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Achkan sherwani and churidar (lower body) worn by Maharaja Arvind Singh Mewar and his kin during a Hindu wedding in Rajasthan, India.

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 Indian subcontinent.[1] It is worn over a kurta with the combination of either a churidar, a dhoti, a pajama, or a shalwar/sirwal 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 sherwani originated in the 19th century British India as the European style court dress of nobles and royals of northern India,[2] before being more generally adopted in the late 19th century. It appeared as a fusion of the British frock coat and an achkan, first at Lucknow in the 1820s.[3] It was gradually adopted by rest of the Indian royalty and aristocracy, and later by the general population, as a more evolved form of occasional traditional attire. The name of attire is possibly derived from Shirvan or Sherwan, a region of present-day Azerbaijan due to the folk dress of that area (Chokha) which resembles Sherwani in its outlook. Therefore, the garment may also be a direct derivative of the Caucasian dress due to ethnic and cultural linkages.


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


Jawaharlal Nehru (left) wearing an achkan sherwani with churidar.[4]

In India, the achkan sherwani is generally worn for formal occasions in winter, especially by those from Rajasthan, Punjab, Delhi, Jammu, Uttar Pradesh and Hyderabad.[5][6] The achkan sherwani is generally associated with the Hindus while the simple sherwani was historically favoured by Muslims.[7] 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.[8] In India, the achkan or sherwani is generally worn with the combination of Churidar as the lower garment.[9]


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.[10] 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".[11] 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 India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.[12] 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.

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.

Pakistani journalist, filmmaker and activist, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy appeared in sherwani to receive Academy Award in 2012 and 2015.[13][14][15][16][17]

See also[edit]


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