Indian Clothing – Ghagra Choli (lehenga choli)
A Ghagra Choli or a Lehenga Choli is the traditional clothing of women in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Punjabis also wear them and they are used in some of their folk dances. It is a combination of lehenga, a tight choli and an odhani. A lehenga is a form of a long skirt which is pleated. It is usually embroidered or has a thick border at the bottom. A choli is a blouse shell garment, which is cut to fit to the body and has short sleeves and a low neck.
Gagra choli or Ghagra choli, which is also known as Lehenga choli, is the traditional clothing of women in Rajasthan Gujarat, Madhya Prades, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Sindh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Jammu & Hindi speaking Terai region of Nepal. It is a combination outfit of a Lehenga, tight Choli and a Dupatta.
Different styles of ghagra cholis are worn by the women, ranging from a simple cotton lehenga choli as a daily wear, a traditional ghagra with mirrors embellished usually worn during navratri for the garba dance or a fully embroidered lehenga worn during marriage ceremonies by the bride.A ghagra choli is an Indian outfit for ladies and girls. It can be made out of silk, cotton and sometimes polyester. However, dressing in one might, sometimes, seem hard for people who are first-timers.
The lehengas are made of a number of fabrics such as Silk, Cotton, Khadi, Georgette, Crape, Net, Satin, Brocade and Chiffon. Even though designers have successfully used the various kinds of fabrics for making the lehenga, silk is still the most preferred fabric.
A choli (Hindi: चोली), is a midriff-baring blouse shell garment in the Indian sari costume worn in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and other countries where the sari is worn. The choli is cut to fit tightly to the body and has short sleeves and a low neck. The choli is usually cropped, allowing exposure of the navel; the cropped design is particularly well-suited for wear in the hot South Asian summers.
Illustration of different regional variations of Ghagra choli worn by women in India.
Lehenga or Ghagra is a form of skirt which is long, embroidered and pleated. It is worn as the bottom portion of a Gagra choli. It is secured at the waist and leaves the lower back and midriff bare The ancient version of skirt or Ghagri evolved from Bhairnivasani, which in turn evolved from the Antariya when stitched on one side became tabular and was worn gathered together at the waist, and held by a girdle. This was one of the earliest forms of a clumsily stitched skirt. It was worn using drawstring or nada. The ghagri was a narrow skirt six feet long the same length as original antariya. This style can still be seen worn by Jain nuns in India.
Until early 20th century, women irrespective of class largely wore gagras which reached down to ankles, especially in Hindi belt. This was largely due to jeweled toes showed martial status of women as both married and unmarried women observed Ghoonghat. Gagras were made out of two to three layers of coarse khadi fabric which created large flared look and remained largely undecorated but were decorated with gota strips along the border on special occasions. Most commonly used dyes were Indigo, Lac and Haldi. This style can still be seen in rural areas of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh & Madhya Pradesh particularly during folk festivals.
Ancient unstitched form of gagra has survived in folk theater costumes across India, particularly in Kathakali of Kerala, where layers of pleated khadi fabric are laid over a nada and tied around the waist creating layers of flared skirt. This reflects simplistic early style of unstitched gagras worn in ancient times.
The Dupatta is a shawl or large scarf that is worn together with the lehenga and the choli. Until early 21st century Dupatta was the most decorative part of gagra choli, while rest of the garment was more simplistic, especially the gagra. Dupatta is worn in many regional styles across India. Most common style since early medieval times was to pleate the dupatta on the one end and tucking it into the front of the gagra and wrapping it across the waist and over the shoulder or head, similar to the way sari is worn. While women who worked in the farms tucked both ends of dupatta into their choli.
Originally, it was worn as a symbol of modesty. While that symbolism still continues, many today wear it as just a decorative accessory. There is no single way of wearing the dupatta, and as time evolves and fashion modernizes, the style of the dupatta has also evolved.