From deities to mythological characters mentioned in the Mahabharata and Ramayan, dhoti has remained the staple wear for Indian men. Through ages, this men’s garment has been worn by both kings and the common man. The only difference has been in the use of fabric. While the poor could only afford simple plain cotton dhoti, the ruler of the state would don one made from expensive silks.
Over the past few centuries and more, Western clothing has replaced the traditional Indian menswear. But even today, in functions like weddings, the dhoti enjoys an eminent status and is preferred by men, all across India. The dhoti has not yet lost its popularity in modern day India, as it is still worn with a lot of dignity by the many prominent senior citizens, politicians, musicians, dancers and others.
This is true not only of North India, where this garment is popular, there are others states in Central and South India as well, where dhoti defines culture. Like in Andhra Pradesh it is called Panch, Mundu in Kerala, dhuti in West Bengal, veshti in Tamil Nadu, dhotar in Maharashtra and panche in Karnataka.
While in Northern India the dhoti is worn with a kurta on top, the combination is simply known as dhoti-kurta or a dhuti panjabi in most of East India. In Southern India specifically Tamil Nadu, it is worn with an angavastram which is an unstitched piece of cloth draped over the shoulders or else with a chokka or a shirt in Andhra Pradesh or jubba – a local version of the kurta.
Interestingly, there are also various ways in which a man can tie the dhoti. “In Bengal, men usually wear multiple, fine pleats in front. In the South, men fold their dhoti in half and tuck it at the waist so that it reaches till their knees and so on in different regions,” says men’s designer Rohit Kamra.
“A dhoti normally comes in shades of white or cream. In Tamil Nadu, the is referred to as magatam or pattu pancha which can be either in silk or tusar,” says he.
But Gen Next is not so enthused with the idea of sporting a dhoti nowadays. “Since it is bit difficult for young guys to tie dhotis, stitched ones are available in the market.
Designers are also experimenting a lot with the dhotis without making it too voluminous.”
Vivek Mehra, an art student has never worn a dhoti but likes the designer ones. “Earlier this week we had our annual college programme and I wanted to wear dhoti but since I have never carried it I was shy. I like designer dhoti and I think someday I will be wearing it.”