Himalayan VOICES High Himalaya FORUM Himalayan Heritage  
View more Factsheets


Socio-economic condition of the people in the Himalayas

Religions and  Festivals

Clothes of the Himalayas

Title:Clothes of the Himalayas
Credit:Compiled from multiple sources by Pragya
The Himalayas are home to diverse groups of people, each with their unique ethno-cultural traits, which have been preserved mainly because of the geographical isolation of majority of these regions. In addition, every region and tribe has its characteristic traditional dress and costume. The traditional clothing of the various regions along the Himalayas has been described below.
  • Jammu and Kashmir: The traditional dress of Jammu and Kashmir is the pheran, worn by both men and women. It is a long loose woolen gown tied at the waist with a colourful sash called the lungi and always worn with a white cotton underlayer called potsh. Men wear skull-caps, while women wear a heavily embroidered and brocaded headdress called taranga. Some wear abaya, the formal head-cover of Muslim women. Unmarried Muslim women often wear embellished skullcaps. In Ladakh, a Trans-Himalayan influence is observed on the clothing. The men wear a thick, calf-length woolen robe called goncha tied at the waist with a colourful sash called skerag. The women wear a similar robe called kuntop with a colourful shawl called bok on their back, in which a baby or parcels may be carried. Women also wear a very elaborate gem-studded hat-cum-cape called perak.
  • Himachal Pradesh: Due to the climatic conditions of the state, wool is the prefered fabric. In Himachal Pradesh, there is marked variation in clothing between the various regions and the inhabitant tribes.
    • Kinnauras: In Kinnaur, men wear woolen shirts called chamn kurti or a long woolen coat called chhuba with woolen churidhar pyjama. A sleeveless woolen jacket is worn over this. Women wear a full sleeve blouse called choli and a woolen dress. They wrap a woolen shawl like garment called dohru, which extends to the heels. Both men and women wear round woolen caps called thepang.
    • Lahaulis: In Lahaul, the men wear woolen trousers with full-sleeved shirts called kurtis. A long, loose gown is worn over this called the kattar. Women wear tight fitting pyjamas and a full-sleeved gown called dugpa, tied at the waist with a sash. Both men and women wear round caps, while unmarried girls remain bare-headed.
    • Spitians: In Spiti, the men wear tight woolen trousers called suthan and a long loose frock or coat tied at the waist with a sash called kira. The coat is called righoay if it is of wool, thakpa of sheep or goat skin, and charlak if it is of cotton lined with goat or sheep fur. Earlier a fur lined skullcap called lingzima was popular. The women wear a long straight shirt called hoojuk, or a loose frock called tochay and a woolen frock coat called righoay, tied at the waist over tight trousers. Colourful embroidered stoles called lingches are worn wrapped around the back, neck and shoulders during festive occasions. Nowadays, homespun shawls are slowly replacing lingches. Married women wear an elaborate gem-studded headdress called perak.
    • Pangwals: The men wear a white skull-cap called tope, a cotton shirt or kameez, a knee-length buttoned up coat called lekkar tied at the waist with a black woolen cord called kamarband, with cotton or woolen pyjamas called chalar. The women wear embroidered cotton or silk headdress called joji, a collared full-sleeved shirt called kameri with pyjamas. A woolen shawl or chadru is wrapped over the kameri and tied with malot (brass pin).
    • Gaddis: Gaddi men wear a chola (coat) and dora (girdle) with a white turban. The women wear a long flared skirt (luanchiri). Some wear a chaura, consisting of a velvet blouse stitched to a very full colourful skirt, tied at the waist with a woolen belt called dhora. Over their heads they drape a florally embroidered cloth.
    • Gujjars: The Gujjar men wear a Mughal inspired headdress called safa, a long loose shirt (kameez), a back vest over the shirt (basket) and lungi. During winter this is replaced by a churidar-pyjama called ghutana. Nowadays, shalwars or pyjamas are also worn. A shawl is wrapped around the shoulders. Women wear a loose black kurta and a vest-coat over a suthan churidar. Their typical headdresses are the joji and jhoomb. A sheet the salara, is wrapped around the head and upper body.
  • Uttarakhand: Here, the men traditionally wear a loincloth called dhoti or lungi with a kurta and a turban. They may also wear kurta-pyjama. The women wear ghagri (an oriental long skirt), choli (an Indian blouse) and odhni (a cloth covering the head and the upper body, attached to the waist). Some ethnic groups wear a top-blouse and a mantle-like cloth draped around their body girdled by a waistband.
