thundu (an extra piece of cloth) will be draped depending on the usage. Farmers carry it on one shoulder and treat it as sweat towel. Bride grooms use it as entire upper garment. It will be folded decoratively around the waist while dancing. South Indian Hindu priests wrap about the waist as the extra layer. North Indian priests (especially those of ISKCON) may drape it across the body with two corners tied at the shoulder (or they may wear a kurta instead).

The dhoti is also worn in the Horn of Africa, mainly by Somalis and Afars, where it is known as the macawis.

See also

External links

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