Traditional Indian Clothing


Karnataka is known for its rich culture, delicious delicacies, dance forms, art, music, and traditional outfits.

Its heritage, multilingual ethnicity and history have a major influence on the cuisines, unique art forms and the outfits adorned by the people.

The outfits worn by men and women in Karnataka are not only popular in India but throughout the world. Here’s everything you need to know about the traditional dress of Karnataka for men and women.

Traditional Dress Of Karnataka For Men:

The traditional dress of Karnataka for men consists of Kurta and Lungi.

Kurta is a long shirt that goes up to the knees. It is paired with a Lungi or Dhoti which is loose pant wrapped around the legs and knotted around the waist.

This entire look is adorned with Angavastram which is a piece of cloth worn above the shoulder to cover the upper portion of the body.

Men in Karnataka wear it with or without kurta.

Outfits For Special Occasions:

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On special occasions, men wear Panche which is a type of dhoti made in white color. It is paired with traditional kurtas and Angavastram.

This complete attire makes for a great Karnataka culture dress for men.

Traditional Kodagu District Costumes:

People of Kodagu have a distinct style of dressing up as well as accessorizing. The men adorn their outfits with ornamental sashes, swords, and daggers.

The entire look is complemented with black robes or tunics to give it a royal look. Men also wear gold- trimmed turbans with their outfits for festivals, weddings, and special occasions.

Traditional Dress Of Karnataka For Women:

Women in Karnataka wear silk sarees weaved by the artisans with precision and finesse. The sarees are crafted in a variety of materials such as traditional Mysore or Bangalore silks, and cotton.

These sarees are not only popular in Karnataka but also well-known throughout India. Every Indian woman has desired to buy a traditional Kanchipuram saree at some point in her life.

Even though there is a wide range of styles, designs and color combinations available in Kanchipuram sarees (Karnataka culture dress), the traditional ones are made in red, pink, cream, red and white colors.

Kanchipuram or Kanjeevaram sarees of Karnataka come in fabulous designs and a really smooth and rich texture. Handmade by the artisans, these sarees are dyed and then adorned with Zari work to give them the richness of South-Indian culture.

Zari work is done with pure silk thread and a thin silver wire and gilded with pure gold. Zari gives a shimmery shine to the sarees.

Kodagu District Costumes: credit : Women of Kodagu district wear

saree in a different way. The pleats are tied on the back and the pallu is placed over the shoulder.

A traditional Kodagu saree is made with both silk and cotton. The motifs crafted on these sarees are vibrant and represent the culture of Karnataka. The body of the saree is adorned with prints, stripes or floral work.

Ilkal Sarees:

 Ilkal sarees are one of the most popular styles of Karnataka culture dress worn by women.The name Ilkal comes from the town of Ilkal located in the district of Bagalkot, Karnataka. These sarees are made with both silk and cotton. These sarees are also a great Karnataka traditional dress for girl.

A traditional Karnataka Ilkal saree is woven using cotton warp on the body and art silk warp for the border and pallu portion of the saree.

The main body of the Ilkal saree consists of simple patterns and a gorgeous pallu consists of flattering motifs such as temple towers, palanquins, elephants, and lotuses.

The main attraction of an Ilkal saree is the border, which is about 4 to 6 inches broad. Both bottom and pallu of the saree contain eye-catching borders that give an incredible look to the saree.

The colors that are usually used in the saree are pomegranate red, peacock green, and parrot green.

A General Overview

 What draws India closer to an obscure and indifferent picture are the indigenous tribes. Far from the contemporary trend and economic development, they own their personal identity as Adivasi having their own language, religion, festivals, cuisine, dance and music. With such an enigmatic culture and hospitality they also significantly hold a contrasting patriarchal and matriarchal society.

I can’t say for sure the total number of tribal groups in India, but after a wide research I can say that it exceeds more than 500 and comprises approximately 9% of the total population of the country. The lively tableau of the tribal community in India stretches from the remote villages tucked in the Indian Himalayan region to southern – most tip of India AND from the farthest corner of North East India to the dunes of Rajasthan. The tribal population in India covers approximately 15% of the country and the majority is found in central India.

Now the real picture: The major tribes in India

In its mysterious past it encompasses all the dim origins of life. Their lifestyle is completely different from the rest of the world. With an obscure history they are still competing to get along with the modern trend. Their livelihood is mainly dependent on agriculture and handicrafts but the tribes of India still display a wide spectrum of “another India” you hardly know about. One cannot, however, get the complete picture about the whole tribe just by studying or getting close to one particular tribe as each one of them has its own respective culture – food, festival, dance, music, religion and language. Still to get a brief idea about Indian tribes, here is a comprehensive list of 20 tribes, picked from different corners of India.

