Salwar (Punjabi)

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Sheeba unveil her latest summer couture collection (14) Punjabi Salwar Suit

The Punjabi salwar suit was developed in the Punjab region[1] which has become popular all over the sub-continent and beyond.

Female dress[edit]

The Punjabi Salwar Suit is worn in the Punjab in India and Pakistan. It consists of the chunni (head scarf), jhagga(kameez) and the salwar when worn by women. The chunni can be of varying lengths. The jhagga (kameez) is made up of two rectangular pieces sewn together with side slits, similar to a tunic. The salwar is similar to pajamas or pants, wide at the top and tightened around the ankles with hard material, called paunchay. In the Punjab, the salwar kameez is also known as the chunni jhagga salwar suit.

Originally, Punjabis in west Punjab[2] began to wear the suthan which unlike the Punjabi salwar, has multiple pleats and is very baggy with many folds. Instead of the Punjabi paunchay at the bottom of the salwar, the suthan is gathered mid way between the knee and the ankles to fit closely to the leg. Its use then spread to neighbouring Sindh, east Punjab[3] (which includes Haryana and Himachal Pradesh), Jammu and Kashmir. According to elders, Punjabi women started to combine the suthan with a kurta, kameez or jhaga and sometimes would replace the suthan with a pajamma, which would then be covered with a Punjabi Ghagra when going outdoors. This tradition, only dying out relatively late in east Punjab: approx. 1950’s circa. Eventually, the suthan was replaced with the Punjabi version of the salwar (which is not as baggy as other forms of the salwar, such as the type worn in Afghanistan (Khet partug)), to form the salwar kameez outfit.[4][5] It is this outfit which is very popular,[6][7] which is also called the Punjabi salwar suit.

Before the development of the Punjabi salwar suit, the traditional dress of women of Punjab was the Punjabi Ghagra and choli/kurti/kameez.[8][9]

Early History[edit]


Salwar is the generic term used to describe the lower garment developed in different regions. The earliest form of the salwar originated in Central Asia amongst the Turks and its use was spread to Afghanistan, India, Iran, the Arab world, Turkey and wherever the Turks established their empires.[10] The Ottomans spread the use of the shalwar throughout its empire.

In India, the term salwar includes the Sindhi suthan, Punjabi suthan, Dogri pajamma and the Kashmiri suthan. The term salwar kameez also includes the Kashmiri Pheran/salwar outfit.

Jhagga (kameez)[edit]

In Turkic Central Asian culture, the salwar is accompanied by a tunic, forming the upper garment. In India, the upper garment is the jhagga (kameez). The Ghaznavid Turks popularised the shalwar/tunic attire in Afghanistan and Northern India, especially in the Punjab region. In the Ukraine, the traditional dress for men includes Kozhukh, Kontusz, Żupan and Sharovary (shalwar) which is a variation of shalwar/tunic combination.

Other areas[edit]

The traditional dress of women in Sindh was the lehnga choli, of women in Kashmir was the Pheran [11] flowing to the ankles, and the peshwaj in Jammu for women, also flowing to the ankles.


People in Jammu have changed the traditional attire from the peshwaj[12] to the kurta and Dogri pajjamma.


The Phiran in Kashmir has been combined with the suthan with some people wearing the Pheran to below the knees. Kashyap Bandhu is regarded as the person responsible for spreading the use of the suthan with the Pheran amongst the communities that resisted to adopt its use, eventually leading to the use of the shalwar.


In Sindh, the traditional lengha choli became to be complimented with the cholo (boddice), paro (petticoat) and suthan.[13][14] The salwar kameez is also worn by many people.


In Afghanistan, the traditional male dress is the Khet partug. The Khat is the tunic, similar to a robe and the partoog is the Afghanistan shalwar, with multiple pleats. However, a variation of the salwar kameez (known as peran tomban or the Pathani suit[15] is also worn as an alternative to the Khet partug which has become popular since the 1990s.[16]


The traditional male dress in Bangladesh is the lungi and kurta (also called Punjabi). Men also wear the Fanjabi, or 'Kabuli' which is a name that refers to the Salwar Kameez. The traditional female dress is the sari but women also wear the Salwar Kameez.

India and Pakistan[edit]

Elsewhere in India and Pakistan, Muslim communities have traditionally worn the style of shalwar worn by the Mughals combining them with Mughal upper garments such as the jamma. However, the Punjabi salwar suit is now worn by members of various communities in India and Pakistan.


  1. ^ "The spread of the salwar". Oct 24, 2004. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  2. ^ [1] The Salwar Revolution Article
  3. ^ [2] The Salwar Revolution Article
  4. ^ [3] The Salwar Revolution Article
  5. ^ Alop Ho Reha Punjabi Virsa Harkesh Singh Kehal
  6. ^ [4] The Salwar Revolution Article
  7. ^ The Hindu: article RAMACHANDRA GUHA
  8. ^ Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North East Volume 1 Ibbeston, Maclagan
  9. ^ Alop Ho Reha Punjabi Virsa Harkesh Singh Kehal
  10. ^ Jirousek, Charlotte. “Islamic Clothing.” In Encyclopedia of Islam. New York: Macmillan Pub. 2005.
  11. ^ Paintings and lifestyles of Jammu Region: 17th to 19th Century A.D Raj Kumar
  12. ^ Textiles, Costumes and Ornaments of the Western Himalyas O Handa
  13. ^ I am a Sindhi: The Glorious Sindhi Heritage and Culture and Folklore of Sindh J P Vaswami
  14. ^ Sindh and The Races That Inhabit the Valley of the Indus Richard F Burton
  15. ^ "Celebrating Indianness". Mar 27, 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  16. ^ "Perahan Tunban 'Mens clothes'". Retrieved 27 March 2014. 

Kashmiri pheran to contrast the Punjabi Salwar Suit[edit]

Pandit woman 1922 vintage by Vishwanath