The dhoti, also known as vesti, dhuti, mardani, dhoteé, chaadra, dhotra, and pancha, is a traditional men's garment, worn in the Indian subcontinent mainly by Indian, Nepalese and Bangladeshi people. It is worn predominantly in the countries of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It is the national dress of the Madhesh region of southern Nepal, worn mainly by Nepalis of Madhesi, Tharu and Maithali ethnicity. It is a rectangular piece of unstitched cloth, usually around 4.5 metres (15 ft) long, wrapped around the waist and the legs and knotted at the waist.
The word dhoti is derived from dhauti (Sanskrit: धौती), meaning to cleanse or wash. In the context of clothing, it simply refers to the cleansed garment which was worn during shrauta sacrifices or religious sessions in general. The dhoti evolved from the ancient anatariya which was passed through the legs, tucked at the back and covered the legs loosely, then flowed into long pleats at front of the legs, the same way it is worn today.
The garment is known by various names, such as:
Custom and usage
The pancha is worn by many orthodox Jain men when they visit the temple for puja; unstitched clothing is believed by some Jains to be "less permeable to pollution" and therefore more appropriate for religious rituals than other garments. They also wear a loose, unstitched cloth, shorter than the pancha, on top.
Hare Krishna, known for its distinctive dress code, prompts Western adherents to wear pancha, usually of saffron or white cloth folded in a traditional style. Mahatma Gandhi invariably wore a pancha on public occasions but, as he was aware that it was considered "indecent" to do so in other countries, was shocked when a friend wore one in London. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was known for wearing a white silk dhoti.