Women wearing dupatta with Ghagra choli

The dupattā, also called chunni, chunari and chundari, is a long shawl-like scarf traditionally worn by women in the Indian subcontinent to cover the head and shoulders.[1] The dupatta is currently used most commonly as part of the women's shalwar kameez outfit, and worn over the kurta and the gharara.[2][3]


The Hindi-Urdu word dupattā (दुपट्टा, دوپٹہ),[4] 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),[5] i. e., scarf usually doubled over the head.


Dancing woman wearing dupatta, detail from Kalpa Sutra manuscript, c.1300s.

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 shawl-like scarf suggests that the use of the dupatta dates back to this early Indic culture.[6][7] 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).[8] The dupatta is believed to have evolved from the ancient uttariya.[9][10][11]


A Muslim girl wearing a Dupatta to cover her head and shoulders

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.[12]

woman wearing a Dupatta to cover herself from pollution and sunlight

In addition to wearing the dupatta when going out in public, South Asian women wear the dupatta when entering a mandir, mosque, dargah, church or gurdwara.[13][14][15] It is also draped around the head, save for the eyes, as protection against pollution or the sun. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not considered adequate for use as a cloth face mask.[16]

A dupatta used as a covering for the head and face is called a ghoonghat in north India and Pakistan. In Nepal a dupatta or similar shawl is called a pachaura.[17]



  1. ^ de-Gaia, Susan (16 November 2018). Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions: Faith and Culture across History [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-4408-4850-6. Dupatta: A long scarf that is loosely draped over the head and shoulders, commonly worn in South Asia.
  2. ^ Ternikar, Farha Bano (November 2021). Intersectionality in the Muslim South Asian-American Middle Class: Lifestyle Consumption Beyond Halal and Hijab. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-7936-4940-9. Traditionally, a South Asian woman's salwar kameez consists of a loose-flowy tunic (kameez) with matching loose pants (salwar) and a long scarf (dupatta).
  3. ^ Essential India. Fodor's Travel. 12 March 2019. ISBN 978-1-64097-123-3. Most women opt for knee- or calf-length kurtas. The outfit is usually finished with a matching dupatta or chunni, a long scarf draped over the chest with the ends dangling in back, traditionally 6 feet long and 3 feet wide.
  4. ^ "Meaning of dupatta". Rekhta. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  5. ^ "American Heritage Dictionary Entry: dupatta". www.ahdictionary.com. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 2014. Retrieved 2015-05-12.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Condra, Jill (2008). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through World History. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-313-33662-1.
  8. ^ Govind Sadashiv Ghurye (1951) "Indian Costume.", p.236
  9. ^ Simmi Jain (2003). Encyclopaedia of Indian Women Through the Ages: The middle ages, p.200
  10. ^ Anupa Pande (2002). The Buddhist Cave Paintings of Bagh, p.49
  11. ^ Prachya Pratibha (1978). Prachya Pratibha, Volume 6, p.121
  12. ^ Mark Magnier (23 February 2010). "For Pakistani women, dupattas are more than a fashion statement". Los Angeles Times.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "Dupatta Types In Salwar Kameez". The Fashion Station. 18 July 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2022. Dupatta is also used by some women when entering a mosque, dargah, church, gurdwara or mandir, it is the habit in the Indian subcontinent for women to cover their head with a dupatta.
  15. ^ Rader, Debra (19 April 2018). Teaching and Learning for Intercultural Understanding: Engaging Young Hearts and Minds. Routledge. p. 132. ISBN 978-1-351-59523-0. Colourful dupattas and salwar kameez are very common among both the Muslim and non-Muslim women of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
  16. ^ "For women, dupattas turn protective gear". Times of India. 1 April 2020.
  17. ^ "Shawl | British Museum".