Kashmiri dresses have been showcased time and again in many Bollywood movies such as Kashmir ki Kali, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Rockstar, and more recently in Laila Majnu. Hence, the world is no stranger to the customs and traditions of the valley of Kashmir.
There are some intricacies about the culture and the ethnic clothing of Kashmiris that will tell you a lot about the history and the culture of the people of Kashmir. Kashmiri traditions, the dressing, the language and the preferences make a vivid picture of how Kashmir connects to the rest of the world. That’s also the manner in which we get to know, how Kashmir and Kashmiris set themselves apart.
Today, I am going to narrate to you another bulletin on Kashmir. It is the story of Kashmiris and their dressing sense. Their clothing and fashion. So, hold your breath and enjoy some information on the traditional Kashmiri dress & style.
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Kashmiri Traditional Wear
When we talk about the ethnic Kashmiri apparel, it is exactly what you think it is. A traditional kurta and salwar for men, actually called the Khan Dress. In rest of India, it is famous as a pathani. Women wear Salwar-Kameez donned with a pheran. The hair of women is usually covered with a head scarf.
Although movies do exaggerate showing short shinning waist coats and pointy skull caps, which in reality are only worn when you have a fancy dress competition to win. Am not joking!
The Preferred Traditional Kashmiri Dress of a Woman
The Kashmiri dress for women be it Muslim or Pandit is completely the same. But there is a difference in the kind of jewelry each of them prefer to wear. Whereas most of the women in India have sarees as their traditional dress, Kashmiri women have a completely different style.
We Kashmiri women have traditional dresses similar to that of Afghan and Persian women. The style and making of the Salwar-Kameez and the jewelry is very similar to the attire donned by the Pashtun women.
The Salwar-Kameez is further beautified by a fancy pheran. Now when I say pheran don’t get confused thinking pheran is for wearing in winters only. Pherans are used to cover the bodies. Pherans were worn by Kashmiri women over the centuries to cover their bodies as a sign of modesty. The pherans worn in summer are made out of light fabrics in accordance with the heat.
Next comes the head scarf. It is like a cherry on top of a cake. Without a scarf, any outfit is not complete. At least in our estimation. Interestingly, it is worn by both Muslim and Pandit women. It can be worn by either tying it to the head or letting it stay open. A scarf is called Kasaba or the Taranga by Kashmiri Pandit women. They wear it in a peculiar manner. It is tied to the hanging bonnet and falls up to the heels from behind.
Traditional Kashmiri Dress for the Man
For men, the traditional Kashmir outfit is a Khan Dress topped with a short Sadri (waist coat). in the past, they also used wear a long full length outer robe with long bell sleeves which is called the Chogha. Older folks wear it with a girdle around the waist. A head gear was also worn in older times. It was like a turban made by a small fitted cap covered with a cloth.
The manner of tying of the cloth varied among the Pandits and the Muslims. Sometimes, on special occasions such as marriages the turban of a Muslim man resembled with that of a Pathan man. In medieval times rich upper class Kashmiris wore silk on festive occasions.
The footwear consists of shoes made of grass called Pulharoo and sandals made of wood called Khraw. But this is talking about 5-7 decades ago. Today, with Globalization, Kashmiris wear whatever the world wears, but they still like to done their tradition.
So, you will find men often wearing a full Khan Dress, and women wearing a Salwar-Kameez. During the winters both men and women wear the pheran.
Talking about the Kashmiri Dress in Winters
I am going to mention the pheran now. I love the pheran, O’, yes I do!
The winter in Kashmir can give full-fledged competition to the climate in Siberia and Antarctica. The temperature can go down to -15 degree Celsius.
We Kashmiris tend to be prepared for it. In all honesty victory over such a climate requires a complete preparation. In the past, people used to prepare for it months in advance.
Pheran is the first item that comes to the mind when someone talks about winters in Kashmir. The Pehran! Something that Kashmiris love and deem to be heritage. It is an all-rounder garb that acts as a sweater, a jacket, an overcoat and even a blanket. The star of the Kashmiri customary dresses, the pheran has become a mark of identification for Kashmiris around the world.
