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For the far western region of Nepal, see Doti.

The dhoti, also known as vetti, mundu,mundh, pancha or mardani, is a traditional men's garment, worn in South Asia mainly by Nepalese, Bengali and Indian peoples. The use of dhoti is found predominantly in countries and regions like India, Southern Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and southern Afghanistan. It is the national dress of Madhesh region of Southern Nepal worn mainly by Nepalis of Madhesi, Tharu, Maithali and Bahun ethnicity.[1] 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.

Long single cloth is worn especially by the priests of temples and is also worn generally among the people in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, with some variation throughout the rest of India.

Regional names[edit]

The name "dhoti" derives from Sanskrit dhauta.[citation needed]
The garment has numerous other names, such as:

or region
ଧୋତି Dhotī Odia
धोति Dhoteé Nepali
ધૉતિયુ Dhotiyu Gujarati
চুৰিয়া Suriya Assamese
ধুতি Dhuti Bengali
ಕಚ್ಚೆ ಪಂಚೆ
Kachche Panche
धोतर,आंगोस्तर,आड नेसचे,पुडवे Dhotar
മുണ്ട് Mundu Malayalam
धोतर Dhotar a
ਲ਼ਾਛ Lacha Punjabi
Mardaani urban Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Terai
வேட்டி Veshti Tamil
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[edit]

A Chakravati wears a pancha in an ancient style. First century BCE/CE. Amaravathi village, Guntur district. Musee Guimet

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[citation needed] 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.[2] Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was known for wearing a white silk dhoti.[3]

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.However, the use of Dhoti in Indian fashions is making a comeback.

Styles and varieties[edit]

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

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 and Karnataka. 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 and only the 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 , 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.

Extra cloth[edit]

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.

See also[edit]