                               1.  Gonds Tribes

Known for their valor, the Gond tribes are mostly found in Central India in the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh. They are also spotted in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh, parts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa. So when you are on a tour in Madhya Pradesh, muttering and mulling over the titillating sculptures of Khajuraho and Sanchi Stupa respectively and wheeling from majestic palaces to whispering woods of Kanha and Bandhavgarh , steer towards the Gondi forest and experience the unique lifestyle of the Gonds. The Gond tribes have a good command over Telugu, Hindi, Marathi, Parsi and many other Dravadian languages.

What to experience? The rural color with mud walls and thatched roof houses, earthen pots, traditional wears – men in dhoti and women in sari and ornaments, the festivals of Keslapur Jathra and Madai and ritual performances are the ones to experience. Try out Kodo or Kutki, which is the staple food of the Gonds; moreover, they are mostly meat consumers.

                           2.  Bhils Tribes

If you are on your royal wheels for a trip to Rajasthan, moving from massive forts and palaces to Jain temples, then discovering the lifestyle of the Bhil tribes is an absolute contrast. This tribal community in India is mostly spotted in the Aravalli Ranges of Sirohi in Udaipur and some places of Dungarpur and Banswara districts of Rajasthan. Further, the settlements of the Bhil tribes are also found in parts of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tripura. What to experience? The cultural harmony – Ghoomar dance, Than Gair (a religious dance and drama) are Baneshwar Fair that is held in the month of January or February are the major attractions. Whereas the Bhili language, which is an Indo – Aryan language, is one of the most interesting features to experience.

3.Santhal Tribes

The Santhal tribes are the major tribes of West Bengal and are mostly seen in the districts of Bankura and Purulia. They are also widely seen in parts of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Assam. The journey to the abode of Santhals heads from the cultural capital of India, Kolkata, en route the terracotta temples of Bishnupur and Bolpur. The Santhals are largely dependent on agriculture and livestock; further, they are well versed in the art of hunting. What to experience? The Santhali dance and music is one of the major attractions that you can’t miss when you 

are wheeling to Bankura and Purulia. Moreover, festivals like Karam, Maghe, Baba Bonga, Sahrai, Ero, Asaria, Disum Sendra and Namah often fascinate travelers.

                                4.  Great Andamanese Tribes

Back in 2010 when Boa (one of the speakers of two Great Andamanese languages, Khora and Bo) died, the world lost two languages. So before the extermination of these unique tribes, speaking Jeru and Sare, plan an ocean cruise to Andaman and explore the indigenous survival land. The Great Andamanese Tribe, which includes the Onge, Jarawa, Jangil and Sentinelese, are said to be the first inhabitants of the islands. But today a significant number is on its way to extinction. Nonetheless, the left over population of the Great Andamanese are largely dependent on the vigorous campaign by Survival and Indian organizations. What to experience? Well, it is hard to distinguish them by their appearance – complexion and dress, still you are another traveler who will end up capturing their lifestyle. The Great Andamanese are mostly spotted in Strait Island and parts of Rutland Island.

5. Khasi Tribes

If you are seeking to discover the culture hidden in the mystical mountains of Meghalaya, the ethnical clamor of the Khasi tribes, who are filled with lots of music, playing musical instruments like drums, guitars, flutes, wooden pipes and metal cymbals, surely going to make your tour to Meghalaya bright and striking. The Khasi tribes are mostly spotted in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya and are also found in parts of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and West Bengal. What to experience? Other than the language, which is an Austro-Asiatic language AND dress – Jainsem for women and Jymphong for men, the five day long extravaganza, the Nongkrem festival is a feast for travelers’ eyes.

6. Garo Tribes

One of the few remaining matrilineal societies in the world that are mostly spotted in the hills of Meghalaya, the Garo Tribes are ideally known for their vivid lifestyle. They are also spotted in the neighboring areas of Bangladesh and parts of West Bengal, Assam and Nagaland. It is easy to distinguish the Garo tribes from other tribes of Meghalaya. Women are often found in varieties of traditional ornaments, whereas men are seen wearing turbans with feathers stuck behind them. What else to experience? The unique form of Garo architecture like Nokmong, Nokpante, Jamsireng and Jamadaal are some abstract capture in your lense. Further, the Wangala festival of Asanang is something that you can’t miss.

7. Angami Tribes

It’s the famous Hornbill Festival of the Angami Naga tribes that pulls in travelers to the farthest corner of North East India, Nagaland. The Angami Nagas are one of the major tribes of Nagaland, widely present in the district of Kohima. Apart from the Hornbill Festival, the major attraction remains their intricate and beautiful woodcraft and artwork. The Angami Nagas are known for the producer of bamboo work, cane furniture, beds, shawls and powerful machetes. What else to experience? The form of language, the Angami Language that is identified with different names such as Gnamei, Ngami, Tsoghami, and Monr, is another major feature to get hold off. Further, their dressing style – men in white Mhoushu and black Lohe and women in Mechala along with ornaments like Beads, miniature mask pendants, bangles and bracelets – is surely going to arrest your eyes. Well, the hardcore carnivore travellers may try out some unique pork dishes from the Angami.

