(Last Updated on : 22/10/2010)
The Achkan is a full-sleeved tunic with a high round neck. This garment has a length, which falls about 3-5 cm. above the knee. It has a full front opening in the centre and is fastened with buttons and buttonholes.
Achkan is worn among all communities in combination with a churidar, especially on formal occasions. The initial panels-the bodice and skirt-are cut from a single length and are flared at the side-seams. The armholes of the achkan are a little curved, in contrast to the straight armholes of garments like the angarkha and jama. The sleeves are tapered with a fitted effect, ending at the wrist. The neck is finished with a small stand-up collar, known as the Nehru or Chinese collar. Slits are made near the side of the hem and on the cuff of the sleeve. It is lined on the inside, giving it a clean finish.
Another garment of similar pattern like Achkan is the shervani. This is worn in certain parts of Rajasthan and that, too, mostly at weddings. The shervani differs from the achkan in its length and flare. It is longer and falls 3-5 cm below the knee and has a wider flare.
Throughout the nineteenth century the achkan and shervani gradually replaced the angarkha, jama and choga as the main outer-garment worn by men in the royal courts. The evolution of these close-fitting jackets and coats came through the gradual incorporation of British clothing styles into Indian attire. Native textiles and their integral decorative elements were still favoured over imported fabrics and certain stylistic elements of the angarkha, jama and choga were also retained.
Unlike the earlier outer-garments worn by men, these fitted long coals with closed-neck acquired a more tailored-look. Instead of attaching the square cut sleeves at right angles to the main body of the fabric, as in the puthia, the arm-holes were curved and the sleeves structured to fit. The achkan became a fashion statement in most courts at the turn of the last century. It was tighter fitting around the wrists, chest and waist, tapering out at the hips to flare around the knees. As a result, the achkan was more streamlined than its predecessors. Purely for purposes of ornamentation, embroidered borders were often added around the collar, front edges and hems. It is still the most popular item of formal clothing in India today and commonly worn at weddings.