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This article is about the item of clothing. For the abandoned village in Georgia, see Kurta (village). For the Ukrainian footballer, see Serhiy Kurta.

The term kurta, pronounced [ˈkʊrt̪aː], (Urdu: كُرتا‎, Hindi: कुर्ता, Punjabi: ਕੁੜਤਾ) traditionally referred to the straight cut kurta and the kali kurta, but now is a generic term used in South Asia for several forms of upper garments for men and women, with regional variations of form.[1]


The word "kurta" is a borrowing from Hindustani,[2] originally from either Sanskrit kuratu/kurtaka[3] or Persian (literally, "a collarless shirt").[4] It was first used in English in the 20th century.[5] A kurta worn by females is called a kurti.


The kurta is traditionally worn in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India and is also popular in Nepal[6] and Sri Lanka.[7][8][9] The kurta is worn with a Dhoti, Paijama, Shalwar, lungi or jeans. The kurta is similar to the Perahan worn in Afghanistan.


The straight cut kurta is a loose shirt falling either just above or somewhere below the knees of the wearer, and is traditionally worn by men. However, women do also wear the straight cut kurta or its shorter version, the kurti. They were traditionally worn with loose-fitting paijama (kurta-paijama), loose-fitting shalwars, semi-tight (loose from the waist to the knees, and tight from the calves to the ankles churidars, or wrapped-around dhotis;[5] but are now also worn with jeans.[10] Kurtas are worn both as casual everyday wear and as formal dress.

Imported straight cut kurtas were fashionable in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, as an element of hippie fashion, fell from favor briefly, and are now again fashionable. South Asian women may also wear this Western adaptation of South Asian fashion.

Some styles, button or are tied at the shoulder seam and have plackets rather than slits. The opening may be centered on the chest, or positioned off center.

Traditional forms of kurta do not have collar. Modern variants may feature stand-up collars of the type known to tailors and seamstresses as "mandarin" collars. These are the same sort of collars seen on achkans, sherwanis, and Nehru jackets.

Kali kurta[edit]

A kali kurta is similar to a frock and has many panels.[11] The Lucknow variety has an overlapping panel.

Bhopali kurta[edit]

The Bhopali kurta (taking its name from Bhopal) is a loose kurta with pleats at the waist flowing like a skirt reaching midway between the knees and the ankles.[12] It is worn with a straight pajamma.[13] The Bhopali kurta was popular with the local royal families.

Hyderabadi kurta[edit]

The Hyderabadi kurta is named after the former royal state of Hyderabad and is a short top which sits around the waist, with a keyhole neck opening. It was popular with the local royal households.[14][15]

Lucknowi kurta[edit]

The traditional Lucknowi kurta is short and is more like a coat.[16] However, the term Lucknowi kurta now applies to the straight cut kurta embroidered using local Chikan embroidery.

Straight cut kurta[edit]

Kurta - Mens

The straight cut traditional kurta (known as Panjabi in West Bengal, Bangladesh [17] (Bengali: পাঞ্জাবী) and Assam[18] (Assamese: পনজাবি) and as Punjabi[19] in Madhya Pradesh)[20] or simply Punjabi kurta[21][22] consists of rectangular fabric pieces with perhaps a few gusset inserts, and is cut so as to leave no wasted fabric. The cut is usually simple, although decorative treatments can be elaborate.

The sleeves of a traditional kurta fall straight to the wrist; they do not narrow, as do many Western-cut sleeves. Sleeves are not cuffed, just hemmed and decorated.

The front and back pieces of a simple kurta are also rectangular. The side seams are left open for 6-12 inches above the hem, which gives the wearer some ease of movement.

The kurta usually opens in the front and the front opening is often a hemmed slit in the fabric, buttoned at the top. The traditional straight cut kurta does not have a collar but modern versions do.

The use of side slits in the straight cut kurta can be traced to the 11th century C.E.[23] female kurtaka worn in parts of north India and was a short shirt, with sleeves extending from the shoulders, to the middle of the body, and had slashes on the left and the right sides.[24] This is the same as the modern straight cut kurta which has side slits and worn by women in Punjab.[25]

Regional embroidery, prints and designs[edit]

Straight cut kurtas using regional embroidery designs are labelled according to the region from where the patterns originate.

Multani kurta[edit]

The Multani kurta is crocheted using designs of Multan (Punjab, Pakistan).[26] Local Ajrak prints are also used.

Punjabi phulkari kurta[edit]

A Phulkari kurta is emroidered using the Phulkari embroidery of the Punjab region.[27]

Punjabi bandhani kurta[edit]

Bandhani tye-dyeing is popular in the Cholistan desert[28] area of the Punjab region. Bandhani patterns are used on kurtas.

Muktsari kurta[edit]

The traditional Punjabi kurta of the Punjab region is wide and falls to the knees[29] and is cut straight.[30] The modern version of the regional kurta is the Mukatsari kurta which originates from Muktsar in Punjab. This modern Punjabi kurta is famous for its slim fitting cuts and smart fit designs. It is very popular among young politicians.[31]

Sindhi kurta[edit]

The Sindhi kurta is the traditional straight cut variety but uses local patterns to embroider the garment and also makes use of mirrors. The local art of bandhani (creating patterned textiles by resisting parts of a fabric by tying knots on it before it is dyed) is utilised which is believed to have originated in Sindh and spread to Gujarat via Rajasthan[32] and is also practiced in the Punjab region. Sindhi kurtas are also made out of heavy local material called rilli and the kurtas are often called rilli kurtas.[33] Ajrak prints are also used.

Assamese Panjabi[edit]

The Assamese Panjabi is worn with a scarf (Gamosa) using local prints.

Bengali Panjabi[edit]

The Bengali Panjabi utilises local embroidery traditions. Kantha embroidery means patched cloth and is the regional style of West Bengal and Bangladesh. [34] Kantha is also traditional in Odisha. The other variety of embroidery from West Bengal and Bangladesh is the Nakshi kantha.

Photo gallery[edit]
Jeans and straight cut kurta[edit]

Kurtas are often worn with jeans.[10] Women sometimes wear kurtas as blouses, usually over jeans pants.[35] Jeans are sometimes preferred over pajamas or leggings as they are more durable for rough use. Most colours kurtas match with blue jeans.[36] Kurtis are typically much shorter than the traditional garments and made with a lighter materials, like those used in sewing kameez.

Leggings and ladies straight cut kurta[edit]

Ladies kurtas/blouses, along with leggings are most popular in India, Pakistan,and the South Asian community in Singapore and Malaysia.[37]


In modern usage, a short kurta is referred to as the kurti. However, traditionally, the kurti refers to upper garments which sit above the waist without side slits, and are believed to have descended from the tunic of the Sunga period (2nd century B.C.).[38]

Punjabi kurti[edit]

In the Punjab region, the kurti is a short cotton coat.[39]Another style of Punjabi kurti is a short version of the anga (robe).[40]

Bihari kurti[edit]

In Bihar, the term kurti is used to refer to a bodice[41] which is a combination of the choli and jacket.

Uttar Pradesh[edit]

The kurti in Uttar Pradesh and the adjoining Himalayas region is a short blouse.[42]


In Gujarat and Kathiawar, the type of kurti (coat) falls to just below the waist.[43]

Overlapping kurta[edit]

The overlapping kurta does not flow straight but is similar to a mini gown.

Man on the right in overlapping kurta 1848.

Gujarati kediyu[edit]

The kurta worn in Gujarat is known as kediyu. It is a long sleeved upper garment, pleated at the chest and reaches to the waist.[44][45] The prints on the kediyu include bandhani designs which are local to Gujarat and Rajasthan.[46]

Other designs[edit]

Overlapping kurta designs are modelled on upper garments (such as the angarkha) which overlap and are tied to the left or right shoulder. However, the material used is lighter than the type used for the upper garments.

Gujarati and Rajasthani styles[edit]

A similar dress known as the angarkha is traditionally worn in Gujarat and Rajasthan[47] which is somewhat shorter in length than a straight cut Kurta and has a wider end similar to lower part of a Ghagra.

The front opens at either shoulder and the bottom has a wide end which flairs out. Some styles incorporate a placket. In Gujarat, men in parts of Kutch wear a variation of the angarkha (known by the older term jamma)[48] which has an asymmetric opening with the skirt flaring out to around the hips.[49] The Rajasthani angarkha falls just below the waist[50] in loose vertical gathers.[51]

Rajasthani bandia angarkha[edit]

Another type of angarkha worn in Rajasthan is the bandia angarkha also known as bandi[52][53] and angarkhi[54] worn above the waist and is fastened with tapes either over the chest or on the shoulder, with long arms and narrow sleeves. The prints on the Rajasthani garments include sanganer prints which are of local origin.[55]


The traditional dress of Bihari people is the mirjai which is a modified form of the flowing robe (known as the jama)[56] fastened on the right.[57][58]


A variation of the angarkha is worn in Uttarakhand,[59] Himachal Pradesh,[60] Maharashtra[61] and Bengal where the traditional male upper garment is the overlapping and string tied garment.[62]

Gujarati Jhabbho[edit]

Another upper garment worn in Gujarat is the jhabbho which is a long robe.[63]


A short kurta above the waist (called saluka[64] or ganji)[65] is traditionally worn in Uttar Pradesh.[66] The saluka is also traditionally worn in Madhya Pradesh.[67]


The Phiran is a type of kurta worn in Kashmir.[68] Although the traditional Phiran is ankle length without side slits, modern versions are of varying lengths and can have side slits. When worn with a shalwar, the outfit can also be described as a type of shalwar kameez.

