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The dhoti, also known as veshti, [1] mardani, chaadra, dhontar, 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. [2] [3] [4] It is a lower garment forming part of the folk costume 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. An Indian dancer in dhoti, wrapped around his waist.jpg
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. Anonymous - Four Recruits in White Dhotis, page from the Fraser Album - 1981.247 - Art Institute of Chicago.jpg
An illustration of sepoys (soldiers) recruited into the British Indian military.


Khasi folk dancers wearing "Jainboh" dhotis and other traditional garb. Shad Suk Mysiem.JPG
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. In Welcome of Buddha - ACCN 34-2542 - Government Museum - Mathura 2013-02-24 5941.JPG
Relief depicting men in anatariya and uttariya, 1st century CE.
Female dancer dressed as Krishna in yellow dhoti. A Manipuri Dancer in traditional Krishna attire.jpg
Female dancer dressed as Krishna in yellow dhoti.

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

Native ScriptTransliterationLanguage or region
धोतीDhotī Pali, Hindi
ଧୋତିDhotī Odia
ਚਾਦਰਾChaadra Punjabi
ધૉતિયુDhotiyu Gujarati
धोतरDhotara a Marathi
চুৰিয়া, ধুতিSuriya,Dhuti Assamese
ধুতিDhuti Bengali
ಕಚ್ಚೆ ಪಂಚೆ
Kachche Panche
आड नेसचे,
Āḍa nesace
മുണ്ട്Muṇṭ‌ Malayalam
పంచ, ధోవతిPancha, Dhovathi Telugu
வேட்டிVaetti Tamil
دھوتیDhoti 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

Indian Relief of Ashoka, circa 1st century BC, from the Amaravathi village, Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh (India), in the Guimet Museum (Paris).jpg
A Chakravati wears a pancha in an ancient style. First century BCE/CE. Amaravathi village, Guntur district (Musee Guimet).
Didarganj Yakshi statue in the Bihar Museum.jpg
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. Water pump, Varanasi (15563170660) Cropped.jpg
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. A Rajasthani farmer in dhoti and traditional head dress.jpg
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. Gandhi Salt March.jpg
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

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Sindhi clothing, Both Sindhi women and men wear the shalwar qameez or the kurta with pyjama. Women also wear sari or ghagra. However, before the adoption of the Shalwar kameez and the kurta, the sari as well as other articles of clothing, Sindhis had their own traditional costumes.

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A veshti, also known as vēṭṭi, is a white unstitched cloth wrap for the lower body in Tamil Nadu and in the North and East of Sri Lanka. Vēṭṭi is a part of the traditional attire consisting of Kurta and Angvastra. The garment is a single piece of cloth and similar to the dhoti, one of the earliest draped garments of India. A vēṭṭi is often layered with horizontal stripes or borders across its length.


  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.
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  12. Govind Sadashiv Ghurye (1951) Indian Costume
  13. Indian Costume by Govind Sadashiv Ghurye 1966
  14. Ancient Indian Costume By Roshen Alkazi 1996
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