My Appa wears dhoti only when he is in his ancestral house in Kerala. He has stuffed his wardrobe with both ‘lungi’ and ‘dhoti’. But I have not seen him in dhoti in the hottest metro. Is he embarrassed to tie a four-yard long piece of white cloth? I am puzzled. Men found in western outfitting like pants and trousers in India are relatively higher than Indian women in western attire.
No other country in the world has such a fashion heritage than India. Both haute couture and large scale textile industries produce dhotis in varied styles. In its’ seemingly simple texture, Indian tradition and legacy are interweaved. The tradition of dhoti is yet to be discovered.
We call this classy cloth by different names such as veshti, mundu, lungi, dhoti etc. While lungi is the famous among all since Sharukh Khan popularized it through ‘lungi dance’.Association of celebrities with the dhotis is remarkable. A renowned Chennai-based dhoti manufacturing unit features theleading movie actors of south-indianstates for the advertisement of it’s brand.
Nowadays, youngsters are the ones popularizing dhotis. College functions without dhotis are not seen in south-india. South-indian men also fold dhoti and tuck it to their waist for comfort. In malayalam the phrase ‘avanmundumadakkikuthi’ (he folded his dhoti and tucked it) reinforces the manliness and chivalry of male gender. Celebrating south-indian festivals in corporates without the dhotis no longer exists. On south-indianhindu weddings dhoti is a must too. Groom and mostly all the close acquaintances wear it not only for a traditional look but also for dignity. They also keep an angavastram (a piece of unstitched cloth) to their shoulder. Gifting veshti to kaaranavar (older man in a family)on special occasions seeking their blessings also marks the high-status of it. Ofcourse, veshti grabs a significant reverence everywhere you go.
The ethnic wear dhoti has multiple uses as pants. Petty items such as key, chain, cash and sometimes even bidis or cigarette packets can be safely kept in the tucked part of dhoti. It thus serves the purpose of pockets.
Many a politicians wear dhotis. The finest example is dhoti-clad Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji used to wear knee-length dhoti. Some of the present Chief Ministers also wear neatly-ironed white dhoti. I remember politicians coming homein white dhoti with a plastic smile saying vanakkam. The notoriousincident of ripping off mundu of a famous kerala politician as a part of gaining media publicity also indicates the esteem of dhotis. Obviously, the act of ripping off a man’s dhoti is as offensive as raping a woman.
There are a whole lot of controversies associated with dhotis. T S Arunachalam, a former Chief Justice of the High Court wearing dhoti was denied entry to a club in Chennai. Tamilnadu State government’s decision to delicence the clubs not honouring Tamil culture and tradition is appreciable. A well-known school in Chennai follows the ‘only dhoti norm’ for its school uniform.
Dhoti is ofcoursein a ready-to-wear form. Yet, certain dhoti designers introduce ready-to-wear dhotis like ready-to wear sarees. Does it signify the never ending passion for this wearable silhouettes or the laziness of Indian men to learn to drape it?
By: Meritta Joy