Rajasthan is colorful because of what its people wear. The dull-colored monotone of the sands and hills look cheery with the vibrant spirits of the people who wear bright colors to make up for the absence of blossoming flowers. Interesting costumes and jewellery of these desert people are not mere ornaments for them. Everything from head-to-toe including the turbans, clothes, jewellery and even the footwear establishes your identity, your religion and your economic and social status in Rajasthan. The dresses of the males and the females are well defined and are made to suit the climate and conditions in which they live. While pagari (turban), angarakha, dhotis or pyjamas, kamarband or patka (waistband) form integral part of a males attire, the females attire includes ghaghara (long skirt), kurti or choli (tops and blouses respectively) and odhani.
In Rajasthan, there is a proverb that states that `a raga in music, taste in food and knots in a pagari are rare accomplishments.` The color of the turban, its style and how it is tied gets special attention from the people here as it symbolizes the caste and region from which the person belongs. People of Udaipur wear a flat pagari, while pagaris of Jaipuriyas are angular while Jodhpuri safa has distinction of having slightly curved bands. Angarakha (translated as the body protector) is usually made up of cotton. On festive occasions, people can be seen wearing tie and dye or printed angarakhas. The two main types of angarahkas prevalent in this region are - frock-style and waist-length kamari angarakha and long angarakha that reaches below ones knees. Dhotis or pyjamas serve the purpose of covering the lower part of the body. The dhoti is a 4-m by 1-m cotton cloth that needs some practice to tie perfectly. Usually white dhotis are in vogue but on special occasions, people also wear silk dhotis with a zari border. People of royal families and upper class used to wear patka, 1 ½ m by 1m cotton cloth that was kept on the shoulders or worn around the waist to tuck in the weapons in the medieval days. Now, it is no longer used and has become obsolete, though, one can still see Brahmins, which continue to put traditional dupattas on their shoulders.
The turban, variously called `pagari`, `pencha`, `sela` or `safa` depending on style, an `angrakha` or `achakan` as the upper garment and `dhoti` or `pyjama` as the lower garment make up the male outfit.
Rajasthani women wear ankle-length long skirts with narrow waist that gain width like an umbrella at the base. It is called ghaghara. However, the length has been kept a little short on purpose, so that foot ornaments are visible. The width and the number of pleats in the `Ghaghara` symbolize ones prosperity. It comes in many colors and styles. The skirt is not folded at the lower end like normal skirts but a broad colored fabric known as sinjaf is sewn underneath to make it stronger. Ghagaras come in many styles but the most popular ones are dyed or printed cotton ghagharas with laharia, mothra and chunari prints just like the turbans of the males. The odhani is a cotton cloth 2.5 to 3 meters long and 1.5 to 2 meters wide that acts as a veil for women.
It is 10 feet long and 5 feet wide, One corner is tucked in the skirt while the other end is taken over the head and right shoulder. Colours and motifs are particular to caste, type of costume and occasion. Both Hindu and Muslims women wear `odhnis`.
An `odhni` with a yellow background and a central lotus motif in red called a `pila`, is a traditional gift of parent to their daughter on the birth of a son. The vibrant and colourful land of Rajasthan, with hospitable and well-attired men and women add a splash of colour to the otherwise parched landscape.
The Diverse Attire
The rich and opulent dresses of the royalty were made under the meticulous attention of special departments in charge of royal costumes while the `Ranghkhana` and the `Chhapakhana` were departments that took care of dyeing and printing the fabrics respectively. The `siwankhana` ensured its flawless and articulate tailoring. Two special sections, the `toshakhanand` and the `kapaddwadra`, took care of the daily wear and formal costumes of the king.
Rajasthani daily wear such as saris, `odhnis` and turbans are often made from textiles using either blockprinted or tie-and-dye techniques.
The Rajput kings, owing their close proximity to the Mughal court dressed up in their colourful and formal best. Richly brocaded material from Banaras and Gujarat, embroidered and woven Kashmiri shawls and delicate cottons from Chanderi and Dhaka were procured at great cost.
Varying styles of turban denote region and caste. These variations are known by different names such as `pagari` and `safa`. Infact, there are about 1,000 different styles and types of turbans in Rajasthan, each denoting the class, caste and region of the wearer. Turbans come in all shapes, sizes and colours; and there are specific turbans for specific occasions as well.
A `pagari` is usually 82 feet long and 8 inches wide. A `safa` is shorter and broader. The common man wears turban of one color, while the elite wear designs and colors according to the occasion.