Dogri kurta[edit]

The Dogri men's kurta is open at the front but flares out at the hips.

Perahan tunban[edit]

The modern Phiran kurta is similar to the Perahan worn in Afghanistan which traditionally buttons on either shoulder and is collarless.[69][70]

Sindhi angerkho[edit]

The Sindhi angerkho is fastened to the left shoulder and is knee length. Modern versions can be shorter.


Kurtas worn in the summer months are usually made of thin silk or cotton fabrics; winter season kurtas are made of thicker fabric such as wool (as in the Kashmiri Phiran which is similar to the straight cut kurta) or Khadi silk, a thick, coarse, handspun and handwoven silk that may be mixed with other fibers. A very common fabric for kurta pajama is linen, or linen cotton mix ideal for both summers and winters.

Kurtas are typically fastened with tasselled ties, cloth balls and loops, or buttons. Buttons are often wood or plastic. Kurtas worn on formal occasions might feature decorative metal buttons, which are not sewn to the fabric, but, like cufflinks, are fastened into the cloth when needed. Such buttons can be decorated with jewels, enameling, and other traditional jewelers' techniques.


South Asian tailors command a vast repertoire of methods, traditional and modern, for decorating fabric. It is likely that all of them have been used, at one time or another, to decorate kurtas. However, the most common decoration is embroidery. Many light summer kurtas feature Chikan embroidery, a speciality of Lucknow, around the hems and front opening. This embroidery is typically executed on light, semi-transparent fabric in a matching thread. The effect is ornate but subtle.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kumar, Ritu (2006) Costumes and textiles of royal India
  2. ^ Merriam Webster: Kurta
  3. ^ Ghurye, Govind (1966). Indian Costume. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan. p. 118. ISBN 81-7154-403-7. Retrieved 2015-05-12. A Chinese dictionary of the latter half of the 8th century A.D. lists 'kuratu' as the Sanskrit equivalent of a Chinese word which means skirt. And Al-Biruni later noted that females in North India wore 'kurtaka', which was a short skirt extending from the shoulders to the middle of the body and had sleeves. 
  4. ^ McGregor, R. S. (ed.). 1993. The Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 1083 pages. ISBN 0-19-563846-8.
  5. ^ a b Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition. 1989. The first use is attributed to W.G. Lawrence in T. E. Lawrence, Home Letters, 1913, "Me in a dhoti khurta, White Indian clothes."
  6. ^ Tulasī Rāma Vaidya, Triratna Mānandhara, Shankar Lal Joshi (1993) Social history of Nepal [1]
  7. ^ Urmila Phadnis (1973) Sri Lanka
  8. ^ Nira Wickramasinghe (2015) Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A HIstory
  9. ^ Kemper, Steven (2001) Buying and Believing: Sri Lankan Advertising and Consumers in a Transnational World. The straight cut kurta was adopted during 1930s - 1940s but is only worn by certain men on certain occassions. [2]
  10. ^ a b "Regal chic", The Telegraphk, Calcutta, April 24, 2004. Quote: "The first sequence was a range of traditional saris in silk and cotton, moving on to kurtis and jeans and short kurtas in silk and georgette."
  11. ^ Karampuri, Aradhana (2005) Punjabi Dress Drafting and Cutting
  12. ^ Jamila Brij Bhushan (1958) The Costumes and Textiles of India
  13. ^ Illustrated Weekly of Pakistan, Volume 20, Issues 27-39 (1968)
  14. ^ Kumar, Ritu (2006) Costumes and textiles of royal India
  15. ^ Mohan Lal Nigam, Anupama Bhatnagar (1997) Romance of Hyderabad Culture
  16. ^ Mukherji, P. C. The Pictorial Lucknow (1883)
  17. ^ Ishaq, Muhammad (1977) Bangladesh District Gazetteers: Faridpur, Volumes 7-8 [3]
  18. ^ Ghosh, G.K. (1992) Tribals and Their Culture in Assam, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, Volume 3 [4]
  19. ^ Oxford Dictionary of English "(Punjabi) a long kurta (loose collarless shirt)" [5]
