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Religious and Cultural Clothing brings out Individualism

Muskan Tyagi and Karmistha Bhimwal

The connection between religion, culture and attire can be fascinating. An attire can open up one’s window into the social world, which is bound by customs, rules, conventions and various rituals that can influence face to face interaction. Clothing can maintain social relationships, depict the outlook of the person, signify social achievements and sadly provide the person’s value in society. Culture and religion can influence one’s clothing style immensely. Therefore, clothing acts as a tool by which one can express their individuality through culture and their status in society.

Simran Kaur, a fashion designer who has a work experience of 20 plus years, with renowned brands said, “Fashion emerges as a response to societal and geographical influences during a particular period impacting self-identity and group identity. There are historical examples of clothing that developed in consonance with the geography and weather of the area. Brightly coloured Rajasthani clothes visually compensate for the arid desert landscape”.

After studying various attires along with their spiritual perspectives, Hindu Dharma has given much importance to Dhoti. A rectangular piece of cloth originated from the Sanskrit word ‘Dhauta’.In Hindu culture, Dhoti is an integral part of men’s wear. It is considered to be an attire that commands respect and dignity.

Dhoti is made from a continuous thread of cotton, the natural thread consists of Sattvikta and Chaitanya. The pleats and fold at the back of the Dhoti form Chaitanya around the body. Hence, it is believed that the individual is protected from the Raja-Tama i.e. the predominant environment and distressing energy emanating from Patal (Hell region), resulting in a reduction in distressing energy covering around the body.

Over the years, the traditional Dhoti has evolved into pants, making it a statement in today’s time. Across the globe, it has received several improvisations and westernization, but its significance as traditional wear still remains intact and dominant in society.

Just like Dhoti, there are other traditional garments like Taqiah in the Islamic religion, white sari with red borders in Bengal, Dastar in Sikhism and many more that represent a culture.

In the Islamic religion, the Taqiah (prayer cap)not only covers the head in respect, but it also holds the faith and beliefs of the Muslims. In the Quran, all companions of Muhammad wore head coverings at all times, resulting in the adoption of this practice. It’s not a compulsion to wear the Taqiah, but if you don’t, it is believed that one is opposing Muhammad. Likewise, In the Sikh’ religion, Dastaar is worn in the place of a crown. It is a symbol of faith, honour, dignity and more, and together it represents the Miri-Piri (temporal and spiritual) aspects of Sikhism.

Similarly, women wearing Laal Paar Shada Sharee (white sari with a red border)are easily associated with Bengali women and Durga Pooja. This is worn all over India on auspicious occasions by shodhoba(married women). The red border is a symbol of a married woman. The red and white combination of colours in the sari signifies the mother goddess. In Bengal, women - young, old, married, un-married are referred to as Maa. In the traditional atpoure drape, the red border of the saree coupled with the red pola bangle and sindoor is all a part of a thoughtful technique. The sari is draped in a specific manner in which the red border leads your eyes to the red sindoor on the forehead of the woman, which is the most iconic representation of the goddess. The idea being, there is a goddess in every woman. This sari is only worn by married women as red is considered auspicious in Bengal.

That being said, Kaur stated that “A garment is not fashionable merely because it is worn. To become fashionable, a garment has to reflect the prevailing socio-cultural ethos of the time”. Clothing can also help an individual feel a sense of belonging to a particular ethnic group, culture or religion - which is why clothing brings out individualism.

Edited by Bhavya Vemulapalli and Aishwarya Seth