Raika/Rabari 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 post@marustali.net - www.marustali.net >

  Daily life
Daily life
Carpet weaving




The territory: Marusthali desert - Godwar






Classical veils of the Chalkia Raika women, 'Sarkli Bhat', of maroon cotton with different blockprinted patterns in black and white. Discontinued in the late 1980s.

Classical 'Chundari' cotton veil (new and washed-out), red with dark violet borders and white block printed pattern, as worn up to the 1990’s by the aged Chalkia Raika women.


The red 'Chundari' cotton veil with different designs in yellow, green and white, printed by the more modern method of screen printing, often decorated with a border 'Gota' (ribbon) and eventually with a border of blue cloth, was typical of the Raika women and girls of any age until the late 1990s. It was later substituted by a synthetic version but also that has now given place to veils of other colours and patterns.

A Chalkia Raika woman in the classic married woman attire. She is wearing one of the last examples of cotton 'Chundari' veil and a traditional 'Kachli' top, though made of synthetic material. Godwar - 2002



In a more far past it was common of Chalkia Raika women to insert a 'Matavti' - a one square-meter of red 'Tul' cloth (locally called 'Sol') richly decorated with mirrors and embroidered in many colours - on the front centre part of their veils. This example, new and never attached to a veil, comes from a village near Falna Station in Godwar and was made in the beginning of the 1980's.

Last example of a 'Matavti' inserted on veil, made of synthetic printed material. On migration: Dwarka, Delhi -2005.



By now, veils of synthetic material, plain or printed with small patterns, have replaced those block printed and/or hand-embroidered. This applies even to the marriage veils which are now only decorated with plastic 'Gota' (ribbon) as this example from a bride of 1995.

This photo of a 2001 marriage shows a group of Chalkia Raika women wearing the modern veils. The bride wears a red synthetic veil decorated with silver plastic 'Gota' (ribbon). From her mother-in-law she is receiving 'Chura' bangles, symbol of her new state.



When a relative has passed away, Raika women put on a special veil, of black cotton cloth with red block printed fishbone pattern, as sign of mourning and wear only this one for a couple of months before changing again to the normal colourful ones.

A young Chalkia Raika woman who lost a relative is wearing the traditional black mourning veil.



Even if the Raika women always loved to decorate their 'Kachli' tops also in the past, there were plain ones like this old silk example.

Even though the 'Kachlis' are now of synthetic cloth, their decorations of rich embroideries, mirrors and 'Gota' (ribbon) still survive.

One late exemple of a fully decorated 'Kachli' of synhtetic patterned cloth. Since the right side is covered by the veil, the embroideries, mirrors and 'Gota' (ribbon) are applied only on the left side.


Examples of vests 'Kurti', to the left one of thick cotton and to the right one of synthetic printed material. The 'Kurti' is used in winter and is complementing the 'Kachli' top.

A Chalkia Raika woman in 'lugri' veil, 'Kachli' top and 'Kurti' vest, which even tough in synthetic printed matirial, mantains a resemblance of the traditional costume. Winter 2005.


Nowadays it is possible to find ready made synthetic 'Kachli' in the shops, simple ones that can be worn simple or be decorated by hand at home, or machine embroidered ones.



The traditional skirt of a Raika married woman is a common Rajasthani 'Ghagra'. It is wide eight meters but it is shorter than the common ones, reaching just under the knees. The cloth was bought in two long narrow lengths, then cut into a few pieces and joined by hand. Red 'Tul' cloth was used for both the borders and to tie the skirt a cord was inserted at the waist. The blue cloth has the classical block printed pattern in black, white, yellow and red, which could vary in the details, common for many village castes in the past. Nowadays it has been substituted by a synthetic version.


Chhipa (block printers) children at work (Mardumashumari Raj Marwar - 1895) printing the classic pattern, called 'Kathari', typical of Raika women's 'Ghagra' skirt, still in use up few years ago. This pattern was also commonly used for 'Ghagra' skirts of many other village castes.


The printing wooden blocks, called 'Bhat' or 'Chhapa', were used most often in a set of three pieces for three colours complementing each other while creating one pattern, in an intricate work of timing and precision. This particular three blocks set creates the 'Kathari' pattern.

Those who carved the wooden blocks were of Khatri cast and this work was of course a special art of itself. Holes were made through the block, as seen clearly on the top beside the handle, for ventilation.


Comparison between new and old material shows the fading of the green background colour to a sky blue shade.



In the same tradition and style as the 'Matavti', the Raika women were embroidering 'Petia' aprons to wear at special occasions tied on the right side. This example comes from a village near Falna Station in Godwar and was made in the beginning of the 1980's.

A Chalkia Raika woman shows her old 'Petia' apron which she does not wear from many years, then how the 'Petia' apron was used to be worn tied at the waist on the right side. Godwar -2009.



These three women sitting in front of their house show the evolution of the married women's costume. While the elder woman on the right, with the sniffing-tobacco box in her hand, wears the typical traditional veil and skirt of elder women, her daughter sitting in the middle has the traditional multi coloured cotton 'Chunderi' veil but a modern synthetic skirt of longer cut, while her young daughter-in-law on the left has both a modern synthetic veil and skirt.

