The dhoti, also known as mundu, pancha, mardani or veshti, is a traditional men's garment worn in the Indian subcontinent, Known in ancient times as "Bharat Barsha". The use of dhoti is found predominant in countries like India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and even in African sub-continent. It is a rectangular piece of unstitched cloth, usually around 4.5 metres (15 ft) long, wrapped around the waist and the legs and knotted at the waist, resembling a long skirt.
In India, the garment is predominant in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra, Karnataka, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Odisha and Konkan and Goa. In the northern parts of Gujarat and southern parts of Rajasthan the Pancha is worn with a short kurta called kediya on top. In both north and south India, notably Bihar and parts of Sri Lanka, the garment is worn with a kurta on top, the combination known simply as dhoti kurta. In Bengal the kurta is known as a "panjabi" and the combination is called "dhuti panjabi". In Tamil Nadu, it is worn with a sattai (shirt). It is worn with a chokka (shirt) or a jubba in Andhra Pradesh. In Assam, the kurta is called panjabi and the combination is known as suriya panjabi. In Pakistan, dhotis are commonly worn by men as a traditional dress in the Punjab. The lungi is a similar piece of cloth worn widely in Asia and Africa in a similar manner.
Names in India
|Mardaani||urban Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Terai|
a In Marathi, a dhotar is not the same as a pancha (plural panche).
While the former is worn around the waist, the latter is normally
used as a towel after a bath or shower (compare below).
Custom and usage
The pancha is considered formal wear all over the country. In addition to all government and traditional family functions, the pancha 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 pancha for many has taken on a more cultural nuance while the suit-and-tie or, in less formal occasions, the ubiquitous shirt and trousers, are seen as standard formal and semi-formal wear.
In southern India, the garment is worn at all cultural occasions and traditional ceremonies. The bridegroom in a south Indian wedding and the host and 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 Pancha 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 Pancha folded up in this manner. When faced with such a social situation, the fold of the Pancha is loosened and allowed to cover the legs completely. Historically this was the most common way of wearing the dhoti, especially when working outdoors or walking any distance made it convenient to keep the legs free.
The pancha is worn by many orthodox Jain males when they visit the temple for prayer, as, according to their belief in ahimsa, they are required to wear unstitched clothing. They also wear a loose, unstitched cloth, shorter than the pancha, on top.
Hare Krishna, known for its distinctive dress code, prompts Western adherents to wear pancha, usually of saffron or white cloth folded in a traditional style. Mahatma Gandhi invariably wore a pancha on public occasions but, as he was aware that it was considered "indecent" to do so in other countries, was shocked when a friend wore one in London. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was known for wearing a white silk dhoti.
Over the past century or more, Western styles of clothing have been steadily gaining ground in the region,[which?] gradually rendering the pancha a homewear rather than work garment. In metropolitan areas, it is also less popular among young people as it is seen as rustic and unfashionable. The use, however, of the pancha as a daily homewear garment continues largely unabated.
Styles and varieties
The garment is known as the vaetti in Tamil Nadu and Mundu in Kerala. It is called pancha in Andhra Pradesh and panche in Karnataka, dhotar in Maharashtra and dhuti in Bengal. The word is related to the Sanskrit pancha and dhuvati meaning "five". This may be a reference to the fact that a five yard-long strip of cloth is used, or to the five knots used in an elaborate south Indian manner of draping the garment.
The garment 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 are 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, are often used by priests at temples, especially in Maharashtra. Kings and poets used rich colours 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 (pancha with five knots or five folds). The first style is mostly seen mainly in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, southern parts of other two south Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. It is usually around four yards in length and is simply wrapped around the waist, resembling a long skirt. During work, it is usually folded in half to the knees. The second style consists of folding an eight yard-long garment around the waist, tying the top ends in front like a belt and then tucking in the loose left and right ends behind. This style is popular across south Indian men while working in the fields.
The style in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and, predominantly, in Maharashtra and north and eastern India – and also as worn in the West by Hare Krishna devotees – 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.
Along with the dhoti, an extra piece of cloth, the angavastram or thundu, may be draped. Farmers, for instance, carry it on one shoulder to use as a towel, while bridegrooms might use it as entire upper garment. It will be folded decoratively around the waist while dancing. South Indian Hindu priests wrap it about the waist as an extra layer. North Indian priests, especially Hare Krishna, may drape it across the body with two corners tied at the shoulder, or they may wear a kurta instead.
- Mahatma Gandhi was shocked when a friend wore a pancha in London
- Koppel, Lily (February 6, 2008). "Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a Guide On the Beatles' Spiritual Path, Dies". New York Times. p. C.10.