  • Sikkim: The predominant communities are the Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepalese. The male Lepcha wears a cotton dress called pagi, while the females wear a two-piece dress. The Bhutia men wear bakhu, a loose cloak like dress with full sleeves while the women wear a silken full-sleeve blouse called honju with a loose gown like dress. The traditional male Nepali dress is the daura suruwal. The women wear a similar dress called chow bandi choli, shorter than the daura and a shawl called majetro.
  • Nepal: Daura-Suruwal, typically termed, 'Labeda-Suruwal' is the traditional dress of Nepal. It is a long, double-breasted dress, flowing below the knees, that is worn with trousers. It is accompanied by the typical Nepali cap and coat. The women wear a cloth gathered into a bunch and reaching the ground in front but knee-length at the back. Over this they wear a sari, either in the Indian style or wrapped around the body like a broad kamarband. They also wear a jacket.
  • Tibet: The main articles of clothing in Tibet are the Tibetan robe and shirt. The robe is fastened under the right armpit and so the right side appears shorter. It is tied at the waist with two red, blue or green cloth belts. The nomadic herds people of northern Tibet wear a bulky furred robe all year round while farmers of southern Tibet wear tweed clothes. Both men and women wear clothes buttoned on the right. Women’s garments are sleeveless, except during the cold winter months. Only married women wear brightly decorated aprons at the waist. Women also wear hats matching their garments.
  • Bhutan: The traditional dress for men is a long robe called gho, hoisted knee-length with a woven cloth belt called kera. On formal occasions a scarf called kabney, indicating a person’s rank, is worn. The women traditionally wear a floor-length dress called kira, consisting of a rectangular bright cloth wrapped over a Tibetan style silk blouse called wonju. The kira is fastened to the shoulder with elaborate silver hooks called koma, and at the waist with a silver or cloth belt. Over this a short open jacket called toego is worn.
  • Arunachal Pradesh: Generally, the men wear a lungi with a jacket and turban, while the women wear a piece of cloth wrapped around their body and flowing down from the shoulder to the knees. However, each tribe has its own characteristic dress. Some of the notable tribes and their characteristic clothing are mentioned below.
    • The Monpas: The men wear a dome-shaped hat and a long woolen cloak called chugba with short loose woolen drawers. The women wear a maroon or rose coloured cloth wrapped around their body and reaching the knees and a silk jacket called kyan-chan. Both men and women wear round caps (Ngama) made from yak wool with pointed tassels jutting out from all sides that give protection from rain.
    • The Sherdukpen: The men wear a tasseled skull-cap called gurdam, a loincloth and a sapee, a cloth wrapped diagonally over the torso with two ends tied to the shoulders and the lower ends falling to the knees. A hip-length, front-open, full-sleeved jacket is worn over this. The women wear loose knee-length sleeveless shirt tied at the waist with a sash called muhkak. A short sleeveless jacket is also worn.
    • The Aka: The men wear a long piece of coarse cotton wrapped around the body and pinned over the shoulders. A sash is wrapped around the waist. A hip-length jacket is worn over this. The women’s apparel is similar to the men’s with the difference that the dress and the jacket are longer.
    • The Mijis: The Miji dress is very similar to that of the Akas. The women wear a white, ankle-length garment and an embroidered red coat.
    • The Wanchos: They wear decorated headgears and heavy strings of beads on the neck, arms, legs and ears.
    • The Miris: The women wear a “crinoleum of cane rings”, which serves the purpose of a blouse. This is not seen in urban areas any more.
    • The Nyishis: The men wear cane bands around the waist of their traditional dress.
    • The Adi: Both men and women wear a galae, a poly-utility garment tied around the loins.
The Himalayan region has a plethora of communities and tribes, which explains the diversity in traditional dress and costumes. However, with development and technology and the ensuing modernization, these pockets of civilization have been affected adversely and there a loss of culture has been observed, especially among the youth. Consumerist culture has swept into these areas in recent times, resulting in the replacement of the traditional costumes and ornaments with modern apparels like shirt, t-shirt, trousers, jeans, salwar kameez etc. A vital piece of culture is on the verge of being lost if these traditional costumes are not preserved.
Jammu and Kashmir
Himachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh