Dhoti-The Ancient Indian Attire of Gods, Sages and Kings

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While Indian women famously wear beautiful saris, for Indian men, the equivalent of the traditional garment is the Dhoti.

The Dhoti is a common form of menswear in India. Originating from the Sanskrit word “dhoti”, which means to “cleanse or wash”, the Dhoti refers to a cleansed garment which is part of everyday wear and frequently worn. A form of men’s trousers, the style of the Dhoti actually evolved from the Antriya, which was an ancient garment what was worn by passing a cloth through one’s legs and tucking it in at the back of the waist. The Antriya loosely covered one’s legs and fell into long pleats at the front.

Part of Indian men’s national and ethnic costume, the Dhoti is also referred to as dhoti, chaadra, mardani, dhotar, and panchey. The traditional Dhoti is made of a single rectangular piece of unstitched cloth. It usually measures around four and a half to five meters or fifteen feet long.

The Dhoti is worn similarly to women’s saris, which is wrapped around one’s waist. However, the main difference is that the Dhoti wraps around the waist and hips, with one end then going between the legs and is finally knotted or tucked into the waistband at either the front or the back. This way of wearing creates a fit and silhouette that’s much like one’s usual trousers. The general Dhoti style of bottoms drapes loosely around the thighs or upper area of the leg and then gradually narrows and tapers down towards the hemline. However, the exact way one wraps a Dhoti around the body to create a bottom garment largely depends on the region where one is from. It is commonly worn over loincloth undergarments such as a kaupinam or langot. One could imagine the Dhoti as a hybrid of a sari and pair of harem trousers but of course, with a unique Indian flair.

Cotton and silk are typically used for the Dhoti’s rectangular fabric. While black is arguably the most common color for trousers, when it comes to Dhotis, plain white and solid cream are the most prevalent colors worn by Indian men. The style and fabric of the Dhoti make it both a practical and comfortable garment to wear throughout the year, especially with India’s tropical climate. Cotton dhotis, worn with a kurta or shirt, are usually meant for daily use and are more casual in style. However, the Dhoti isn’t just for everyday wear. They are actually worn for various occasions, including formal celebrations, traditional events and religious ceremonies. When it comes to formal wear, including Dhotis worn for wedding ceremonies, one will find men wearing silk Dhotis with embroidered borders and paired with an angavasthram for the upper body. The Dhoti is also typically worn by Indian politicians as it is a traditional attire that conveys authority, dignity, and respect. Regardless of occasion, the Dhoti is a traditional garment that distinguishes Indian men.

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