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Achkan sherwani and churidar(lower body) worn by men during a wedding in Rajasthan, India.
A 19th century, British style frock coat, on which the sherwani was based.

Sherwani (Hindi: शेरवानी; Urdu: شیروانی‎; Bengali: শেরওয়ানি) is a long coat-like garment worn in the Indian subcontinent, very similar to a British frock coat or a Polish żupan. It was traditionally associated with the Muslim aristocracy of the Indian subcontinent.[1] It is worn over a kurta with the combination of either churidar, dhoti, pajama, or a salwar as the lower-body clothing. It can be distinguished from the achkan by the fact that it is shorter in length, is often made from heavier suiting fabrics, and by the presence of a lining.


The two founders of Aligarh movement wearing sherwani, Nawab Mohsin ul Mulk, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Justice Syed Mahmood.

The origin of sherwani can be traced back in Central Asia during the times when it was the dress code of nobles in the Mughal Empire.[2] The Sherwani became popular in 18th century British India as the European style court dress of nobles and royals of the Mughal dynasty,[3] before being more generally adopted in the late 18th century. To the Muslims of northern India, like the Urdu language, it also became a symbol of Muslim nobility and Independence.[4] Before the independence of India and Pakistan, the Sherwani was closely associated with founders of Aligarh Movement. Following Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, all the Muslim professors and students wore Sherwani. The name Aligarh Sherwani was also coined, inspired by the popularity of the design at Aligarh Muslim University.[5] At the Aligarh Muslim University, these Sherwanis are still worn to keep alive a long running tradition of academics.


In Bangladesh, the sherwani or achkan[non sequitur] is worn by people on formal occasions such as weddings and eid.


Jawaharlal Nehru (left) wearing an achkan sherwani.[6]

In India, the achkan sherwani[clarification needed] is generally worn for formal occasions in winter, especially by those from Rajasthan, Punjab, Jammu and some parts of Uttar Pradesh.[7][8][citation needed] The achkan sherwani[clarification needed] is generally associated with the Hindus while the simple sherwani was historically favored by Muslims.[9] The two garments have significant similarities, though sherwanis typically are more flared at the hips and achkans are lengthier than simple sherwanis. The achkan later evolved into the Nehru Jacket, which is popular in India.[10] In India, the achkan or sherwani is generally worn with the combination of Churidar as the lower garment.[11]


Jinnah (right) addressing the Constituent Assembly on 14 August 1947, wearing a sherwani.

After the independence of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah frequently wore the sherwani.[12] Following him, most government officials in Pakistan such as the President and Prime Minister started to wear the formal black sherwani over the shalwar qameez on state occasions and national holidays. But as Dr Tariq Rahman writes about the European style officers that "the impeccably dressed South Asian officers, both civilian and military, never wore in public till the 1970s when Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gave respectability to this dress by wearing it in public".[13] However, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq made it compulsory for all officers to wear sherwani on state occasions and national holidays.

Sri Lanka[edit]

In Sri Lanka, it was generally worn as the formal uniform of Mudaliyars and early Tamil legislators during the British colonial period. The diplomatic service had incorporated its use for formal occasions overseas.[citation needed]

Modern sherwanis[edit]

Sherwanis are mostly worn in Pakistan.[14] They are also worn by some Indian and Bangladeshi grooms as wedding dress. These garments usually feature detailed embroidery or patterns. One major difference between sherwani wearing habits is the choice of lower garment, while in India, the dress is distinguished by their preference for churidars or dhotis, in Pakistan and Bangladesh, it is mainly worn with shalwar instead.

Pakistani journalist, filmmaker and activist, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy appeared in sherwani to receive Academy Award in 2012 and 2015.[15][16][17][18][19]

In Pakistan, Women Sherwanis are becoming very Popular and many local designers have been designing Women Sherwanis.

Sherwanis have also been designed by the Indian designer, Rohit Bal for British Airways cabin crews serving on flights to India. Music director A.R. Rahman also appeared in a black sherwani to receive an Academy Award.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of National Dress: Traditional Clothing Around the World [Volume 1], p. 571
  2. ^ Dress Described in 'Social and Cultural History of India Since 1556 By N. Jayapalan, P.1'
  3. ^ "Royal Patronage, Power and Aesthetics in Princely India". Google Books. 
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of National Dress: Traditional Clothing Around the World [Volume 1] By Jill Condra, p. 571
  5. ^ Mourning the Sherwani, by Ayesha Javed Akram.
  6. ^ "Nehru's style statement". 
  7. ^ "Nehru's style statement". 
  8. ^ "Shifting Sands: Costume in Rajasthan". 
  9. ^ "From Cool to Un-cool to Re-cool: Nehru and Mao tunics in the sixties and post-sixties West". 
  10. ^ "Nehru's style statement". 
  11. ^ "Altogether book". 
  12. ^ Ahmed, Akbar S. (1997). Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin. Psychology Press. pp. 99–. ISBN 978-0-415-14966-2. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Encyclopedia of National Dress: Traditional Clothing Around the World [Volume 1], p. 571
  15. ^ "Pakistan's Oscar triumph for acid attack film Saving Face". BBC News. Nosheen Abbas. Retrieved 28 December 2014. 
  16. ^ Oscar-winning Pakistani Filmmaker Inspired by Canada
  17. ^ Clark, Alex (2016-02-14). "The case of Saba Qaiser and the film-maker determined to put an end to 'honour' killings". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-02-18. 
  18. ^ [1] Dawn 24 January 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2011
  19. ^ "Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy fights to end honour killings with her film A Girl in the River". Retrieved 2016-02-18.