The dhoti, also known as veshti,[1] mardani, chaadra, dhotar, jaiñboh & panchey, is a type of sarong, fastened in between the legs in a manner that it outwardly resembles trousers, sometimes loose but other tighter fittings are worn as well, most popular in India and Nepal.[2][3][4] It is a lower garment forming part of the traditional clothing for men in the Indian subcontinent.[5] The dhoti is fashioned out of a rectangular piece of unstitched cloth, usually around 4.5 metres (15 ft) long, wrapped around the waist and the legs and knotted, either in the front or the back.

An artiste performing a Dogri dance at a theatre in Jammu.

The dhoti is touted as the male counterpart of the saari worn by females to religious and secular ceremonies (functions).[6] Pitambar is a yellow silk dhoti worn on auspicious occasions.[7][8] The dhoti worn over the lower waist and drawn up in between the legs, is a 5-yard-long piece of woven fabric; it must not be confused with prestitched "dhoti pants", which are a new ready to wear trend these days, popular among women and typical of children.[9][10][11]

An illustration of sepoys (soldiers) recruited into the British Indian military.


Khasi folk dancers wearing "Jaiñboh" dhotis and other traditional garb.

It is also referred to as "Dhautra" (IPA: /dʱɑwtɽɐ/) in Sanskrit, which means rope or cord. The dhoti evolved from the ancient antriya which was passed through the legs, tucked at the back and covered the legs loosely, then flowed into long pleats at front of the legs, the same way it is worn today as formal dhoti.[12]: 130  While a casual and short dhoti wraps around both legs firmly, in this style the back side of the dhoti is pulled to the front and tucked at the waist, before tucking the two loose ends at back, creating firmly fitted trouser-like dhoti that wraps around both legs. This style is more commonly worn by farmers and martial artists.[13][14]

Names and styles

Relief depicting men in anatariya and uttariya, 1st century CE.
Female dancer dressed as Krishna in yellow dhoti.

The garment is known by various names based on language, such as:

Native Script Transliteration Language or region
धोती Dhotī Pali, Maithili, Nepali and Hindi
मर्दानी Mardānī Hindi
ଧୋତି Dhotī Odia
ਚਾਦਰਾ Chaadra Punjabi
ધૉતિયુ Dhotiyu Gujarati
धोतर Dhotara a Marathi
চুৰিয়া, ধুতি Suriya, Dhuti Assamese
ধুতি Dhuti Bengali
ಕಚ್ಚೆ ಪಂಚೆ
Kachche Panche
आड नेसचे,
Āḍa nesace
മുണ്ട് Muṇṭ‌ Malayalam
పంచె, ధోవతి Pañce, Dhōvati Telugu
வேட்டி Vaetti Tamil
دھوتی Dhoti Urdu
a In Marathi, a dhotar is not the same as a pancha (plural panche).
While the former is worn around the waist, the latter is normally
a towel used after bathing (compare below).

Custom and usage

A Chakravati wears a pancha in an ancient style. First century BCE/CE. Amaravathi village, Guntur district (Musee Guimet).
The Didarganj Yakshi depicting the dhoti wrap.

The pancha is worn by many conservative Jain men when they visit Derasars or Basadis for puja; unstitched clothing is believed by some Jains to be "less permeable to pollution" and therefore more appropriate for religious rituals than other garments.[15] They also wear a loose and unstitched cloth, shorter than the pancha on top.

A Benaresi man in dhoti with a kurta of Central Asian culture, at Uttar Pradesh.

Hare Krishna, known for its distinctive dress code, prompts Western adherents to wear pancha, usually of saffron or white cloth folded in the traditional Bengali style. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was known for wearing a white silk dhoti.[16]

The dhoti has been ethnically worn by farmers, pehlwano (wrestlers) and shepherds (grazers) of the Sikhs in the Punjab region; it was discouraged during the Punjab Subah Movement, owing it to the inter-communal tensions prevalent at the time.[17][18] The dhothi was also worn by South Canarese Christian men to their pre-nup ceremonies, Church weddings & receptions until the 1960s, when they fell out of favour; since then grooms have been styling the black suit and tie instead.[19]

A man in dhoti paired with the central asian kurta, Rajasthan.

