Uttarakhand is a land of natural beauty and spirituality, nestled in the mountainous region of the Himalayas. Home to the Garhwalis and Kumaonis, Uttarakhand boasts a rich cultural heritage with music and dance forming an integral part of its identity. The state is a melting pot of diverse communities, including Rajputs, Brahmins, and various tribal populations like Tharu, Jaunsaree, Bhotia, and Raji. The traditional costumes of Uttarakhand exhibit a remarkable variation, reflecting the distinct cultural identities of these communities.
Garhwali Traditional Costume
Garhwali is a community of people who live in the Garhwal Himalayan region of Uttarakand. Apart from their culture and origin, these people are also distinct for their traditional dressing.
Traditional Costume of Garhwali Women
In the Garhwal region, women traditionally wear a saree tied in a unique style. The pallu, or loose end of the saree, is brought from the front and knotted on the shoulder. This particular way of draping the saree is not only fashionable but also practical, allowing women to carry food and work in the fields without hindrance. In the past, women used to wear a full-sleeved Angra (blouse) with silver buttons to protect themselves from the cold. They also adorned their heads with a scarf to safeguard their hair while engaging in agricultural activities.
Jewellery is also an integral part of the traditional costume of Garhwali women. Married women adorn themselves with hansuli, a silver ornament worn around the neck, along with guloband, a choker-like necklace, and black beads. They also wore silver accessories such as payal (anklets), dhagula (bracelets), and bichuye (toe rings). The use of sindoor (vermilion) and bindi was customary for married women. Today, the Gulaband remains a prominent feature of a married woman's attire, designed with gold square pieces arranged on a maroon or blue band.
Hansuli, a gold bulaq (nose ring), is traditionally worn by newly married women. This large gold septum ring is a symbol of marital status and is given as a dowry by the bride's family. Weddings hold great significance in this community, and brides are adorned with a red ghaghra (skirt), a nath (nose ring), maang teeka, bulaq, guloband, kamar bandh (a silver waistband), and other gold accessories.
Traditional Costume of Garhwali Men
Garhwali men commonly wear kurta and pyjama or kurta and churidar, depending on their age. This attire is paired with a topi (cap) by the younger generation and a pagadi (turban) by the older men to protect themselves from the cold. Over time, the influence of the British led many men to adopt suits as well. The choice of fabric varies based on the region's weather conditions, with wool being preferred in colder areas and cotton in warmer regions. During weddings, the groom traditionally wears a yellow-colored dhoti and kurta. Historically, men used to carry their silver coins hidden in a pouch tied around their waist to protect them from theft.
Kumaoni Traditional Costume
Just like Garhwali, Kumaoni community also has a distinct style of dressing that reflects their culture and also protects them from the harsh weather condition prevalent in the region.
Traditional Costume Kumaoni Women
In the Kumaon region, women can often be seen wearing a ghagra (long skirt) paired with a kameez (shirt) serving as a blouse. This attire bears a resemblance to the clothing worn by many Rajasthani women. Additionally, Kumaoni women wear pichoras, a type of garment commonly worn during weddings and ceremonies. Traditionally, these pichoras were dyed yellow and made at home. Even today, women wear these traditional pichoras on their wedding day. Married Kumaoni women wear large gold naths that cover their entire cheek. They also wear hansuli, a black beaded necklace or chareu, bichuye made of silver, and sindoor, all considered essential symbols of married life.
Traditional Costume Kumaoni Men
Similar to Garhwali men, Kumaoni men opt for traditional kurta and pyjama paired with a turban or topi. However, what distinguishes Kumaoni men's attire is the addition of necklaces or hand jewelry, reflecting the unique style of the Kumaon region.
Traditional Costume of Jaunsaree Tribe
The Jaunsaree tribe, primarily residing in the Jaunsar-Bawar region of Uttarakhand, has vibrant and colorful traditional attire. Women wear a long, pleated skirt called ghagri, paired with a short-sleeved blouse called choli. The ghagri is usually made of wool or cotton and is adorned with intricate embroidery and mirror work. They accessorize their attire with heavy silver jewelry, including necklaces, earrings, bangles, and anklets. The Jaunsaree men typically wear dhoti-kurta, along with a turban or cap.
Traditional Costume of Bhotia Tribe
The Bhotias, who primarily inhabit the border regions of Uttarakhand, have a unique style of traditional attire. The women wear a long, ankle-length woolen skirt known as pichora, paired with a woolen blouse and a shawl. The pichora is intricately woven with colorful patterns and designs. They also wear heavy silver jewelry, including necklaces, earrings, nose rings, and bracelets. The Bhotia men traditionally wear a woolen coat called chhuba, along with trousers and a cap.
Traditional Costume of Raji Tribe
The Rajis, an indigenous tribe of Uttarakhand, have their own distinctive attire. The women wear a colorful and intricately embroidered ghagra (skirt) along with a choli (blouse) and an odhani (dupatta). They also adorn themselves with silver jewelry, including necklaces, earrings, and bangles. The Raji men typically wear a kurta (long shirt) paired with trousers or dhoti, along with a headgear called topi.
Traditional Costume of Tharu Tribe
The Tharu community, concentrated in the Terai region of Uttarakhand, has a unique traditional attire that reflects their agrarian lifestyle. The women wear a long, brightly colored skirt called ghagra, paired with a blouse and a dupatta. They often tie their hair in braids adorned with colorful ribbons. The Tharu men traditionally wear dhoti-kurta or pajama-kurta, along with a headgear called topi.
These are just a few examples of the diverse traditional costumes found in Uttarakhand. Each community's attire not only reflects their cultural heritage but also serves practical purposes, considering the climate and lifestyle of the region. The costumes of Uttarakhand are a visual testament to the richness and diversity of its cultural tapestry, keeping alive the traditions and customs passed down through generations.
In recent years, there has been an increased appreciation and interest in the traditional attire of Uttarakhand's tribal communities, both within the state and beyond. Cultural festivals and events provide platforms for these communities to showcase their traditional costumes, attracting tourists who are eager to learn about their rich cultural diversity.
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