The dhoti also known as pancha, mardani or veshti is a traditional men's garment worn in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. 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, 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
The name dhoti derives from Sanskrit dhauta. The garment has numerous other names such as, ଧୋତି Dhotī in Oriya, called ધૉતિયુ Dhotiyu in Gujarati, চুৰিয়া Suriya in Assamese, ধুতি Dhuti in Bengali, ಧೋತ್ರ /ಕಚ್ಚೆ ಪಂಚೆ Dhoti or Kachche Panche in Kannada, Dhotar, Angostar, Aad-neschey or Pudve in Konkani, മുണ്ട് Mundu in Malayalam, ధోతీ/పంచె Dhoti or Pancha in Telugu, धोतर Dhotar or Pancha in Marathi, ਲ਼ਾਛ Laacha in Punjabi and "Mardaani" in cities of UP, Bihar, Terai, வேட்டி vEtti or வேஷ்டி vEshti in Tamil. Pancha (Singular) in Marathi is not Dhotar, both are different.While dhotar is worn around waist, Pancha is normally used to wipe(dab dry)water after bath/shower, similar to using Towel. Panche is plural.
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 pants, 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/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 they are required to wear unstitched clothes in accordance to their belief in ahimsa. They wear a loose, unstitched cloth, shorter than the pancha on the top.
Pancha are worn by western adherents of the Hare Krishna sect, which is known for promoting a distinctive dress code among its practitioners, with followers wearing saffron or white coloured cloth, folded in the traditional style. Mahatma Gandhi invariably wore a pancha on public occasions, but he was well aware that it was considered "indecent" in other countries and was shocked when a friend wore one in London. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was known for wearing a white silk dhoti.
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; while 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 metropolitan areas 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.
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 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.
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 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 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 (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 a simple wrap around the waist and resembles a long skirt and is usually 4 yards long. It will be folded in half up to knees while working. The second style consists of 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. It is usually 8 yards long cloth. 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, 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.
Along with dhoti, the angavastram or thundu (an extra piece of cloth) will be draped depending on its use. Farmers carry it on one shoulder and treat it as a sweat towel. Bridegrooms 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.
- Koppel, Lily (February 6, 2008). "Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a Guide On the Beatles' Spiritual Path, Dies". New York Times. p. C.10.
- Mahatma Gandhi was shocked when a friend wore a pancha in London
- Dhotis at Devi.net
- How to tie a dhoti at Siddhashram.org
- How to tie a veshti at Ahobilam.com