Gurjar Costume - Project Marustali Documentation


P R O J E C T  M A R U S T A L I  D O C U M E N T A T I O N
< Copyright Elin Bolmgren 2001-2011 - >

  Daily life
Daily life
Carpet weaving




The territory: Marusthali desert - Pushkar valley






Fragments of a cotton Davni veil from the 1920's - Nand (Pushkar valley).

The Davni woollen veils were typical of Jat (farmer cast) women while a cotton version was more common to Gurjar women. They were hand-woven by members of the Banbhi (weaver cast) in two pieces (as all other cloth produced by them) because of the typical narrow looms and thereafter enriched with stunning embroideries in cotton thread -mainly in yellow, but also with green blue and white, made most often by Sindhi women. The Davni veil was given to a woman from her father at the occasion of 'Maklaw', the ceremony when she (married in young age), having got mature, is leaving home to go to live in her new family.

Banbhi weavers at work. (Mardumashumari Raj Marwar - 1895).




The typical classical veil of married Gurjar women though was the black 'Kali Chundari' (Black Bandhni -'tie and dye'). Even if it came to be preferred mostly by the elder women, it is said that in the past it was common to the younger women too.


Nice example of a worn-out old 'Kali Chundari' of thick cotton cloth with the characteristic Bandhni pattern in white and red. It is estimated that is was used in the 1950's, since then used as part of a 'Rali' (quilt made from worn-out clothes).

Nashi and Dholat Rangrez speaking about the technique of Bandhni work - 2005
Rangrez (dyer) at work. (Mardumashumari Raj Marwar - 1895)


In recent times, the 'Kali Chundari' veil came to be of thinner cloth and consequently with smaller Bandhni dots. It came also to be decorated with colourful hand made embroideries and mirror applications, presumably made by Sindhi women, as seen in this old piece part of a 'Rali'.


Project Marustali did much research work asking old women about the old Kali Chundari. A part of the research was also extracting pieces from old 'Rali' quilts for evidence material and through looking the fragments found Nashi learned to make the embroideries herself. When enough knowledge was gathered, Nashi taught Santa Bai Gurjar some of the embroidery techniques to apply, and together they created this new example of a classical Sindhi embroidered 'Kali Chundari' veil.


Rukhma Bai, an elder Gurjar woman, told that sometimes the Gurjar women made the embroideries themselves, and she was one of them, so Project Marustali gave her the opportunity to show her skills, creativity and how she used to do it. Even if not less than 20 years had passed, she remembered well and could present this piece of evidence.



The thin 'Kali Chundari' veil with machine made embroideries, which came to substitute the hand made ones in the 1990's, is still worn by a few elder women.



The red colour, connected with marriage in all India, is also common for a veil of the Gurjar women used on and after the marriage. It is made of a specific red cotton material known as 'Tul', a material that in the past was thick but nowadays it is much thinner. This veil, called 'Tul ki lugri', has particular applications of 'Gota' (ribbon) as this example, part of a 'Rali' quilt from the 1950's. In more recent times, any red cotton cloth in different hue, and then of synthetic materials, came in use.


More recent 'Tul ki Lugri' veil with modern plastic 'Gota' decoration typically in stripes (model as for marriage).
                                                                                                   Same pattern in red common cotton cloth.



'Tul ki Lugri' with a more recent twisting decoration and typical green border with white glass beeds.

Three young Gurjar women wearing thin red 'Tul ki Lugri' veils. Family photo (worked on) - 1991.

The last kind of the red cotton veil is, since the last years of the 1990's, made with floral patterned, factory printed cloth.


A Gurjar woman photographed in 2003 is wearing what can be called the last pattern and modern version of the traditional costume. Even if printed instead of embroidered, her veil is typically of red cotton with the green border and silver 'Gota' decoration. The green top 'Kachli' with golden machine embroidery is typical from the 1990's. Her jewellery, for example the classical big round earrings, heavy necklace and coconut-shell bracelets, are instead strictly traditional of the old days of her marriage time (beginning of the 1960's).




The jewellery is particular for every cast and region. The pieces which are of either of silver or gold, are made by the goldsmith in the village and some are decorated with coloured glass but never with stones. Most of the jewellery pieces are part of a woman's dowry, but a few particular pieces, like the 'Kari' for the ankles, are given from the husband's family.

Jitender Kumar Soni, Jyoti's friend and own goldsmith - Nand (Pushkar valley) 2006 >>>   Sonar (goldsmith) at work. (Mardumashumari Raj
Marwar - 1895)


As many other castes, Gurjar women proudly wore the 'Pilo' ('The Yellow') veil, in the holy colour yellow-and-red, after the birth of the first child.

