The beauty of the Indian subcontinent is in its rich cultural diversity. With every turn you take here, the language, food, music etc. changes, and so do the people. And the biggest way of defining a people is through the clothes they wear, and this is no exception in the traditional dress of Madhya Pradesh as well. The “heart of India” has so much diversity within itself – people belonging to at least four different religions call Madhya Pradesh their home, and with a population of 46 tribes, this state is cultural diversity at its best. Each of these groups of people have different kinds of clothes they wear depending on their religion, the region of their residence, their profession etc. Let us have a look at some of the many traditional dresses of Madhya Pradesh!
Lehenga – Choli with Odhni/ Lugra
The lehenga – also called the Ghagra and the choli is a traditional dress of India worn by many women in many parts of India. States like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar etc. called Ghagra choli the traditional dress of women, and Madhya Pradesh too. The Ghagra is a long skirt and the choli is a blouse. This set is traditionally worn with an Odhni, also known as the Lugra which is a dupatta worn with Ghagra choli. There are several ways to wear an Odhni. These may include tucking one end to the Ghagra, while taking the rest of it diagonally across the body to let it fall off the shoulder or take it over the head. This dress can be widely seen across Madhya Pradesh.
Bandhani / Bandhej Saree
Bandhani or Bandhej is a kind of tie and dye technique done on textiles for the traditional dresses of Madhya Pradesh. Originally, Bandhani textiles were majorly worn as sarees but in contemporary times, Bandhani salwar kameez are quite popular too. This ancient technique of colouring textiles dates to as old as 4,000 BC during the Indus Valley civilization. There are a number of designs that fall under the Bandhani technique and require a different way of tying up the fabric. These include shikari, Ekdali, mothra etc. Traditionally, only natural colours were used in Bandhani sarees including red, blue, green, black, and yellow. Regardless of the colour or design, each Bandhani Saree is equally beautiful!
Maheshwari sarees are yet another traditional dress of the women of Madhya Pradesh. These are made of either cotton or silk, depending on which season they are being worn. The origin of these sarees goes to the town of Maheshwar in the Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh. These sarees are often laced with Zari or golden thread work for special occasions. Another important feature of this fabric is the application of wax to make the fabric stiff and rich, also making it easier to weave. The popularity of these sarees rose under the rule of one of the very few female rulers of the Maratha Empire called Queen Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar. Traditionally, Maheshwari sarees were royal clothing worn by members of the court or gifted to royal women. But now, they have become more popular and accessible and can be found anywhere in Madhya Pradesh.
The Chanderi saree is yet another kind of saree that is made in cotton and silk. This saree owes its origin to the Chanderi town in the Ashoknagar district of Madhya Pradesh. Chanderi is largely a weaver’s town and the weaving practices here date back between the 2nd and 7th centuries. But it was in the 13th century when the weaving of Chanderi sarees began. Chanderi weavers were originally Muslim, and most still are. This traditional dress of Madhya Pradesh finds itself at the boundary of the Bundelkhand and Malwa regions and the trade between the two regions, especially in the Mughal era helped boost the popularity of the Chanderi sarees. These sarees are considered to be some of India’s best and often boast of intricate embroidery with peacock, floral, geometric motifs amongst others. The Chanderi sarees were another attire preferred by the royal women of Madhya Pradesh.
No women’s traditional attire is truly complete without the mention of Jewellery and ornaments. In Madhya Pradesh, women wear silver and Kathir Jewellery. These ornaments are especially important in the traditional tribal attire of Madhya Pradesh. The Jewellery worn by the women in the state include bangles which are largely made by lac, necklaces, and bracelets. Pajeb is yet another ornament which is very widely worn. It is a kind of an anklet with little bells which make a sweet sound while walking.
Dhoti with Saluka
The traditional dress of the men in Madhya Pradesh is the dhoti, which is also worn by the men of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar etc. The dhotis are traditionally white in colour and made of pure cotton for ease of movement and to keep the men cool in the scorching summer months. With the dhotis, the men wear salukas which are short-sleeved, light coloured cotton shirts that go down till the waist and have no collars.
Mirzai and Bandi
During the winter months, the men of Madhya Pradesh wear jackets called the Mirzai and Bandi, depending on which region they belong to. Both these kinds of jackets are usually black or white in colour. These jackets are especially found in the Bundelkhand and Malwa regions. The Mirzai or Mirjai jackets are a kind of long, flowy robe which is also known as Jama. These are typically under jackets which have a fastening on the right side. A Mirjai typically has open cuffs and long, loose sleeves. These are also worn by the men of Bihar. The bandi or bandia on the other hand is a type of Angarkha which is the traditional upper garment worn by men. The bandi usually ends above the waist and has a fastening either on the shoulders or on the chest. The bandi typically has narrow sleeves with long arms and may have various prints on it, depending on the region.
Chanderi Pagdi (Safa)
To complete their traditional attires, the men of Madhya Pradesh wear the Safa or Chanderi Pagdi on their heads, which is a kind of turban made of bright colours. Such turbans can also be seen donned by men of Rajasthan, Gujarat etc. The prints and the designs on these pagdis depend on region to region, but the Bandhani or Bandhej Pagdi of Madhya Pradesh is quite popular. Although the tribal men of Madhya Pradesh wear the Chanderi Pagdi, another kind of turban was used in the royal families, especially during the Maratha Empire.