"Costumes are the first impression that you have of the character before they open their mouth-it really does establish who they are."
This quote defines that each Indian tribal group has a distinct characteristic of dress and ornaments and later it became symbols of recognition and identification and served to establish common ancestry.
The people of Rajasthan are, by far, the most fascinating aspect of the region. Each community here is distinct in custom, dwelling, occupation and dress. They cover a gamut of lifestyles, from aristocratic to tribal, settled to nomadic and include farmers, camel-herders, shepherds, craftsmen and traders. These communities represent homogeneity in socio-economic and aesthetic interrelationships. The tribal costumes of Rajasthan clearly demonstrate the two-way flow of tradition, from the local folk ethos to the aristocratic and vice versa leading to a continuum of identifiable aesthetic criterion. Costume then becomes a statement of identity and, hence, is very rigid in traditional communities. With the advent of modernisation, however, change is inevitable. Although garments, jewellery and other techniques of adornment may be broadly similar, each tribal community has, over time, developed an individual and separate version of its costume. Evident in their attire and jewellery is the history of an aristocratic tradition, the influence of its vernacular ethos and a pervading aura of mythology and religion.
There are a huge number of tribal groups in Rajasthan and the costumes of these tribal groups in some cases differ from the designs, fabrics and styles according to difference of the life style of the groups. The Bhil tribes of Rajasthan carry a special dressing style that distinguishes them from others. The costumes of women and men are different. The Bhil woman wears an upper garment called the `kapada`, a `ghaghra` and an `odhna`. Earlier, the Bhil-women used to wear a shorter knee length skirt to facilitate movement through the undergrowth. The fabric used has a resist-dyed print called `nandana`, often greenish-blue, dark-blue or black. To the same end, an ornament called the `pejania` was worn on the hands, arms and legs offering protection from thorns and animals. The women cover their torso and head with an `odhna` or `lugda`, made of hand-spun fabric that may be block-printed, resist-dyed or screen-printed.
Along with the costumes, the Bhils use jewelleries that suit their dress and ethnicity giving proper definition to their style. Some of the most famous jewelleries of the Bhil women include `dhimmna`, `oganiya`, `hansli`, `haar`, `tagli`, `kasla`, `kamkada`, `beenti`, `bidi`, `pejania`, `bichiya`. They use silver, brass or white metal for their jewelleries. The costume of the Bhil men comprises a turban or `feto`, an `angi`, tunic and a lower garment called `potario`. The lower garment is knotted around the waist and the entire length is drawn between the legs and tucked in at the back. Bhil men also keep a `pacheri` or shawl on their person. Very young Bhil boys wear loincloths and after the age of ten they start wearing dhoti. They usually do not wear upper garments or headgear until they marry. At the time of marriage, the groom wears an `ango`, a shin length tunic, which follows the cut of a `Rajput angarkhi`. This is worn with a turban and a dhoti. Not only the Bhil women but the men also wear ornaments like `murki`, silver bracelets, necklace called hansli, anklets or kada and silver belts around the waist.
The people of Bishnoi tribe also carry a particular tradition in case of their costumes. The most important clothes of the unmarried girls of this community include `puthia`, `pada` or `pothdi` and `odhna`. Bishnoi odhnis display a variety of prints, like the `rati-chunri`, a red printed `chunri`, the `sundri pakodi` in cotton and the `ludi`, which is black. A married woman wears a `kanchli` with a `kurti`, a `dhabla` or `ghaghra` as her lower garment and an `odhna`, which she drapes over her body.
Bishnoi-women wear a short `kanchli` with a deep neckline revealing the upper part of their breasts. The neckline is generally decorated with a small frill and small bells are attached just below the `tuki`, drawing attention to the garment and to the décolletage. A kurti, also with a deep neckline, is, sometimes, worn over the kanchli. The women of this tribe also prefer to wear `lehanga` which is also called `ghaghariyo` and can be in satin, cotton or wool. The Bishnoi women wear a great variety of `odhna`. According to the tradition, the mother of the bride gifts her daughter the `pir ki chunri` and during marriage the bride wears this kind of chunri. Moreover, an embroidered red `odhna` called `damini` is also popular among the local women. Sometimes, rickrack and gota are used for ornamentation on the body of the `odhna`. The older women of this tribal community commonly wear a `dhabla`, `lehanga`, `and petivali kanchli` and `apakodi ckunri`. Women use the `ludi` and `lunkar` as shawls.
The attire of a Bishnoi man comprises the `chola`, the dhoti and the `pagadi`. The `chola` is worn as an upper garment and is usually made of white cotton. The men of this community wear dhoti as the lower garment. They also include headgear in their costumes which is known as the `potiya`. The men are also fond of jewellery and wear `murki` in their ears as their preferred ornamentation.