Beautiful example of a worn-out 'Pilo' ('The Yellow') veil of the past, part of a 'Rali' quilt. It is made of thick cotton cloth and has a special golden block-printed decoration.


The last type of cotton 'Pilo' ('The Yellow') veil was of thinner cloth with patterns of factory print but decorated with the usual 'Gota' border and applications.

Also this kind of veil is now completely replaced by synthetic versions.


Examples of synthetic 'Pilo' ('The Yellow') veils, having modern kinds of 'Gota' border and applications and decorated by tailors with machine embroderies - 2007.

Spring 2006 - Pushkar Valley: Veled Gurjar women at a 'Nawan' (male child birth ceremony).


RALI - Keeping evidence of the past

Quilt 'Rali' hanging from a village roof shows a selection of many veils worn by Gurjar women. Pushkar Valley -2006.

It is inside the oldest 'Rali' quilts that we can discover evidences of the costume of the past.



Classical old 'Tul (red cloth) Kachli' of 'Tanki' model (without cups) with patchwork applications, mirrors and 'Gota' (ribbon). Nand (Pushkar valley) - 1950's.


'Kachli' of 'Tonki' model (with cups) in black - 1950's.


Examples of Classical 'Kachli' with application of 'Gota' - 1970's and 80's.


Classical 'Tanki' (without cups) green 'Kachli' in synthetic cloth and with machine embroidery in gold, worn by elder women nowadays.



To protect from the cold in the winter, the elder Gurjar women -as those of many other castes- still use to wear the 'Kurti' vest - 2007.



Ancient sign of distinction and pride of the married Gurjar women is the 'Saro' skirt; which is made by two narrow pieces of 5 meters long cotton woven by Banbhi weavers. The two pieces were stitched together by the Gurjar women themselves with a black cotton thread and joined in the side with coloured thread, originally of woollen, and decorated with white glass beads and 'Gugri' (beads of white metal).


The 'Saro' skirt, in various designs and combinations of lines and check pattern in black and red, was decorated by the Gurjar women themselves with 'Makardat' (languet point) on the borders in fuxia or in the classical combination of orange, fuxia and green. Originally, the 'Saro' skirt was not stitched at all in the waist and a long rope-belt of rough woollen called 'Dor' was used to keep it in place. Only after, the Saro skirt has come to be pleated and stitched on a thin cord to tie the skirt on the waist.

An elder Gurjar woman poses with her old 'Dor', not worn from years. Pali district – 2003.


To make the ‘Makardat' stitch (languet point) on the border of the ‘Saro’ skirt, the Gurjar women sit on the floor and keep the cloth well stretched between the knees.



The 'Saro' skirt is stitched in the waist by the Gurjar woman herself by hand, standing during all the work. First she tie the waist cord around the waist, then she makes the pleating of the cloth piece by piece and pulls the cloth inside the cord, turning the cord and cloth by and by around the waist to reach. She leaves a quite long piece unpleated for the front part of the skirt. When the pleating is complete she can control and adjust it if needed. Finally she stitches the cloth to the cord.




Apart from the 'Dor-Khasna' which accompanies the 'Dor' belt ends hanging on the right side, other two 'Khasna' hang at the back. These are the 'Kambar-Khasna', with its green drop-shaped glass beads and white metal 'Gugri', and the two tassels from the 'Kachli-ki-khasna' used to tie the kachli (top), decorated with glass beads of various colours and sizes as well as the common 'Gugri'.




The women always have the hair covered under the veil, traditionally elaborately plaited. Typical for the Gurjar women is a crest 'Chunda', plaited into the hair.


The crest 'Chunda' is made with an old piece of cloth stuffed with the women’s own hair, and three long cords two thinner threads.


The traditional ornament of the forehead 'Borla' is tied to the 'Chunda' and with two colourful threads plaited into the hair and finally tied tightly around the plait behind.



Example of Rajasthani shoes 'Juti' of 'Kutidar' model used also by Gurjar women: Pushkar valley.





As other castes, in Gurjar society it is traditional to have the children married ('Beaw'/'Shadi') when they are small. This comports that a girl may sport parts of jewellery and marriage clothes at a very young age, even if in practice she still lives with her parents. She is not going to her in laws ('Havro'/'Sasural') before mature, then farewelled off with the 'Maklaw' ceremony. By tradition this occurs only when the girl is capable to grind five kg of grain in a hand-grinding stone and carry two big jars of water on the head, one on top ansother, and put them down by herself.



Fragments of three old 'Chitali lugro' veils of red cotton, with slightly different block printed patterns in white, with black border, from the 1950's.


These three veils show the most recent version of the classical red 'Chitali lugro' with screenprinted floral pattern used in the 1970s and 80s also by the adult women; a more rare wedding veil of fuxia silk with classical pattern; a small version, for a girl child, of the black 'Kali chundari' embroidered by hand, so typical for the Gurjar women.