Chalkia Raika women in front of their work of plaited 'Kachli-ki-Khasna' (cords with pendants to tie the 'Kachli' tops) - Godwar 1999.


'Kachli-ki-Khasna' are made of woollen (nowadays synthetic) tassels of many different colours and are further decorated with white glass beads. The cords tied to the 'Kachli' are plaited either flat or round.




Used female Godwari Rajasthani shoes 'Juti', of 'Kutidar' model (two pieces), embroidered with golden metal threads.

Mangi Lal Banbhi works on a new pair of 'Juti' for Nashi - Godwar 2003.
Mochi (shoemaker) at work. (Mardumashumari Raj Marwar - 1895)



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 ones, like the 'Kara' for the ankles, are given from the husband's family. The Chalkia Raika women do not anymore use the typical Rajasthani ornament of the forehead 'Borla' or the neckpiece 'Varli' but still use to wear the neckpiece 'Gungli'.

The classical "ivory" bangles 'Chura' that married women of inner Rajasthan wears at all the length of the arms, nowadays are of white plastic. At marriage a woman gets the ones of the lower arms and at the 'Maklaw' -celebration when she moves to her husband- she gets the ones at the upper arms.
Further, at any occasion of leaving her parents' home after a visit, she uses to tint them with the sacred fuxia colour 'Gulab'.




When a woman becomes widow, she removes all her various plastic and silver bracelets and bangles and replace them all with one pair of wrists bracelets, simple and round in silver, over which some use a pair of particular flat and wide silver braclets. All anklets are also removed but not the toe rings. Earrings are kept and some keep their silver chain necklaces too but most widowed women wear instead a 'Mala', rosary.

Her new dress is plain, without embroideries, decorations and accessories. She starts wearing a long sleeved top, a plain veil in the 'widow colour' maroon, typical for the region, and the traditional 'Ghagra' skirt of elder women.




Under the veil, the women and elder girls have the hair elaborately plaited. Since it is too complicated to do it oneself you always need another woman to do it for you. The specific traditional way used is with two plaits running one after the other centrally from the forehead backwards, and two plaits on each side. All plaits are gathered together behind quite high and tied tightly with handmade colourful cords.

A Raika woman gets her hair plaited - Godwar 1999.
A Raika girl shows the classical hairstyle - Godwar 1999.



Tattoos were a traditional element of the Raika appearance as they were for many other castes in Rajasthan, used in more or less quantity. Elder Raika women are seen having tattoos on almost any uncovered part of their body while younger women do usually not follow this tradition.

Except for some eventual tattoos on the inside of the arms and on the hands, the men had tattoos only in the face with the typical Raika triangular dot pattern over the eyes, same as the women's.





Cloth shops are often specialized in material of certain castes of their region. Here below a shop dealing exclusively in material for the Raika dress. Traditionally people buys material and then stitches the clothes at home or gets them stitched by a tailor, and only recently certain readymade clothes are available in the shops. Godwar - 2008.


A shelf displaying a full array of modern synthetic materials for Raika women's and girls' clothing.





The classical costume of the Raika girls differs from that one of the adult women only by the 'Angarki' jacket (locally called 'Boria') and the 'Ghagra' skirt of red 'Tul' ('Sol') cloth, which many times is continued to be used by young women, as seen on the photo below on the woman second from left in a group of girls.

 "PUSHKAR" © Roli & Janssen BV 1994 - www.rolibooks.com

The 'Boria' jacket is stitched by the village tailor in green, blue or red cloth with 'Manji' borders in opposite colour, threaded with yellow. Every decoration of silver 'Gota' is applied by hand by the Raika women at home.

The 'Ghagra' skirt instead was, up to the 1990s, stitched entirely by hand at home.


Even though the veil is traditionally used to cover the face in presence of relatives of the husband elder than him, it appears in the girl's dressing relatively early.

Up to the first years of the 2000s, even though made by synthetic materials and often decorated with larger 'Gota', the girls costume remained the same.


Girl with a 'Tul' ('Sol') veil like that of the marriage. Godwar - 1970s.

The 'Chura' bangles of the lower arms, symbol of conducted marriage ('Beaw') as well as other items received on the same occasion, can be seen on very small girls since child marriage still is praxis. Anyhow, it is only after the girl reaches a proper age that they celebrate the 'Maklaw' ceremony, which marks the moment that the girls effectively go to live with the husband. From then she will wear the 'Chura' bangles also on the upper arms.

Lachi, the girl on the first photo, wears various amulets, typical for children of all castes. The other two have two different kinds of 'Kungali' silver neckpieces.


With the Chalkia Raika, very ancient traditions were lost only recently. One of those is the particular haircut of small children and men.





The Chalkia Raika male dress consists of a white classic 'Boria' jacket, which may be quite long (in Jalor region), short (in Godwar region) or shorter (in Siroi region), a short loincloth (270x 120 cm) called 'Pacheri' and a red 'Tul' ('Sol') turban eight meters long (locally called 'Potio'). Old men, when their long beards have turned white, usually change their red turbans to white ones.

