Traditional Dresses of Maharashtra – The Beauty of Intricacies

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Image – Chandrakant Sontakke

Every culture that thrives in India adds to the glorious diversity that the country has always been proud of. The people of Maharashtra have their traditions that are a reflection of their heritage and a result of the climatic, social, and economic conditions that have prevailed in their land in the long run. The same can be said about the traditional dresses of Maharashtra.

In the Marathi language, ‘costume’ is called ‘vesh bhusha’, which translates to cloth and apparel that is worn to adorn and beautify one’s person. In a civilization, costumes are as much of an imperative as other institutions, like agriculture and housing, that is a result of the prevailing interest of human beings in social and economic development. Beginning as only to serve the basic needs of protection and modesty, garments and clothing have gradually become to signify one’s nationality, gender, and occupation, while also evolving their economic usage. 

Facts about Traditional Dresses of Maharashtra

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Image – Harini Calamur via Flickr

The people of a region adopt a particular style of drapery or clothing as well as ornaments which are passed on from generation to generation, retaining its individuality as well as changing in some aspect or another. Such changes and development in traditional clothing are brought about by geographic, social, political as well as foreign influence. Although traditional clothing distinguishes one ethnicity from another, it also emphasizes the unifying solidarity that exists among the people of a particular culture.   

Maharashtrian clothing not only pleases the aesthetic sense but also, more importantly, portrays the rich heritage of the state, be it in terms of caste, profession, or geographic factors.

Maharashtra state has been a centre of confluence for various cultures since ages; be it the Kushan, the Hun, and the Muslims from the north, the Greeks and the Romans from the western seas, or the British imperialists who brought Christianity. It is a land that has been ruled by the Peshwas, the Marathas, the Mughals, and the Sultans. The rich traditions and culture have been preserved and passed on even during times of overpowering modernisation and Westernisation. 

Traditional Dresses of Maharashtrian Woman

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Image – Ashish Saswadkar via Flickr

Nauvari Saree

The most common form of clothing traditionally worn by Maharashtrian women is the saree named ‘Nauvari’, which means ‘nine yards’, signifying the length of the fabric. It has a unique pattern of draping which is similar to that of the ‘dhoti’ worn by men and allows ease of movement. These sarees are also called the Kashta saree. It refers to the way it is tucked at the back after being draped around the waist and legs. 

Himroo and the Mashru

Originated in the city of Aurangabad in the 15th century CE, the fabrics of the Himroo and the Mashru are luxurious legacies that have been passed down since the times when they were special only for the nobles. Woven with silver and gold threads, these fabrics blend both cotton and silk in a special handloom to produce the distinct and comforting finish of the texture. The process of weaving Himroo is more intricate and requires exclusive skill to master the finery of texture.

Paithani saree

The Paithani sarees, originated in Aurangabad in 17th century CE, with its intricate gold-threaded zari embroidery and rich colours, are exquisite for occasions. Dyed in traditional colours, it is made from pure silk and contains pretty motifs and symbols, especially along the pallav, which is the portion of the saree draped diagonally across the torso.

Narayan Peth saree

From the district of Solapur, the Narayan Peth sarees are famous for their broad and vibrant borders. They are usually strewn around with little motifs called rudrakshas, that strikingly contrast with the rest of the fabric. The zari along the border or pallav of the saree is designed with threads of pure gold. The immaculate motifs of the Narayan Peth saree are usually of flowers and animals. 

Karvat Kati Saree

The Karvat Kati Saree originated in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, in the 18th century CE. The name ‘karvati kati’ literally translates to “saw-edged”, referring to the designs at the ends of the fabric that resemble the teeth of a saw. This saree is usually worn during rituals and ceremonies. Chandrapur and Gadchiroli are the main centres of reeling activities while the weaving takes place at Bhandara and Nagpur districts. 

Ganga-Jamuna saree

The traditional Ganga-Jamuna sarees of Maharashtra originated from the Solapur District and have vivid colours on both the sides of the warp and the weft such that the cloth can be worn and presented in either way. The Nagpur saree, made of Tussar silk, is unique for its designs of checks and stripes across the body and its ornamented borders. Always kept definite in its width and length, the Khana material is used to produce blouses that are traditionally folded in triangular shapes and offered to God during religious ceremonies.

The sarees are worn along with a blouse called the ‘choli’ as the top, with hooks or buttons to allow ease of donning them. During religious practices or holy ceremonies, the women drape the pallav of their saree over their heads as a mark of gratitude and respect towards God and the elders.

Traditional Dresses of Maharashtrian Men

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Image – Anant Nath Sharma via Flickr

Dhoti’ and ‘Kurta

The indigenous attire of the men of Maharashtra includes the simple ‘dhoti’ and ‘kurta’. Tracing its roots back into the 5th century BC, the unstitched cloth called ‘dhoti’ or ‘dhotar’ is accordingly fitted by the wearer by adjusting the draping that goes around the waist and the legs, reaching up to the ankles. The Marathi dhoti is traditionally of sober colours and includes five knots, the extra end of the cloth being tucked in the front and the back. The city of Nagpur is the hub of producing traditional dhoti. During festivities, the men wear Achkan, Churidar, Suvar, and Pyjama. Made of cotton, the Pyjama is tightened around the waist with a string knot and serves comfort. The Churidar is also a type of trousers that fold into horizontal rings at the cuffs, a style that owes to the deliberately longer length of the legs.

The ‘kurta’ is a loose, usually light-coloured shirt, that is traditionally suited for the tropical heat of the state. However, it also comes in attractive colours and designs to wear on occasions like weddings and religious ceremonies. The Pairan type of ‘kurta’ has the side-slits.

The sleeveless jacket or waistcoat named ‘bandi’ is often worn along with the shirt or ‘kurta’ and brings a well-rounded look, even during the heat, thanks to its light, cotton fabric. A cap called ‘pheta’, which grew into its traditional worth during the Peshwa era, is also worn, usually to protect from scorching days. It is made of silk, cotton, or wool.

Kolhapuri sandals

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Image – Piqsels

The Kolhapuri sandals are a traditional symbol that has been around since the 13th century CE. These leather ‘chappals’ are handmade by locals in the district of Kolhapur, a central name in Maharashtrian culture. Open-toed and fitted to the feet with the T-strap, the footwear’s intricate designs are enhanced against its rustic look, usually coloured with vegetable dyes. Although their designs have evolved over the years, the Kolhapuri ‘chappal’ is remarkably durable and strong. These sandals had been most popular only with the menfolk of Maharashtra while the women preferred to be barefoot in the olden days. 

The Maharashtrian attire is not complete without its cultural accessories. The green bangles of Chura worn by married women, the nose-ring or ‘nath’, the ‘bugadi’ earpiece worn on the helix of the ear, necklaces like the Saaj, Putlihaar, and Thusi, the ‘jodvi’ toe-ring, are some of the unique ornaments that bring shape to the customs and traditions of Maharashtra.

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