The original inhabitants of ancient Sindh were the aboriginal tribes and the ancient civilisation centered around Mohenjodaro and Harappa. As per the history the ethnic Sindhis are the direct descendants of the Great Sindhu Kingdom and are the followers of Hinduism. Some of the non ethnic groups also settled in Sindh and later became a part of the community. The name of Sindh has also been mentioned in the ancient Indian scriptures.
The Sindh people are basically non vegetarian but they include different types of vegetables in their food diet. The Sindhi people are said to be an endogamous community and are considered as the converted Muslims. Among the eighty two clans of their community, some are named after their ancestors or territory and some are the representations of their Hindu Rajput origin. The social rituals and ceremonies are performed maintaining the traditional customs.
The society of the Sindhs is based on patriarchal social structure and the women play a little or no part in the cast council of community and in political sphere. The Sindhi Muslims belong to the Sunni Muslim sect of Islam. The people of this community earn their livelihood by farming or farm labourers and the urban people are employed in government jobs, business and other services. Though the community is closely knit but there are some caste prejudices that are maintained by the major part of the group.
The costumes of Sindhi Muslim have a uniqueness of their own. The women bedeck themselves in different types of costumes along with jewelleries. The 'ghaghra' or lower garment of a woman is long, full and unstitched. The 'chola' or upper garment is loose, with a high neckline and sleeves that cover most of the arm. The 'odhna' is used by most of the women of this community.
An unmarried girl wears a cotton-printed 'chola' as her upper garment. It usually has a large floral pattern in blue, green and red. The upper garments have many variations. The first is long, like a man's 'kurta', with short sleeves, a front 'kurta' placket and a shirt collar. The sides have slits from the waist to the knees, and there is piping on the edging, known as 'haar'. The lower garment is an ankle-length skirt known as the 'ligra'. It is made of a red 'bandhej' fabric with white dots and is similar in construction to the garment worn by married women. The 'odhna' is known as a 'baila' and is also in red 'bandhej' worked on heavy material.
At the time of marriage, a 'kanchli' of red 'bandhej' with orange and white dots is preferred. This 'kanchli' is embroidered with black and ornamented with gold and silver 'mukka and 'pakka' work, inset with mirrors. It has long slits, which begin at the waist and these are finished with a topstitched bias in contrasting colours. The 'kanchli' is ornamented with quilting, rickrack, gold thread, wool and beads. The women stitch their own 'ghaghra', known as 'pada'. The 'odhna' changes colour with the seasons. In winter it is usually a black 'bandhej', while red 'bandhej' marks the onset of summer. The fabric is called port and the garment, a 'chunri'.
The Sindhi women wear huge variations in 'odhna'. Some other styles of 'odhna' worn by Sindhi-Muslim women are 'ghandbhat', 'gulbadan' and 'minakari'. For everyday wear, the young women prefer a black 'bandhej odhna' with red and white dots, whereas the older women use a dull-red 'odhna' with a 'hanclan-haar' design in the centre.
The Sindhi-Muslim widow is fully attired in black. The 'kanchli' is black and sometimes has suf-style black embroidery. The 'ghaghra' and 'odhna' are similar in construction to those worn by married women, but these are also in black though sometimes, blue or dull maroon drapes may be used.
Jewelleries are a major part of the costumes of the Sindhi Muslim women. Some of the Muslim women's ornaments are slightly different from the jewelleries worn by other communities. Their ear-ornaments, like the 'kudka', the 'murki', 'jhalar', 'bala' and panda are circular in shape and are worn in various portions of the ear, often at the same time. The traditional neck-ornament is the long 'chandanhaar', which falls below the bust. This is usually made in gold, silver and gold polish on silver. They also wear 'kanganpola', a circular hollow ring, worn above the elbow. It has a protruding clasp and a floral design near the opening.
The attire of the Sindhi-Muslim men shows a little variation from that of the other communities. The men wear a long 'chola' as their upper garment and this sometimes extends below the knees, much like a long shirt with full sleeves. In recent times, wearing of shirts and, on occasions, a coat are usual.
The commonly worn lower garment is the tehmat, which is of ankle-length, unlike the usual dhoti. The 'tehmat' is usually white and is a long strip of fabric and the 'tehmat' can, sometimes, be in an 'ajrak' print. The 'tevata' dhoti is also used as the lower garment. This could either be in plain white or in 'ajrak' fabric. Depending on the region, a short piece of material, either plain white or an 'ajrak' print, is carried on the shoulder and, sometimes, tied round the head. Even the men are fond of jewelleries which include ear-rings and amulets and those are tied around the neck and arms with black-thread. Prayer is an essential daily ritual for the people of this community. While praying, the men wear a typical white skullcap, which is ornamented with gold and silver threads.
A wide range of stylistic variation exists within each category of garment apart from the traditional garments. A few of these are represented as patterns, as for example in the 'jama' where the skirt can be gathered, flared or panelled. In such cases, one diagram is presented in this section, while the variations are mentioned in the text. Similarly where variations occur in the same garment used by different ethnic groups, in the 'kanchli' for instance, the variations are highlighted only when there is a significant difference in cut or design.
The Sindhi Muslims maintain their tradition with all their devotion that reflects in their way of living. Despite of the social divisions the people of this community keep a healthy relationship with the other parts of the society. Their balanced socio cultural behaviour is reflected in their dressing style, their rituals, their customs and most importantly their ethics.
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