The women of Lohar tribe wear `kanchli`, `kurti`, `ghaghra` and `odhna`. The upper portion of the `kanchli` is profusely ornamented with tinsel, sequins, mirrors and silk threads. The women use `odhna` that covers the head and its borders are appliquéd with tiny silver `gota` flowers. The `odhna` is either plain or patterned in floral designs. The ornaments of the Lohar women include ivory bangles, nose ring called bhanvaria, a bichudi or toe ring, anklets called kadula. The women also wear a tabiz, a pendant believed to ward off the evil eye and a necklace called the kanthi. Their neck jewellery is made from old silver coins, much like gypsies in other parts of the world.
The attire of the Lohar men consists of an `angarkhi`, `dholi` and turban. The men wear gold murki and other ear-rings like the `jhela`. On weddings, they wear a gold or silver locket on a black thread tied round their neck, which they call a `phul`. Silver bangles called `kada` are worn on the wrists and, on special occasions, they also wear a hip girdle in silver called a `kanakti`. A thick silver anklet called `kadi` is worn on their right leg.
The dresses of the Garasia tribal community are quite exquisite. Both the males and females of the Garasia tribal community have developed individual style for dressing. They use several silver ornaments along with their particular style of dressing. This Garasia tribal community usually wears black or red blouses with huge petticoats. The men are noted for their red or white turbans. Both the males and females prefer to create tattoo and this is prevalent in the entire community. Garasia dress is very colourful and attractive, both in design and embellishment. The clothing of Garasia women has a predominance of strong shades of red, blue and green. A long sleeved jacket called `jhulki`, which has a front opening, is used as the upper garment. Beneath the `jhulki`, a `polaku` is worn. The young unmarried girls wear long skirt and an `odhna` is used to cover the head and upper body and is in a particular style called `harlu` or `haluru`. The Garasia widow wears a `chhano`, a black `odhna`. The use of jewellery is common in the community and basically jewelleries of bronze, stones and shells are used hugely. They wear `vithali`, which are silver rings in the nose and the ears including `oganiya` and `damani` to decorate their ears. Their neck ornaments are colourful and include the `bhamrio`, `kanikoya patiyu` or `pulyu`, which are made of glass or silver beads. They also wear `hansli`, `hains`, and `hariyoo`, white bangles turned from shellac. They wear a huge variety of jewelleries among which a unique and decorative silver ornament is the `haathpan`, worn so as to cover the back of the hand with floral designs. Ornaments adorning the feet are the `pavla` or `karla`, which are silver anklets along with toe rings, known as `polari` or `anguthia`.
The dress of the Garasia men is similar to that of other tribal communities of Rajasthan. Headgear is particularly important and the men generally wear turbans called `potiyu` or pagadi, the colour of which depends on their age and status. All men wear a white half-sleeved kurta called jhulki, as the upper garment and the dhoti as their lower garment. The men are fond of jewelleries and they wear `jhela` or `jharmaruyu` in gold or silver in the ears. A `mataliyo` or kada, which is a solid silver bangle, adorns the wrist. `Eire`, is an ankle ornament, while `terayo` is a pendant that is worn on a long thread and hangs on the chest. They also wear a `kan-dora`, which is a silver ornament worn around the waist including `Mandaliyo`, a silver or copper armlet.
Another tribal community, known as Gujjar, is also a part of the tribes dwelling in Rajasthan. The women of this tribal community wear a characteristic `saadi`, which resembles a `ghaghra` and is worn with a kanchli and `lugri`. The unmarried girls wear a `puthia`, `ghaghra` and `odhna`. Married women wear a ghaghra, a kanchli with gota trimmings and a colourful odhna. The Kumhar and the Gujjar wear a ghaghra, in a nalchi bhat, as this block-printed fabric is called. The `phetiya` is also used as a lower garment. A special `odhna` worn by the women of this community is the `lugda` and is made of printed red cotton fabric, decorated with gota flowers, especially around the head. Tattoos are also a popular form of decoration. The women are fond of jewellery, which is mostly in silver. They wear a `bor` with a `jhela` on the forehead; `kungali` and a gold amulet called `ramnami` on the neck; `jhumar` in the ears and a `kanakti` on the waist. Their arms are covered with ornamental `gugra`, `pahunci` and `kada`, while the kada, `jhanjhar`, `avla` and `chade` are worn on the feet.
