Kanchli, Traditional Rajasthani Costume for Women

Kanchli is also called as Angia or Choli. It is an upper garment which looks attractive with ghagra (lower garment). Kanchli is worn by married women in almost all the communities of Rajasthan. Sculptural representations of a stitched upper garment show that the clothing’s tradition started in starting period of the Christian era. Till that time the upper body part was used to only cover with an unstitched piece of cloth. In the western part of India stitched outfits began their first steps.

Early Sanskrit literature, paintings and sculptures had a lot of its references. A stitched garment is believed to be impure in Hindu tradition, mostly in rural areas. The practice of wearing unstitched cloth is still prevalent, especially in festivals, religious occasions and marriages. In some Rajasthani tribes, the upper cloth is additional covering to their attire. In marriages of Maheshvari community, the brides wear a simple white colored sari, known as kavaljoliya. Kushana, Saka and other tribes are the founder of stitched bodices. In the beginning it retained its unique features but later on it was assimilated to an everyday wear.

Kanchli was introduced in the western India during the Gupta period. It is a small upper garment with sleeves. In Sanskrit literature the attire is known as angia, kancuka, kurpasaka, kan-culika, choli and kurpasa. It was worn by women in the western and northern parts of India. Rajasthan and Punjab were the main regions where Kanchli was mostly popular. It remained to be worn during the medieval era as an upper body part by married women. Kanchli is mostly worn in Rajasthan and its bordering states.

In most Rajasthani communities, a girl changes puthia (an upper body garment) to kanchli only after her marriage. This happens after finishing the 4th phera (during Hindu marriage), the 4th circle around the fire. Though kanchli is made from fabrics such as silk, cotton, velvet and satin are mostly preferred for this costume. Tribal people strictly follow the dress code, especially for females. But due to the modernization these days educated girls do not care a lot about the stereotype mindset. They wear modern outfits extensively.

The charming kanchli or choli fits tightly at the waist. It is a good example of flat 2-dimensional material and the boundaries of 3-dimensional material. Similar to puthia, kanchli is made by using the geometric parts of cloth. Some scraps of fabric are left after the garment is cut and employed as demonstrating and trimmings. The body looks lovely silhouette. Women love to drape choli in different colors and designs.

Kanchli commonly has a womanly neckline with 3 points. There is a top round neckline with V shape in the middle. However, most of Kanchli have deep eye-catching necklines. Such necklines are a little wide than the fancy blouses. The sleeve’s length may vary as per the particular ethic group. Women of most community put on sleeve length covering the upper arm and biceps. Kanchli can also be find with full and elbow length sleeves. The part of the ornaments can accompany this costume.

Both sides have cords at the back for little alterations in body proportions. During pregnancy, the strings can be loose or tight as per the comfort of pregnant women. Tying strings can help in loosing or tightening Kanchli. Even Kanchli can be designed as per the body size of the wearer. Boutiques offer a wide range of Kanchli and even you can order the preferred one as per your needs. Attractive tie cords can be made of cotton, wool or fabric. Long cords touch the hem of Kanchli with tassels. Adornments of the attire are also very pleasing with shells, beads, silver and gold threads, along with beautiful small mirrors. Cords bend with the body movement, adding up motion, beauty and grace.

Kanchli is ether worn with odhna or kurti. This is done to cover maximum part of body. There is a small size of rectangular fabric that is stitched to the middle of the hem covering the belly. It is called as apeti or petivali kanchli. Peti’s size signifies the status of women in Rajasthan. The longer the attire, the more status the woman has in her community. Tuki is a triangular cloth that is used to cover the upper portion of Kanchli that is mainly ornamented. It is commonly in contrasting color with silver and golden bands.

Red is the prime color of prints that is used for kanchli. Remaining colors are used for piping. There are other colors as well for piping, attached at the corner and amid the blouse’s sections to make the costume colorful and vivid. The color and width of kanchli may vary as per the social status and symbolic significances. For instance, a saffron trim commonly is a symbol of married women that can be seen in kanchli. The piping take cares of the corners of the blouse.

Variations can be found as per the regions in kanchli designs and styles. Different communities have their own pattern of attires that reflect in kanchli too. This can be seen mostly in daily attires. For example, women of Sindhi Muslim communities wear a long knee length kanchli, beautifully embroidered and decorated. Meghval Hindu community has their own types of kanchli.