Kerala is known for the scintillating beauty of its backwaters, enigma behind the greenery, the calmness and purity. And this freshness is not only attributed to its charming landscape, but also to the people of the state. How and what people wear tells you a lot about the place. The case in Kerala isn't any different. When you visit Kerala, you'll see men and women wearing completely white attires. It depicts purity and elegance. Their warm nature, amicable behaviour and simplicity in living welcomes all from around the world.
The traditional wear of the state is called 'Mundu' which is worn on the lower portion of the body, from the waist to the foot. It is white and is worn by both men and women. It resembles a long skirt or a dhoti. The upper garment varies with gender and age. This dress is worn in Kerala, Tulunadu region and Maldive islands. Muslim women on the other hand sometimes prefer the black or blue purdah, while traditional Christian women wear a two-piece blouse and a pleated "Mundu".
Mainly three communities exist in Kerala: Hindu, Muslim and Christian. There is little difference in clothing in different communities. But the basic style stays the same. The clothes of men and women have been designed keeping in mind the location and climate of the state.
Traditional Kerala Dress of Men
The lower garment Mundu is a white cloth wrapped around the waist. It has a border called Kara which can be of any colour, mostly golden. Kara renders a style to the Mundu by displaying it on the left or right side of the person. Kara can be embroidered or decorated with ornaments for special occasions. Mundu can be turned into a half skirt kind of a thing by tucking the lower end into the waist. Men prefer to do this while doing any physical activities. The upper garment is called 'Melmundu' which is worn like a towel on the shoulders. The white shirt is also worn by many men these days.
In Hindus, men wear a Mundu and a Jubba for special occasions. It can be made of silk and Kara is often embroidered. Muslim men wear a cap called Kulla which differentiates them from Hindus. Muslims may either wear a shirt and Mundu or sometimes a Sherwani or Kurta, heavily embroidered. Christian men may wear a shirt and Mundu at their weddings or maybe a Suit or Blazer. Nowadays the latter is preferred.
Traditional Kerala Dress of Women
The traditional attire for women is called 'Mundum-Neriyathum'. This consists of a pair of similar Mundus. One of them is worn around the hip on the lower portion of the body, reaching the ankles. The other is worn on the upper part, with a blouse, one end tucked in the lower Mundu at the waist and another is passing through the shoulder and falling to the ground from the back, resembling a saree.
Hindu women may wear a Mundu or a Saree depending on the occasion and custom. For weddings, they prefer Kanchipuram Saree made of silk and have zardosi or kundan work on them. The dark colours are preferred, but white and black are avoided. Muslim women wear Sarees or Lehengas for their wedding with a lot of embroideries and golden zari on the veil. Sometimes, purdah is also opted to cover the face, depending on the customs. In Christians, they wear white Sarees and white blouses- complete white attire. Nowadays they've started wearing a white gown with a veil.
It's quite evident that the people of this southern state of India wear a very simple clothing. White is their favourite colour as it depicts purity, elegance and simplicity. Beautiful embroideries and Kara designs are enough to make it an occasional dress for them. Although the basic clothing in Kerala is very simple, it can be worn and designed according to the different occasions, such as weddings, family events, regional festivals like Onam and Vishu. Kara can be beautifully designed, Mundus can be made of silk and can be differently styled for women, and blouse can also be woven or embroidered in a particular manner. This varies from community to community, religion to religion. These days western culture has had a common influence on people not unlike the rest of India and people have started wearing western clothes like shirts, jeans, skirts, dresses, etc. But whenever any religious event or a wedding or any other function is celebrated, they make sure that traditions are followed, and people wear only the traditional attires. The people of Kerala still preserve the culture.