The men`s costumes are different and also have a rustic character. The upper garment for men is the `angarkhi` or `bagalbandi`, which has, ties on the right side and is usually of hip-length, though longer, knee-length `angarkha` are donned on special occasions like marriages. These garments are decked with an embroidered `putia` design with a running stitch on the back bodice and on the sleeves at the upper arm level. On special occasions, the men wear a knee length `jama` called the `baga`, which is made of red cotton fabric and decorated with gota work on the seams, the front yoke, back bodice and sleeves. Dhoti is worn by the men of this community in the `dolangi` style. Often the men are seen wearing a gol safa made of cotton as the headgear. The safa fabric is either red or white and, on festive occasions, the turban is elaborately ornamented with gold. Ornaments are a part of their costume and are also fond of jewellery and wear gold `murki`, `jhcla` or `kun-dal`. They wear a `kada` on their wrists and a `kadi` on one foot. `Phul`, a gold or silver pendant on black thread and colourful woollen tassels are also worn around the neck on occasions. For everyday wear they use a heavy silver choker, called a `hansli`.
The costumes of the Kumhar women are much like the Gujjar women. Their dressing style allows them to wear jewelleries of brass including the jewelleries of ears, wrist etc. The costume of the Kumhar men is quite similar to that of men from other working class communities. At times, the Kumhar men also wear an angarkhi. The lower garment of the Kumhar men is a calf length dhoti worn in the tilangi style. The men are fond of jewellery and wear murki in their ears, silver amulets around the neck and a kadi on the right ankle.
The women of the Maheshvari tribal community usually wear the `puthia` or the `kabja`, `khadi kamiz` made of soft cotton, as an upper garment. The different garments used for the lower part of the body are shorts or the ghaghra. The girls wear `odhna` along with the ghagra made up of brightly coloured poplin, pichodi, tul or fine voile. They sometimes wear a special type of `ghaghra` called `bafti-ka-ghaghra` is made of satin and has as many as 80 kalis. The women include jewelleries in their costumes. The most essential piece of jewellery for married women is an ivory `chuda`, put on the hands during the marriage ritual. Married women wear a gold `bor` on their foreheads. The women also wear a charming gold necklace called `kanthi`. The Maheshvari man`s costume is characteristic of the affluent male attire in the region. The lower garment is the `khuli-laang-ki-dhoti`, which reaches down to the ankles and they also use headgears occasionally. The men prefer to wear minimal gold jewellery.
The costumes of Meghval tribe include puthia that are embroidered in various styles, like kharak, suf bharat or humrichi and silver gota is also used as edging. The women wear ghaghras with odhna of different types. Some other type of dresses includes kanchlis. Clothes may show tremendous variety within the community. A case in point is the kanchli, the upper garment worn by all married women of the Meghval community. The Meghval women wear head ornaments called bor, made of beads or silver, brass ear ornaments called kudka, elaborate necklaces called chandan-haar and a nose ornament known as kanta. Other varieties of necklaces include the timaniya made of chid or small glass beads and the badla, which is generally made of silver. The dodia is a circular silver bangle, worn on the wrist. The hirmain, a solid metal ring, is worn on the ankle all through life.
There is a striking characteristic of the men`s dress of Meghval tribe and the dress is white from head to toe. Traditional male attire consists of the puthia, dhoti and safa. The men also carry the `gamcha` that remains casually over one shoulder or round the neck. In recent times, the men wear `kurta pyjama` and sometimes either the `chola` or the `kurla`.
The costumes of different tribal communities resemble sometimes as they maintain almost the same lifestyle in different regions. The costume of a Mina woman comprises an odhna, ghaghra, kanchli and kurti. Unmarried Mina girls wear a sari called lugda. The married Mina woman wears borla as a symbol of her marital status. Women also wear a hansli round the neck, a nath in the nose, timaniya in the ears, bangri, gajra and bangles on the forearms and bajuband on the upper arms. All married women invariably wear chuda made of lac. They also wear kadi and pajeb on their feet. Silver is used for head and neck ornaments, while ornaments for the feet are crafted from brass. Mina women generally do not wear gold. Tattoos are also popular with the Mina. Mina women display tattoos on their hands and faces. The dress of the Mina man consists of a dhoti, kurta or a bandi and a turban, although the younger generation has adopted the shirt, with pyjamas or trousers. Mina men do not wear much jewellery. The most common ornaments are ear-rings called murki. Tattooing is popular with the men as well and they usually have their forearms tattooed with their names, floral motifs, figures and deities.
Apart from these tribal communities, here are some tribal communities like the Rabaris, Rajputs and Sindhi-Muslims. The dressing styles of these tribal communities are almost alike with certain distinctions that represent the identity of the people of that particular tribe.