A Walk Through the Traditional Footwear of India


Image – Wikimedia

Footwear is an important part of any attire. Just as traditional clothing reflects the cultural connotations of a community and area, similarly, footwear too is carefully associated with heritage. India is a unique mix of different cultures and traditions that differ from state to state. And hence, traditional footwear is as much an aspect of culture as any other manifestations of history and heritage. 

Today, one cannot imagine life without any sort of footwear. The practical necessity of wearing one is well understood. However, footwear and also the importance of feet have always been culturally, socially and religiously understood in the country. Touching the feet of elders or walking barefoot in places of worship or taking off footwear during special occasions, all are pointers towards the role and meaning of it all. 

History of Indian footwear

History of Indian footwear
Image – Jarrett/Flickr

It is hard to reach the exact time and point when footwear originated in India. However, some of the earliest references can be traced to the ‘padukas’ of Lord Rama. The Paduka or the ‘khatau’ was brought to Ayodhya and placed on the throne whilst Rama was in exile. Besides, many other religions also mention the paduka worn by saints and religious leaders. Another associative word, the ‘ upanah’ has also been used in ancient texts as meaning footwear. The paduka also finds mention in the historic texts of the 6th and 7th century where merchants were said to be wearing the padukas. A simple footwear, the paduka is made of wood with a single knob-like grip for the toe. 

Over the years, the climate, social status, local availability etc. have led to the origin of different kinds of footwear across the country. Here is taking a look at some of these. 


A Walk Through the Traditional Footwear of India- Juti
Image – Pixahive

The juti or juttis are colorful and stylish footwear made predominantly in Punjab and Rajasthan. One of the best traditional footwear of northern India, they were worn by the Mughals and also the Rajputs. Originally, the juti was worn by the elite and the rich, however, over the years the juti became a symbol of ethnic traditional footwear for all strata of society. Made originally from leather, some of the most royal versions of the juti include zari and precious stone work. Woven with gold and silver threads, the juti was often studded with expensive jewels. Known as ‘Tilla juti’ the tilla or gold and silver wire threads were used to stitch the footwear. Today, jutis are also made in rubber with Patiala and Amritsar as centers of high trade, catering to the domestic, as well as international markets. 

Also, it is a long and tedious task to create a jooti. The craftsmen include people from different communities, such as the chamars who process the hide, the rangaars who paint and color the shoe and the mochis who assemble the different parts of the juti together and stitch it all in place.  

The range of artistry on the juti is wide. From motifs to floral to geometric patterns and designs, the jutis are versatile in style and craft. They can be worn for traditional occasions but today, their usage is also widely appreciated with modern wear. The different styles of juti, include the mirror work jutis, ghunghroo jutis, phulkari jutis, printed jutis and more. Known for comfort and style, this traditional footwear also has different variations. 

Mojari, Khussa, Nagra

Mojaris – Image Source

One of the most popular variants of the juti is the mojari or khussa. Most loved in Rajasthan, the mojari, like jutis, were worn by the kings and maharajas. Made in Jaipur, Jodhpur and also in Punjab, the mojari has no right or left distinction. Cut and then stitched together, the traditional mojaris have no heels and are worn as flats. There is also the toe curl on the edge that distinguishes this type of the mojari from other footwear. In fact, the upward curve is especially worn by men and the footwear is also known as khussa. The khussas are also cultural footwear for Pakistan. The Multani Khussas for example are quite popular too. Besides, the mojari, like the jutis, are worn by both men and women.

khussa – Image Source

The Nagra is another variant of the juti which is soft and rounded on the top edge. It resembles a ballerina shoe but has been inspired by the Mughal and Rajput style of footwear. 

The juti and its variations today not only are sold in the domestic market but also have a wide global appeal. Some of the other varieties of the juti, include the Jalsa juti, Kasuri juti, Salem Shahi juti and more. 

Kolhapuri Chappals

Folk Art Forms of Maharashtra- Kolhapuri Chappals

As the name suggests, the Kolhapuri chappals originate from the town of Kolhapur in Maharashtra. Handmade from leather, the footwear is traditionally colored using vegetable dyes. As per records, the creation of the Kolhapuri footwear began in the 13th century when King Bijjala along with Basavanna, his Prime Minister, patronized the footwear as a way to uplift the cobbler community. The Saudhager or Saudagar family and household further converted the Kolhapuri footwear into a light weight flap version that made it popular and till date remains the main essence of its design and style. Made from the thick buffalo skin the Kolhapuri footwear is one of the most durable footwear and can withstand rocky terrains. 

Though the Kolhapuri chappals are simple in style, today their range and designs have increased. They come in metallic colors, decorated with stones and sequins and are adorned by both men and women with ethnic, as well as modern attires. 

The Kolhapuri footwear is however, not only created in Maharashtra, but also in the state of Karnataka. It was also known with different names based on the names of the villages in which the footwear was made. Some of these are Paytaan, Kapashi, Bakkalnali, Kachkadi, Pukari and more. 

Pula Chappal

Image Source

The Pula chappal hails from the state of Himachal Pradesh. Made from bhang or the shale grass, this colorful footwear is ideal for the climate of the state. The grass is twisted in the form of a rope and then topped with woolen threads. Made by the mountain locals, the chappals are perfect for walking on snow. The footwear is, however, multipurpose and is also worn in temples and during religious ceremonies. Initially, the people of the state wore leather shoes, but because the state is also known as the ‘Land of Gods’, the leather was deemed inappropriate. Created mainly by the villagers of Chad, the Pula footwear is popular in other states, such as Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. 


A Walk Through the Traditional Footwear of India- Pabu
Image – Wikimedia

The Pabu is the traditional footwear from Ladakh. Made in line with the climatic and terrain conditions of the region, this unique and distinctive looking footwear is colorful and wonderfully styled. The shoe rises on the top edge and is cozy and warm, wrapping the entire foot and extending over the ankle. The Theme Pabu is worn by the ladies of the community and is embellished and designed by colorful motifs that are created on a woolen velvety surface. The footwear is made from the wool that is hand woven from sheep or yak and then is stitched on a leather surface by the cobbler. 


The Khapusas were boots that were worn by the locals residing in the Himalayas from the 1st century onwards. They might have originated from Iran and were considered perfect for the terrain of the region, as well as a form of protection from snakes, stones, snow etc. Today, knee length boots are a fashion and practical addition in many parts of the country and the world. 

Pastoral footwear

Gujarat is home to many nomadic and pastoral communities, such as the Bharwads and Rabari. They walk for long hours over hard terrain and thus, these communities wear traditional footwear, called Rabari na lagna joda or Bharwadi Desi joda. A joda signifies a pair of footwear and it is named according to the community that wears it. The footwear is mostly made by another community called the Gohil. Layers of leather are sewn together by hand to create durable and rough pairs of footwear. 

Traditional footwear in India is closely associated with the physical and cultural landscape of the region. Thankfully, most of the traditional footwear continues to hold ground in modern times. Their style, unique designs, comfort and durability make them popular not only in the domestic market but also internationally. 

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