There's a distinction between the lungi, a similar garment often worn by people at their homes, as it is more casual and comfortable, dhoti is sometimes even worn by secular politicians.[20]

M K Gandhi in 1935.

At the height of the Indian Independence Movement, weaving was a symbol of the Swadeshi Movement. In 1921, the famed M K Gandhi himself championed only the dhoti often topless and without a kurta, to promote and identify with the weaves and handicrafts, produced by the rural and the poor of his homeland.[21][22][23]

See also


  1. ^ "What is Veshti". Rhythm Dhotis. 2020.
  2. ^ Company, Fideler (1960). Life in Other Lands. Fideler. p. 78. Retrieved 3 January 2021. It is arranged to look like a pair of baggy trousers. This garment is called a dhoti and is usually made of cotton.
  3. ^ Bhandari, Vandana (2005). Costume, Textiles and Jewellery [i.e. Jewelry] of India: Traditions in Rajasthan. Mercury Books. p. 105. ISBN 9781904668893. Retrieved 3 January 2021. One of the reasons for the dhoti's enduring popularity is its loose trouser - like form, which is convenient and extremely well - suited to the tropical Indian climate .
  4. ^ K Parker, Lewis (1994). India. Rourke Book Company. p. 14. ISBN 9781559160056. Retrieved 3 January 2021. Boys and men often wear a dhoti. This is a piece of white cloth wound around the waist. Dhotis look like comfortable, baggy pants.
  5. ^ "Indian Dhoti". Indian Mirror. Archived from the original on 29 July 2020. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  6. ^ Avasthi, Vivek (14 January 2020). "Sarees for women, dhoti for men: Officer's dress code for Kashi temple irks minister". The Federal. Archived from the original on 5 August 2020. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  7. ^ Henry, Baden Powell (1872). Hand-book of the Economic Products of the Punjab (etc.): Forming ... to the hand-book of the economic products of the Punjab. Engineering College Press. pp. 65, 67.
  8. ^ Birdwood, George Christopher Molesworth (1884). The Industrial Arts of India. Chapman and Hall. p. 363.
  9. ^ "Doting Upon the Return of Dhoti Pants". 12 November 2018.
  10. ^ "Latest Fashion, Trends and Style for Dhoti Kurta for Girls". 16 May 2022.
  11. ^ "What are dhoti pants".
  12. ^ Govind Sadashiv Ghurye (1951) Indian Costume
  13. ^ Indian Costume by Govind Sadashiv Ghurye 1966
  14. ^ Ancient Indian Costume By Roshen Alkazi 1996
  15. ^ Cort, John E (2001). Jains in the World: Religious Values and Ideology in India. Oxford University Press. p. 221. doi:10.1093/0195132343.001.0001. ISBN 9780195132342.
  16. ^ Koppel, Lily (February 6, 2008). "Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a Guide On the Beatles' Spiritual Path, Dies". New York Times. p. C.10.
  17. ^ Brard, Gurnam Singh Sidhu (2007). East of Indus: My Memories of Old Punjab. Hemkunt Press. ISBN 9788170103608.
  18. ^ Lamba, Krishan Gopal (1999). Dynamics of Punjabi Suba Movement. Deep & Deep Publications. ISBN 9788176291293.
  19. ^ Silva, Severine; Fuchs, Stephen (1965). "The Marriage Customs of the Christians in South Canara, India". Asian Folklore Studies. 24 (2): 1–52. doi:10.2307/1177555. JSTOR 1177555.
  20. ^ McLain, Sean (2014-07-23). "No Dhotis Please, We're Indian". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2017-11-03.
  21. ^ Sankaralingam, Sathrukkan (2020-09-02). "Gandhi - Weaving a nation together". Minister White Blog. Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  22. ^ "What made Gandhiji wear only Loincloth or Dhoti". Retrieved 2021-10-07.
  23. ^ "Importance of Veshties in Tamil Culture". Ramraj Cotton. Retrieved 2022-07-13.