The Traditional Attire of Kashmir

The clothing of a place is foremost affected by the climatic conditions prevailing there. Other than that, passing the test of time, it can change with the rulers who ruled, the tribes that dominated, influences from nearby lands, or sometimes a particular dress code that distorted so much over the period so as to result in something completely new. Nevertheless, most of the time the dressing sense of a person speaks loudly of where they come from. For instance, a lady clad in a long kurta, a headscarf, and chunky silver earrings would most probably remind you of Kashmir.

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Image Source: Pinterest

Since Kashmir hosts a relatively low temperature throughout the year, with the low going as low as -18 degree centigrade during winters, natives usually prefer clothing that shields them against the cold.

It would be wrong to claim that Kashmiris are complete purists when it comes to dressing up and they swear by the traditions set up by their ancestors. Obviously, modernization has set in Kashmir like every other place but to a far lesser extent than it has in the other parts of the nation. For some reason, Kashmiris still stick to the basic attires and trends set up centuries ago. Even if some of the practices carried out by them are opposed by the modern medical sciences, for instance, the Kangari, Kashmiris continue to use it along with various other classic attires they refuse to let go.


What is it that keeps the Kashmiris so attached to their traditional clothing? Is it that no machine work seems to compete with the finesse of the hand embroidery Kashmir so proudly flaunts or never was a dress code curated so well as the Phiran to offer them refuge against the biting cold! Whatever it is, with its anachronous appeal, the Kashmiri clothing never fails to fascinate any perspicacious mind that chooses to pay attention to them.


So, let's just peek a bit more into the traditional Kashmiri way of dressing to see what inspires those dresses, the accessories the natives prefer, and how the same Phiran varies in different communities and religions.


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THE PHIRAN


The Phiran is as traditional as a Kashmiri attire can get. Worn by both men and women, Phiran is really helpful in getting through the cold.

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A man wearing Phiran (Image Source: Unsplash)

It was worn almost universally in Kashmir around the 19th century and is still worn widely. Although the prime aim of the costume is protection against the climate, the Kashmiri women do wear it as a sign of modesty like the Burqa is worn in the other parts of the world.


It is a loose upper garment with long wide belled sleeves. The more traditional Phiran had no side slits and reached down to the ankle. Nowadays it can even end up at the knees. Mostly wool is the preferred material for a Phiran, considering the weather, but it is also made of a clothing material called the Jamewar which is a mixture of wool and cotton.


The Phiran can be simple with no embroidery. Men prefer to wear them plain. Although the more fancy Phirans, usually for women, can have intricately woven thread embroidery or the tilla embroidery. It is a metal embroidery that uses gold and silver metals.


THE KANGARI


Phirans are kept wide to make space for carrying the Kangari inside of them. The Kangari or the winter wife as also called by the Kashmiris is a pot filled with burning coals. Keeping them inside the Phiran provides a shield impenetrable by the cold.

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Kashmiri Kangari (Image Source: Instagram @owais_darzi_photographer)

Although recent medicine opposes the use of the Kangari to avoid various health issues, it is still commonly carried.


THE POOT


The Poot is a thin garment designed like a Phiran but lighter. It is worn beneath the Phiran to protect it from catching fire because of the Kangari.


Though the Phiran with a Kangari is the most common attire for Kashmiris of all ages and races, there are a few differences in the style, the head-dresses, and the jewelry for men and women.


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THE WOMEN


As stated earlier, the Phirans that the women wear are more embroidered than men. The Hindu Women were ankle-length Phirans with narrow sleeves while the Muslim women prefer to wear it knee length with wide sleeves. The Head-dresses are a universal part of the Kashmiri attire, even though the style does vary among communities.

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A woman in Kashmiri attire (Image Source: Unsplash)

THE TARANGA: The Taranga is the headscarf that Kashmiri Hindu women wear. It is a long piece of cloth wrapped around the head and tied at the back, where the loose end narrows, trailing down to the waist or the ankle. You might skip a Taranga on a regular day but it is considered a must for Hindu women on their wedding day.


THE KASABA: A Kasaba is distinctly different from a Taranga and is the Head-dress worn by Muslim women. It is usually made of wool and is tied around the head like a turban. Women also decorate it with trinkets and use pins or brooches to hold it in place.

THE ABAYA: An Abaya is also a similar head-dress worn by Muslim women although it is mostly red in color.


THE JEWELRY: For one, Kashmiri women are fond of heavy jewelries. No attire is considered complete without earrings or a heavy necklace. No wonder the Kashmiri jewelry designs have inspired a number of fashion trends in Bollywood.


The earrings called Atta-Hor are mostly worn by unmarried women. The other kind of earrings called the Deji-Hor and Jhumka are worn by married women. Dejharoos is considered a symbol of marriage among Hindu women. It consists of two gold pendants held by a gold chain and is worn as a neckpiece. Heavy silver jewelry is more popular among Muslim women.


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THE MEN


Kashmiri men wear simple woolen Phirans with Salwar or Churidaar pants beneath them. While the Hindu men wear Churidaar pajamas with a Kurta, Muslim men prefer the Pathan dress which consists of a kurta and a broad lower garment called the Salwar. The Pathan dress is also called the Khan Dress in Kashmir. The Khan Dress is often worn with a short waist-coat called the Sadri. The dresses are completed by a turban on the head or a skull cap beneath the turban in the case of Muslims. A Gurgabi is a lace less shoe common among the Kashmiris.


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Men in Kashmiri attire (Image Source: Instagram @aaquibahad_)

THE PASHMINA


If you went to Kashmir and came back without a Pashmina shawl, did you even go there!? Even though Phiran is what is mostly worn in Kashmir, the Kashmiri Pashmina or the Cashmere-shawl is famous worldwide.


The Pashmina wool is so popular because it is very light with a silken touch and yet has a tremendous capacity to keep you warm. Pashmina shawl are handwoven with intricate thread work on the whole surface which gives it a royal appeal and keeps it widely in demand.


A fun-fact, the ring test is considered as a test for an authentic Pashmina shawl, which is, if you hold a corner of the shawl and pull it through a finger ring, the whole length is supposed to pass through the ring; that is how thin it is and yet will keep you warm enough.


The Pashmina wool was initially made of Shahtoosh obtained from the Chiru antelope of the Himalayan hills but the uncontrolled hunting of the animal for the wool significantly reduced its number. Thus the government of India has announced the killing of Chiru to be a criminal offense. Nowadays the wool for Pashmina is obtained from the sheep.


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MODERNIZATION OF THE KASHMIRI ATTIRE


Although a good number of Kashmiris stick to the traditional way of dressing, they are not untouched by the fashion trends around the world. One doesn’t have to stare at a Kashmiri with an unblinking eye if they dress in jeans and overcoat. That is common among Kashmiris these days, especially the elite class. Men do wear jeans beneath a Phiran or might not prefer to wear Phiran at all. Despite everything, Phiran still holds to be the most common attire in Kashmir.


Sakshi Priya

Author

Sakshi Priya

Pratha Content Writing Intern