The saffron clothes of this sadhu (holy man) indicates that he is a sannyasi. Tucked under his arm he holds the customary danda(staff).

A married man dressed in a traditional white cotton dhoti. On the top he wears a generously cut shirt called a kurta. Men often wear achaddar (shawl) which in cold weather can be wrapped around the shoulders and torso. When the weather is warm, it can be folded over the shoulder. In Britain, practically all Hindu men wear western clothes, except perhaps on important religious occasions. In India, men wear Western or Indian clothes and often a mixture of both.

A Hindu lady dressed in a sari. In India most women still dress like this. In the early seventies, when Hindus started arriving en-masse in Britain, practically all women wore traditional costume. Western fashion is becoming increasingly prevalent in subsequent generations, although ladies often still wear saris when visiting the mandir. It is now not unusual to see photos of some Western dignitaries wearing an exotic silk sari. Some Muslims, such as those from Bangladesh, also wear saris.

A Punjabi Hindu woman, dressed in the salwar­kameez. It consists of a tunic (kameez) covering loosely fitting trousers (salwar). Occasionally, a chunni (shawl) is used to cover the head and shoulders. Sikh women wear the same costume.

Like other aspects of Indian culture, dress has religious as well as aesthetic significance. It demonstrates both elegance and simplicity, and can be produced by village workshops without the need for large factories. Many clothes, such as a lady’s sari and a man’s dhoti, are simply pieces of cloth and do not require tailoring. For women there is an emphasis on modesty rather than sexual allurement, and simple elegance, rather than fashion. Saris come in a whole range of regional styles, and are made from cotton, silk or nylon. There are different regional ways of wearing a sari, although the “nivi” style has become very popular recently.

Personal Reflection

  • What significance does dress have for us? How does it affect or relate to our identity and self-worth?
  • Does dress reflect a person’s nature, culture or values? Or do we feel that determining a person by his or her dress is being judgmental?