Costumes of Kerala

Kerala is synonymous with simplicity and elegance. The citizens of the state have an inborn inclination towards purity which is quite evident in their costumes as well. White and off-white are the most preferred colours in the traditional costumes of Kerala for men and women.

The most traditional costume for the men of Kerala is the “Mundu” which is mostly white in colour. It is worn tightly at the waist with a knot and comes down till the feet. Women following Hinduism wear a blouse and mundu known as “Mundu neriyathu”. Women following Christianity wear a blouse known as “chatta” and a mundu that folds nicely like a fan at the back. Women following Islam wear a long purdah in deep blue or black shades over their dress, mostly in the central and northern parts of Kerala.

Sarees, salwar kameez and salwar with churidhar are the normal day to day dresses for the women. Shirts and trousers are the comfort-wear for the men. Of late, the youngsters of Kerala prefer to dress in Western attire too.

Costume refers to the way a particular community of people dress. This pattern is different based on the cultures, customs and lifestyles of different communities and nations. Every community is unique in itself mainly because of the nature of its costume for the men and women. There are a number of communities and sub-divisions within India, with each one having a separate style of dressing.

The southern and northern parts of India have unique styles of dressing, due to which the people of these areas are easily recognisable from each other. Similarly people residing in the eastern and western areas of India follow a different and unique style of dressing. However the dressing styles followed in the four southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have some common elements in them.

Dressing Style of Different Communities in Kerala

The people of Kerala follow different religions like Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Their style of dressing is as per the norms and patterns that are followed in the areas they live. For example, the way Muslim men wear the mundu is much different from the way Hindu men wear it. Muslim men wear a cap known as Kulla on their heads always. Women following Islam religion always wear a long purdah in dark blue or black shades over their costumes.

The two-piece blouse and mundu that is worn by Christian women too is very different from the way Hindu women wear it. Christian ladies wear a pleated style of mundu which is folded nicely like a fan at the back. However, the costumes worn by Christian and Hindu men are almost similar in style.

Bridal Costumes

Bridal wear is one of the trademark costumes of Kerala. The colours, fabric, texture and the way in which it is worn is different based on the religions and customs of the different areas in Kerala.

Hindu – The bride wears a mundu or a sari as per Hindu customs. The costume of the bride is done very nicely in bright shades and heavy embroidery work. Most of the women prefer to wear Kanchipuram silk sarees for their big day. Red, maroon, orange and deep purple are the colours that are mostly sought after. Most of these sarees have kundan, zardosi and other crystal work on them. White and black are mostly avoided during weddings, though women use these shades in their daily wear. Men usually wear a mundu and a silk jubba for their wedding.

Muslim – Men used to wear a mundu (in white colour) and a simple shirt for their weddings during the olden days. However, nowadays, Muslim men prefer to wear Sherwanis and Kurtas too. Women wear a bright-coloured silk sari that comes attached with a lehenga. They cover their heads with a duppatta that has gold-coloured lace work on it.

Christian – White is the most preferred colour for the Christian women. They wear a sari and veil (both white in colour) for their wedding.  Some women choose to wear white gowns instead of saris. White is chosen as it denotes purity. Men opt for shirt and trousers, full suit with blazers or just a plain shirt and mundu.

Sarees - A Part of Kerala's Tradition

Just like other South Indian states, the sari proves to be one of the most important traditional costumes for the women of Kerala. Kanchipuram Silk and Benares Silk sarees are highly preferred by women to be worn on important occasions like festivals and weddings. The half-sari too is widely worn by the young girls of Kerala. This is a three-piece costume that contains a blouse, a full skirt and a shawl known as davani that is draped on the chest like a sari. The Set sari, also known as the Kerala sari, is similar to the Mundu neriyathu, is another traditional form of sari. This is a single piece costume and is worn during the two main festivals of Kerala - Onam and Vishu.

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