  20. ^ Madhya Pradesh District Gazetteers: Hoshangabad (1827)
  21. ^ Kashyap, Pooja (10.08.2010) The Times of India. Eastern India's first revolving restaurant opens in Patna [6]
  22. ^ Gupta, Shilpy (2009) Human Rights Among Indian Populations: Knowledge, Awareness and Practice [7]
  23. ^ Ghurye, Govind Sadashiv (1966) Indian Costume [8]
  24. ^ Yadava,Ganga Prasad (1982) Dhanapāla and His Times: A Socio-cultural Study Based Upon His Works [9]
  25. ^ Sharma, Brij Narain (1966) Social life in Northern India, A.D. 600-1000[10]
  26. ^ Official Journal of the European Communities: Legislation, Volume 30, Issues 248-256 (1987) [11]
  27. ^ Naik, Shailaja D. (1996( Traditional Embroideries of India
  28. ^ Nasreen Askari, Liz Arthur, Paisley Museum and Art Galleries Merrell Holberton, (1999) Uncut cloth [12]
  29. ^ Punjab District Gazetteers: Attock district, 1930. Printed 1932
  30. ^ Asoke Kumar Bhattacharyya, Pradip Kumar Sengupta (1991) Foundations of Indian Musicology: Perspectives in the Philosophy of Art and Culture [13]
  31. ^ Puneet Pal Singh Gill (04.01.2012) The Chandigarh Tribune Muktsari-style kurta pyjama a fad [14]
  32. ^ Ranjan, Aditi and Ranjan, M. P. (2009) Handmade in India: A Geographic Encyclopedia of Indian Handicrafts [15]
  33. ^ Pakistan Exports, Volume 28 (1977)
  34. ^ Naik, Shailaja D. (1996) Traditional Embroideries of India [16]
  35. ^ [Yet, jeans are among the most comfortable outfits as they can go with just about anything, a short top or even a kurta.]
  36. ^ [17]
  37. ^ Jaime Koh, Stephanie Ho Ph.D (2009) Culture and Customs of Singapore and Malaysia [18]
  38. ^ Panjab University Research Bulletin: Arts, Volume 13, Issue 1 - Volume 14, Issue (1982) [19]
  39. ^ Punjab District Gazetteers: Rawalpindi District (v. 28A) (1909) [20]
  40. ^ Compiled and published under the authority of the Punjab government, (1939)Punjab District and State Gazetteers: Part A].[21]
  41. ^ Flynn, Dorris (1071) Costumes of India [22]
  42. ^ Vanessa Betts, Victoria McCulloch (2014) Indian Himalaya Footprint Handbook: Includes Corbett National Park, Darjeeling, Leh, Sikkim[23]
  43. ^ Sharma, Brijendra Nath (1972) Social and Cultural History of Northern India: C. 1000-1200 A.D [24]
  44. ^ Bhagwan Swaminarayan (2006) Vachanamrut
  45. ^ Simran Ahuja (2014) Nine Nights: Navratri
  46. ^ Murphy, Veronica and Crill, Rosemary (1991) Tie-dyed Textiles of India: Tradition and Trad [25]
  47. ^ S. And Sahgal, Malik Gettingahead In Social Studies:, Book 3
  48. ^ Tierney, Tom (2013) Fashions from India
  49. ^ Sarosh Medhora (02.09.2000) The Tribune. Focus on men’s formals
  50. ^ Indian & Foreign Review, Volume 22 (1984)
  51. ^ Vijaya Ghose, Jaya Ramanathan, Renuka N. Khandekar (1992) Tirtha, the Treasury of Indian Expressions. [26]
  52. ^ Bhandari, Vandana (2005) Costume, textiles and jewellery of India: traditions in Rajasthan [27]
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  56. ^ Winer, Lise (2009) Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago: On Historical Principles [29]
  57. ^ O`malley, L.S.S. (1924) Bihar And Orissa Gazetteers Shahabad
  58. ^ The Eastern Anthropologist, Volumes 27-28 (1974)
  59. ^ Dehradun: International Traveller
  60. ^ Public Relations Department, Himachal Pradesh. Himachal Pradesh Cultural Heritage [30]
  61. ^ Mohanty, P.K (2006) Encyclopaedia of Scheduled Tribes in India: In Five Volume [31]
  62. ^ Asoke Kumar Bhattacharyya, Pradip Kumar Sengupta (1991) Foundations of Indian Musicology: Perspectives in the Philosophy of Art and Culture [32]
  63. ^ Nair, Usha (1979) Gujarati Phonetic Reader[33]
  64. ^ Uttar Pradesh District Gazetteers: Deoria (1998)
  65. ^ Singh, K. S. Anthropological Survey of India (2005) Uttar Pradesh, Volume 1 [34]
  66. ^ Census of India, 1961: Uttar Pradesh
  67. ^ Madhya Pradesh: district gazetteers, Volume 31 (1994)
  68. ^ Sangam The Orient Longman Term Book - Class 4 Term 2
  69. ^ Iranicaonline[35]
  70. ^ Ehsan Yar-Shater. Encyclopaedia Iranica, Volume 5, Parts 5-8 [36]