                             8. Munda Tribes

Don’t miss the Nupur dance when you are in the abode of the Munda tribes. Their settlement is largely based in the Chota Nagpur Plateau region and is mostly spotted in the dense of Jharkhand. Further, parts of West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Odisha are also inhabited by the Munda Tribes. Amidst the vast eco sphere, these Munda tribes display a simple and basic lifestyle that follows the Sarna religion, believing in a God called Singbonga. What to experience? Mage, Phagu, Karam and Sarhul are the major festivals of the Munda tribes that attract travelers

9. Bhutia Tribes

Dominating the landlocked territory of Sikkim that is bordered by the Indian Himalaya, the Bhutias are widely known for their traditional grandeur, art and cuisine. One cannot forget the unique preparation of momo, steamed meat dumplings and thukpa, slurpy, burpy and yummy! Travel into the land of the Bhutias during the Losar and Losing festival and experience the vivid culture – dance, music and religion. The hardcore carnivores can try out some spicy beef.

                                             10.Chenchu Tribes

The Chenchu tribes are one of the indigenous people of Andhra Pradesh inhabiting over the years in the midst of the forest of Nallamala Hills. They are mostly seen in the districts of Mahboobnagar, Nalgonda, Prakasam, Guntur and Kurnool. Life is hard for them as they are largely dependent on hunting and trading jungle products like roots, tubers, fruits, beedi leaves, mahua flower, honey, gum, tamarind and green leaves. What to experience? Well, other than the languages having Telegu accent, they are skilled in various form of arts and crafts. Further, the Chenchu tribes are extremely ritualistic. Their ritual performances of various gods and goddesses are the major attractions for travelers.

11. Kodava Tribes

So, when you steer onto the Mysore – Madikeri Road from Mysore, you are slowly heading to the abode of one of the distinct race in India, the Kodava tribes, known for their bravery since ages. Coorg, flourishing as one of the eco – tourist destinations in India, attracts lot of weekenders from nearby cities of Karnataka and travelers from different parts of the country and world, BUT the harmony and ethnicity of the Kodava tribes is one of the major attractions for the explorers. Digging into the cultural diorama, the Kodava tribes are fond of music and dance. One can witness such hues during the festivals of Puttari, Kaveri Sankramana and Kailpodhu. Moreover, these people are also passionate about hockey with both men and women playing the game. If you want to seek such a playful panorama then be there during the Kodava Hockey Festival, which is held every year.

12.Toto TribesOne of the isolated tribal groups inhabiting the village of Totopara in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal is the Toto tribes. They have a simple lifestyle and are largely dependent on trading vegetables and fruits. In spite of the fact that they define themselves as Hindus, the Totos are believers of god Ishpa and goddess Cheima. If you are wheeling to Totopara during the peak winter season, then steer to Jaldapara National Park, which is one of the popular national parks in India that is located approximately 20 kilometers from Totopara. Don’t forget to try out Eu, which is a type of country liquor made from fermented marua, rice powder and malt and is served warm in Poipa (wooden glass).

                                             13.Irulas Tribes

Expert snake and rat catchers, that’s what make the Irula tribes of South India special. With a population of approximately 3,00,000 the Irulas inhabits parts of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh

and Kerala. Moreover, the Irulas are the second largest tribe in Kerala and is mostly seen in the district of Palakkad. So, when you are on a holiday in Kerala to enjoy the sprawling hues of the Nilgiri Mountains and cruise down the sparkling backwaters of Alleppey, just for a day steer to Palakkad. What to experience? The Irulas are largely dependent on agricultural products like paddy, raggi, dhal, plantains, chilies, and turmeric. Further, the major attraction remains their varied ritual performances. All though most of them are Hindus but they still believe in worshiping their own deity, Irulas are also known to be conversant in white and black magic.

14.Nyishi Tribes

The Nyishi tribes are the largest inhabitants of the mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh and are mostly spotted in the districts of Papum Pare, Lower Subansiri, Kurung Kumey, East Kameng, parts of Upper Subansiri. Whilst a majority of them have converted to Christian, their religion still involves a belief in spirits associated with nature. What to experience? The Nyokum Festival, which is dedicated to goddess Nyokum, held in the month of February, is a major attraction where you as a traveler can seek the interesting cultural heritage and ethnicity of the Nyishi tribes.

                                       15.  Bodo Tribes

Believed to be the early settlers of Assam, the Bodo tribes today are found in Udalguri and Kokrajhar of Assam and parts of West Bengal and Nagaland. If you are keen to seek the traditional colors of the Bodo people, then travel to North East during the time of the Baishagu Festival, dedicated to Lord Shiva (locally known as Bathou), which is celebrated during the spring season every year. Further, the Bodo tribes are meat – eating people and hence MY FELLOW NON – VEG travelers, just wake up the carnivorous nature in you and try out some unique preparation of pork and fish. What else to experience? Weaving is one of the most intrinsic part of Bodo culture and hence you can buy some handloom products.