In the past, at least up to the 1950s, the girls used a classical 'Angarki' jacket. The elder Gurjar remember that the girl's 'Angarki' jacket was white with red 'Manji' borders and also, like this fragment, colourful with 'Manji' borders in opposite colour.


Fragments of an old 'Kabja' blouse which came to substitute the 'Angarki' jacket and is in use up to today, even if now of synthetic cloth. This example, probably from the 1970s, was decorated with real metal 'Gota' border, in that time anyhow rare, while the recent ones are not decorated at all.

A Gurjar girl wearing a 'Kabja' blouse of plain cotton cloth with machine embroidery and metal sequin decorations. Family photo - 1970s.


Example of block printed patterns of the classical skirt material used up to the 1960's for the 'Ghagra' skirt of the Gurjar girls.



The 'Ghagra' skirt was stitched entirely by hand. On the waist line a thread was stitched through the material and stringed to make the waist size, then red 'Tul' cloth was stitched on to it, in which a cord was inserted to tie the 'Ghagra' skirt. On the bottom border was stitched a 'Got' border of red 'Tul' cloth which was ca 1 cm on the outside and 10 cm large on the inside.



This 'Ghagra' skirt was called 'Badami Bhat' and was used by the bride at the wedding ceremony. After the marriage the girl continued to use the 'Ghagra' skirt in everyday life.


Gurjar girls of the last young generation wearing cotton clothes. Family photo. (Pushkar valley 1990s)

A green 'Ghagra' skirt with colourful flowers became the girl's classical 'Ghagra' skirt in the 1980s and 90s. There were many variations of the floral pattern, but it was always decorated with plastic 'Gota' application at the bottom border. Sometimes it was also decorated with a red 'Tul' cloth border. Such floral patterned cloth, 'Pul pattr', also with the base colour in various tonalities of blue, red and violet, was also common for the girls' 'Kabja' blouses, and for the 'Katchli' top of the adult women.






Like all other castes in Rajasthan, the traditional male dress of the Ajmer-Merwarya Gurjar consists of an eight meters 'Safa' (turban), an 'Angarki' jacket (locally called 'Bhagatri') and the classical Indian loincloth 'Dhoti'.

In recent years the 'Tul Safa' (red cotton cloth turban) traditional of the Ajmer-Merwarya Gurjar, has come to be substituited with a synthetic version of saffron colour.

Not sporting anymore the long beard of the past, most of the elder Ajmer-Merwarya Gurjar are still proud with a big bushy mustache.


Gurjar (Mardumashumari Raj Marwar
- 1895                                        



Kishan Lal Gurjar kindly poses to show his 'Safa' (synthetic) and the way how to tie it in the old traditional style. >>>

A group of Gurjar wearing the new synthetic saffron-coloured 'Safa' -2003.
Except from some elder Gurjar still tying it in the old way, the 'Safa' is now mostly tied in the fashionable way called 'Gol Safa' (round turban). The 'Gol Safa' way of tying the turban, turning it a bit at every twist, is a simple way which the last generation to wear turban came to prefer.


Traditionally the 'Safa' and moustache were signs of respect, honor and dignity, but the younger generation matured in the last decades don't feel any shame to be bare-headed and to shave completely their mustache.

When the eldest man, head of the family, has died, at the twelfth day (the day that use to end the mourning period) the community assembles to celebrate his eldest son becoming the new head of the family. At this ceremony, called 'Bhawni', the in-laws of the son present him new red (or saffron) turbans, while the members of the caste 'Panch' – congregation of family elders – present him the white turban, 'Dhola Safa', as appointment of his new status and membership of the 'Panch'. Pushkar valley, famili photo - 2000.



In recent times the Ajmer-Merwarya Gurjar elders have completely substituted the plain white turban with the white 'Kabra Safa' having various kinds of small patterns.



The traditional jacket of Rajasthany men is the white 'Angarki', locally called 'Bhagatri'. While varying in length, wideness, etc., the 'Angarki' is used by all castes, classes and religious groups. It is clearly distinguished by the rounded front tied centrally at the chest.

The 'Dhoti', the classical white loincloth of Indian men, approximatively 450x115 cm, is by the Ajmer-Merwarya Gurjar worn in 'Tin Langi' style (passing three times between the legs) short under the knees.






Classical Rajasthani shoes 'Juti' of 'Pasuri' model with colourful embroideries used by Gurjar men.


Example of more simple Rajasthani shoes 'Juti' of 'Pasuri' model also used by Gurjar men.

  Daily life
Daily life
Carpet weaving

© 2001 - 11 Elin Bolmgren & Jyoti -