Women wearing dupatta
Women wearing dupatta

The dupattā is a shawl traditionally worn by women in South Asia. The dupatta is currently used most commonly as part of the women's shalwar kameez outfit, and worn over the kurta and the gharara.


The word dupattā, meaning "shawl of doubled cloth," derived from Middle Indic elements stemming from Sanskrit, is a combination of du- (meaning "two", from Sanskrit dvau, "two" and dvi-, combining form of dvau) and paṭṭā (meaning "strip of cloth," from paṭṭaḥ),[1] i. e., scarf usually doubled over the head.


Sanchi Stupa relief: women with dupatta on balconies watching men fighting for buddha relics
Sanchi Stupa relief: women with dupatta on balconies watching men fighting for buddha relics

Early evidence of the dupatta can be traced to the Indus valley civilization, where the sculpture of a priest-king whose left shoulder is covered with some kind of a chaddar suggests that the use of the dupatta dates back to this early Indic culture.[2][3] Early Sanskrit literature has a wide vocabulary of terms for the veils and scarfs used by women during the ancient period, such as avagunthana (cloak-veil), uttariya (shoulder-veil), mukha-pata (face-veil), and siro-vastra (head-veil).[4] The dupatta is believed to have evolved from the ancient uttariya.[5][6][7]


Woman with muslin dupatta. 12th/13th-century Buddhist book, Nepal
Woman with muslin dupatta. 12th/13th-century Buddhist book, Nepal

The dupatta is worn in many regional styles across South Asia. Originally, it was worn as a symbol of modesty. While that symbolism still continues, many today wear it as just a decorative accessory. There is no single way of wearing the dupatta, and as time evolves and fashion modernizes, the style of the dupatta has also evolved. A dupatta is traditionally worn across both shoulders and around the head. However, the dupatta can be worn like a cape around the entire torso. The material for the dupatta varies according to the suit.[citation needed] There are various modes of wearing dupatta. When not draped over the head in the traditional style, it is usually worn with the middle portion of the dupatta resting on the chest like a garland, with the ends thrown over each shoulder. When the dupatta is worn with the shalwar-kameez, it is casually allowed to flow down the front and back.[citation needed] In current fashions, the dupatta is frequently draped over one shoulder, and even over just the arms. Another recent trend is the short dupatta, which is more a scarf or a stole, often worn with a kurti and Indo-Western clothing. Essentially, the dupatta is often treated as an accessory in current urban fashion.[8]

When entering a mosque, dargah, church or gurdwara, South Asian women cover their head with a dupatta.[9] It is also draped around the head, save for the eyes, as protection against pollution or the sun. But is criticised for its use as cloth face mask.[10]

A dupatta used as a covering for the head and face is called a ghoonghat in north India.



  1. ^ "American Heritage Dictionary Entry: dupatta". www.ahdictionary.com. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 2014. Retrieved 2015-05-12.
  2. ^ Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early medieval India : from the Stone Age to the 12th century. New Delhi: Pearson Education. p. 137. ISBN 9788131711200.
  3. ^ Condra, Jill (2008). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through World History. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-313-33662-1.
  4. ^ Govind Sadashiv Ghurye (1951) "Indian Costume.", p.236
  5. ^ Simmi Jain (2003). Encyclopaedia of Indian Women Through the Ages: The middle ages, p.200
  6. ^ Anupa Pande (2002). The Buddhist Cave Paintings of Bagh, p.49
  7. ^ Prachya Pratibha (1978). Prachya Pratibha, Volume 6, p.121
  8. ^ Mark Magnier (23 February 2010). "For Pakistani women, dupattas are more than a fashion statement". Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ Goldman, Ann; Hain, Richard; Liben, Ann Goldman Richard Hain Stephen (2006). Ox Textbook Palliat Care Child Oxt:ncs C. Oxford University Press. p. 224. ISBN 9780198526537. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  10. ^ "For women, dupattas turn protective gear". Times of India. 1 April 2020.