This woolen wonder has saved Kashmiris from crippling harsh winters which have to be tolerated without electricity in some areas. The only source of heat is the Kangri which is tailor-made for pehrans. Once you have a Kangri under your pehran, the winters just seem like any other season.
Btw, a Kangri is a fire pot.
The women folk wear the pherans in a much more fashionable way. It is not just a winter garment but also a centuries old customary clothing worn also for every special and important occasion. This is the Kashmiri dress that is famous the world over, not as much as the pashmina though.
The simple pherans worn at home have simple embroidery and designs. But pherans worn for during special occasions are ornamented with attractive tilla works and special embroideries crafted with special gold threads making them worth thousands of rupees in the market but priceless in the eyes of a Kashmiri.
The Summer Dress of Kashmir
In summers, Kashmiri people wear the lighter versions of their traditional outfits. Although ever since the modern times popularized global fashion in the valley, our clothing has drastically changed. It has paved way for western wear to penetrate into the market, but even then the evergreen and ever comfortable ethnic summer wear hasn’t been written off the valley yet.
The younger women wear Salwar-Kameez in summers with light duppattas whose making can be inspired from either sides of the border. The older women prefer to stick to their traditional roots and wear clothes made in the conventional Kashmiri style. As I stated earlier, the Kameez-Salwar is topped by a light pheran to cover their bodies fully for modesty and crowned with a Daejj (Head Scarf).
Similarly, men also tend to experiment with modern styles now-a-days. They prefer to wear pants and jeans with shirts winning the battle of the trends. But when comfort weighs more than show off traditional wear wins the war every time.
The customary Khan Dress is usually made in the Pathan style which can be sometimes topped with a waist coat adding to charm and elegance. The kurtas vary is sizes and shapes, they can be short or long and with our without a collar. Also they can be either typical salwars or pant like salwars. Some men wear trousers or jeans under them. Not only is the Kashmiri dress comfortable, it’s elegant and stylish. At the same time, it gives the wearer a royal look.
The Elegant Kashmiri Jewelry
The traditional Kashmiri jewelry is creativity and mystic art at its best. Every piece of the jewelry blends beautifully with the apparel and adds to the charm of the outfit donned. These ornaments are typically made of gold and silver and are studded with multi-colored stones or pearls. Kashmiris love birth stones. Some people say that Kashmir is the land of the blue sapphire as well.
The well-known and frequently worn jewelry pieces in the past were Jiggni and Tikka. They were worn on forehead. They can be triangular, semi-circular and circular in shape depending on the use and occasion. Atta-Hor (ear piece) was usually worn by the Kashmiri Pandit women. It hangs over the head of the women on either side and is connected by a chain over the head.
Hard to imagine but this beautiful piece of ornament is a sight for sore eyes. Kana-Door (tops) is a simple ornament usually worn by young unmarried girls. Jhumka (ball shaped earrings), Deji-Hor (long chain like earrings) are a trademark jewellery piece of married Kashmiri Pandit women. They are a mark of their matrimony and are worn at all times by them especially during festivities and weddings. Finally, Kana Vaji are studded with turquoise with a fringe of hanging gold leaves and balls.
Over to You
That’s all in this bulletin. I have told you everything that you would need to know about the traditional Kashmiri dress. You may know that roots of Kashmir ethnicity are a mix of several civilizations. Thus, with every piece of clothing you can see different cultures being beautifully merged among one another. Doesn’t that create a magical blend of many rich customs, arts and traditions?
Summarizing, Kashmir is an offspring of Central Asia, Persia, Arab, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and you can visit all these countries at once by simply visiting Kashmir. Hey, come and have a look at some unique products that Kashmiri craftsmen produce.
Author: Ruwa Kitab
Nasreen is the Co-Founder of Kashmirca. Hailing from a business family dealing in Kashmir Arts for decades, she takes care of the Product & Operations of the brand. A witty entrepreneur, she loves her culture which she aims to promote.