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 Musl