In Andhra Pradesh it is called Pancha, in North India it is called dhoti in Hindi, 'Laacha' in Punjabi, 'mundu' in Malayalam, 'dhuti' in Bangla, 'veshti' in Tamil, 'dhotar' in Marathi and 'panche' in Kannada, is the traditional garment of men's wear in India. Dhoti is a rectangular piece of unstitched cloth, usually around 5 yards long, wrapped about the waist and the legs, and knotted at the waist.
Dhoti, a cloth-piece covering the lower part of the body from the waist, is a kind of traditional drapery, bearing the signature of the heritage of Indian civilisation. This single piece of rectangular stitchless cloth, measuring about 5 yards in length, can give a man an air of elegance, inherent to his culture.
In northern India the dhoti is worn with a Kurta on top, the combination known simply as "dhoti kurta", or a "dhuti panjabi" in the East. In southern India, it is worn with an angavastram which is a another unstitched cloth draped over the shoulders in Tamil Nadu or else with a "chokka"(shirt) in Andhra Pradesh or "jubba" (a local version of kurta). On occasions Dhoti kurta is considered formal wear in India.
Dhoti is a traditional Indian men's wear and even in the developed world today men love to wear this ethnic wear occasionally. To tie a dhoti is a difficult task. This attire worn by important political persons makes a political statement. Many people say that clothes may or may not make a man but they certainly make a point when political leaders wear them. Indian political leaders wear their political ideologies on their sleeves by choosing clothes. So if you follow the dhoti trend in Indian political arena, they will tell altogether a different story.
Dhoti is known to be a traditional wear for men all over the country. It is called by different names and worn differently in different sates of India. Over the past century or more, the western clothings have taken the place of traditional Indian wear like dhoti. But in traditional functions like wedding ceremony, it still enjoys an eminent status and preferred by men, all across India. Earlier the dhoti used to be a casual daily wear of the Indian men. But with modernization of our society, it steadily relegated to being just formal clothing in India, though there are still people especially in the rural belts for whom dhoti is the regular clothing attire.
The dhoti dress has not yet lost its popularity in modern day India, as it is still worn with a lot of dignity by the many prominent senior citizens, politicians, musicians, dancers and others. Apart from being worn on all important government and family occasions, the dhoti kurta is also allowed to be worn in the post upscale clubs, which normally stipulate very stern dress code for guests. There is one prominent Indian citizen who gets all credit for popularizing this attire beyond the Indian borders and he is Mahatma Gandhi.
There are various styles of wearing the Indian dhoti. The Bengali style is- men usually make pleats in their dhoti. In south India, the dhoti wearers add the angavastram to their attire, which is an extra piece of unstitched cloth kept on the shoulders. For convenience purpose, many south Indian men fold their dhoti in half and tuck it at the waist so that it reaches only till the knees. In certain Indian communities in Rajasthan, wearing the dhoti-kurta is mandatory.
A dhoti is the coventional male costume for attending official meetings, or ceremonial occcassions, in the entire nation. Even today's young generation, flaunt themselves in Dhotis, ornately designed, happen to be their foremost priority, during festivals, social-gatherings and ceremonies.It not only furnishes them with an ethnic look, which is the in-thing now, but increases the element of dignity, related to manliness.
This attire of eminence, Dhoti is the costume of most of the national icons too. Ranging from the ministers, politicians, national leaders, to the cultural cultivators, like musicians, poets, and men of letters, represent the nation, being Dhoti clad.
Indeed, dhoti was the insignia of national tradition, a strong pillar of Ghandhi's championing of indigenous culture, in the face of the oppressive enforcement cast by the British regime in India. The glorification of Dhoti, was a constituent programme of Satyagraha movement, initiated by the venerated Bapu, the Father of India, Gandhi, during the national war of Independence in India.
Gandhi, himself used to wear Dhoti, to personify the teeming millions of the country, starting from the humble farmers to the elite class, as all had Dhoti as their common dress.
Dhoti, in this hi-tech age, is till date, the daily garment for many regions in India. For example, the royal Rajputs, proudly display themselves in Dhoti. The Bengali manner of Dhoti-draping is quite artistic .Dhoti, with sober but attractive patterns, are arranged in proper pleats, with the front portion of the cloth being held firmly as a japanese fan. Dhoti is the hereditary groom's costume in Bengali marraiges. Again, the manner of wearing is differernt in Tamil Nadu. One famous style is the Pancha Katcham, i.e. five knots or five folds.
A Dhoti, normally comes in shades of white, crme or beige. In South India especifically in Tamil Nadu, the material of Dhots, known as Magatam or Pattu Pancha, is in general, silk, while the fabric could be of tussar, or silk, or comfortable cotton in Bengal. Crimson, Dhotis called Sowlay, is the uniform of the temple-priests in Maharashtra.
The Dhoti is an integral part of our cultural context, and daily customs and religion. Dhoti, as an Indian traditional costume, contains, the very impression of Indianness, needful to project our national identity, before the entire world.
How to wear a dhoti:
• The dhoti is one long piece of cloth. The first step is to start by folding the dhoti in half so that it is half its original length.
• Drape the dhoti behind onself. The stripe of the dhoti should be vertical and held at the top by the left hand. The top of the folded side should be in your right hand and the dhoti should drape almost to the ground behind your heels.
• Bring together in front side the folded side in the right hand to meet the stripe side in your left hand.
• Hold both the folded and stripe side in the left hand and bring them at even tension directly on to the left side, keeping the bottom of the dhoti level and near the ground.
• Hold the stripe side in the left hand as one accordion fold the fold side with the right hand until it is even horizontally with the left leg.
• There should now be a folded bunch in one's right hand. Slightly lift this bunch in the right hand as one bring's the stripe side over it on to the right side.
The dhoti is now wrapped around the waist. What is left is adjusting the tightness and rolling it down to hold the tension in place.
• Take the bunch in the right hand twist it slightly together and to the left and slip the top side of the dhoti just over the bunch to hold it in place.
• Even up the stripe side so that the stripe is vertical and the dhoti drapes level just above the floor.
• Roll the top of the dhoti down to a comfortable waist level, somewhere below the belly button.
Tips for comfort and convenience: Dhotis do not have pockets, but they do have a roll at the waistline which is very much useful. It is possible to carry small items such as keys, cash, and some IDs by placing them in the roll. With some practice, your items will be secure and easily accessible. One should be careful going up steps while wearing a dhoti. It is easy to step on the dhoti, especially the left side. Lifting the bunched accordion fold higher before rolling helps alleviate this problem. Silk dhotis do stay on.
You do not need to wear undergarments with your dhoti, but be aware that the fabric is thin, especially in the back. Wearing your white dhoti in the rain might be more interesting than you anticipated. Wind can blow open dhotis and when you sit down the dhoti may come slightly apart. The more you overlap the fabric in the middle the less of a problem this is. When you order a dhoti you will probably have to trim off the end. If there is a seemingly useless strip of cloth attached by threads to either end of your dhoti cut it off. This is just to keep the dhoti from fraying until it is sold. Dhotis do stop fraying naturally. They do not just come apart after some time. Dhotis are traditionally worn very near the ground, almost touching. If you plan on dancing in your dhoti, wrap it a little higher to keep it from being stepped on. Fold the dhoti in half before drying it and make sure the stripes line up. When you take it out of the dryer it should still be folded in half with the stipes lined up. This is important for making sure the dhoti stays together well when it is wrapped.