(Last Updated on : 26/02/2013)
Costumes of Kerala
reflect the inherent simple lifestyle of the Malayali people. The people of the region, both men and women, generally dress in off-white or white attires. The principal dress which the people of Kerala wear is largely traditional in nature. The traditional form of dress worn by the Keralites is Mundu and Neriyathu, a piece of white cloth having borders of golden zari symbolising royalty, for both men and women. The women also wear Sari, a 5-6 m long cloth which is embroidered with golden border and jacket.
Costumes of Kerala for Women
The traditional garment worn by the women of Kerala is the Mundum Neriyathum. The conventional piece is the Mund which is the lower garment and it consists of two cloth pieces. The Mundu is worn around the hips and beneath the navel. This hand-woven cloth made of cotton, is very comfortable to wear in the summer season. The cloth is creamy or white in colour and possesses a coloured strip called border or Kara. The women of Kerala wear Mundu in this way, except for the women of Christian origin. For them, the Mundu is folded up in multiple folds and this part is hung at the back. Over the Mundu, women take on a special type of blouse, covering the navel.
The Neriyathu is the name of the upper garment which is put over the blouse having one of its ends inserted in the Mundu and the other long end worn over the front torso. This is worn in a diagonal way, from the right hips to the left shoulder looking like a sari. Both the Neriyathu and Mundu is stiffened and then worn with a blouse matching the border or Kara's colour. This costume is worn every day and in the festive seasons people wear the same but with an ornamental Kara or a border which is either copper coated, golden or artificial coloured with temple or peacock
design. The colour of the blouse indicates the marital status and age of the women. Unmarried young Keralite girls take on green blouse whereas the married ones wear red blouse. Kanjeevaram saree
is one of the most popular types of sarees in Kerala.
At the time of the celebration of the famous festival of Onam
, women belonging to different age groups wear it and participate in the folk dance known as Kaikotti Kali Dance
. During Onam, the biggest celebration in Kerala, the women wear new saris with various accessories like decorated jewellery.
Women belonging to the Muslim community in Kerala, more particularly in the northern and central regions of Kerala, take on a long dark black or blue garment along with Purdah and also cover up their abundant and long hair with beautiful kerchief. The Mundum Neriyathum was the traditional costume of the people of Kerala. But today, it has become an old fashion and is mostly worn by the old women of the state. Nowadays, it is being taken over by the set-sari which has become the dress of the Keralite women as a quasi mundum neriyathum and today as the Kerala sari. Nowadays, they are mostly seen attired in sari and blouse.
Costumes of Kerala for Men
The men of the region are more conservative than the women. In keeping with the old tradition of Kerala they wear white, which was once universal for both sexes. Their main garment is the long cloth called Mundu, which is tucked at the waist and reaches to the ankle, giving its wearer a peculiar mincing walk, unless, to stride more freely, he kilts it to the knees. Many men wear no garment above the waist, but those who belong to the higher castes at least drape a towel-like cloth over the shoulders, and if they consider themselves modern they wear shirts which, like the Mundu, are always washed to a dazzling whiteness. This garb is worn by men of all religions and all classes, except for the small westernised minority who have gone over to bush shirt and cotton slacks.
The traditional wear of the Hindu men residing in the state of Kerala is Kasavu Mundu. This dress is very much popular in the rural or remote areas. This attire is a piece of cloth made of cotton, three to four meter long having a silk border. Lungi
or Kaily acts as an informal dress for Keralite men. But while moving out of their house, these men take on a shirt and Mundu as well as a Neriyathu over their shoulder and apply a paste of sandal on their chest and brows which provides them a much dignified appearance and a royal look.
The daily use garments for the people of Kerala are saris and churidar or salwar-kameez
for women and for men, trousers and shirts. The western type of dressing is also well-known among the generation of the young. With continuous change in designing and fashion, the dress codes of the Keralites have changed considerably. The traditional form of dressing is reserved for special occasions and the women and men of Kerala are seen wearing a range of dresses in the new era.
The people of this state have accepted the northern mode of dressing with men wearing trousers and T-shirts which is a comfortable item for travel and their female counterparts have accepted the Churidar of north Indian style.