Rabari/Raika (Mardumashumari Raj
Marwar - 1895)                              

Turban 'Potio' as tied in the more common style (left), in the style specific for camel herders (centre) and in the classical way with the cloth ending 'Choga' under the ear typical of Sirohi region (right).


In ancient times every man proudly kept his moustaches and beard long. Later, the costume of shaving the beard became widespread with the young generation and the beard became more connected with mature age. Moreover, when the beard turns white, the elder use to change their red turban 'Potio' to a white one, underlining their role as a family elder. Despite this tradition, the fashion of shaving the beard, and in a lesser extent the moustaches, is recently starting to be adopted by the elders too.

Sabla Ram Raika tying his turban 'Potio', 'Gol' (round) style. On migration, Rajasthan - 2009. >>>


The very short Siroi 'Boria' jacket.


Jyoti with his tailor Ganesh Darzi - Pushkar, 2006
Darzi (tailor) at work. (Mardumashumari Raj Marwar - 1895)


Gujarati 'Angoscha' ('Gamcha') scarves of different colours and designs complete the traditional Raika male dress.




In the same style as the 'Angoscha' scarves, even if not so commonly, the Chalikia Raika men may use as scarves/shawls the coloured Gujarati 'Pacheri' loincloths.


'Pacheri' loincloths of the Chalkia Raika are always white, but they may have coloured borders, joining stitches and embroideries.


The Pacheri loincloths were hand-woven in two pieces because of the typical narrow looms -as were all other cloth produced in the past by the weaver casts. The two pieces were joined by hand by the Raika women in one or many colours.


In the past it was commonly used a kind of 'Pacheri' loincloth from Gujarat with decorated border. Now they cannot be found anymore but in old 'Rali' quilts as those below.

Close-up of 'Kilo Pacheri' loincloth borders and joining stitches with simple embroideries.


Kana Ram Raika wearing Gujarati 'Kilo Pacheri' loincloth and 'Angoscha' scarf. Old family photo (worked on). Godwar - 1980s.


Sample of a never used Gujarati 'Kilo Pacheri' loincloth.



With the coming in use of mill made cloth in the beginning of the 1990's, the 'Pacheri' loincloths came in only one piece, and as an imitation of the previous joining stitches, a centre line was embroidered for decoration.

Traditionally the 'Pacheri' loincloths used to be embroidered by hand by the Raika women. In many bright colours they presented various floral and animal motifs spanning symmetrically as mirrors on both sides of the centre line, and more simple uniformed patterns along the short side border. Additionally a larger embroidery was made on one corner of the cloth ('Pallo') which, when put on, shows in front. These embroidered Pacheri were commonly worn not only on festive occasions but in everyday life, especially by the younger generations.

When worn-out, these embroidered 'Pacheri' loincloths, as well as all other worn-out cloth, end up in a 'Rali' quilt, as this one above. Because their beauty, the embroidered 'Pacheri' are preferred as the cover piece, so they can be enjoyed for some time more and add colour to the beddings.


The patterns are fresh and naive, and being made on free hand with much fantasy, they are very vivid. Favorite animals are the peacock -holy bird much venerated, the camel –obvious choice, antelopes and parrots. Flowers, trees and leaves are made in an infinity of shapes and constellations.


Recently, around 2005, machine embroidered 'Pacheri' loincloths appeared in the shops and became much popular, and we can say that already in 2008 the hand embroidered ones became part of the past.



The ‘Pattu’ blanket, traditionally hand woven of coarse woollen, is very popular with the Raika men, especially the Jaisalmeri type, and it is used as shawl throughout the cold winter months. It has a few variations, some more simple, but the kind more in use today has many colourful designs on white or black base. They are mainly sold on various fairs and the Raika selling their animals on cattle fairs take the opportunity to buy one. Nowadays the traditional ones have been substituted by those of soft ‘Marino’ woollen, and recently by synthetic replicas available in the village shops.

Army coats from some different European nations, mostly Italian modern army and German IIWW army ones, sold on fairs and local markets, have become so popular with the villagers of many castes but especially with the Raika (who seem to prefer the Italian ones), so much to have become a classical part of their dress.


Jyoti and Poma Ram Raika in winter. Jyoti wears a classical (simple and white) "Pattu" blanket of coarse woolen, with an elaborated multi coloured joining stitch. Poma Ramji wears a decorated "Pattu" blanket of ‘'Marino' woollen and an Italian army coat. He has also tied a scarf tied around the turban to protect the ears from the cold. Godwar -2009.









Old Godwari Rajasthani shoes 'Juti', for men, of 'Kutidar' (two pieces) model.





The Chalkia Raika boys' costume is just like that of the men: a red turban 'Potio', a 'Boria' jacket, which when they are small is colourful as like that of the girls, and a 'Pacheri’ loincloth, with a few pieces of ornaments like earrings and a neck piece ‘Kungali’.
Now since nearly all boys go to school they use to wear the pant and shirt of the school uniform as everyday dress, and the traditional costume is left. Nowadays only the children in migration are still wearing their traditional costume in everyday life.


A Chalkia Raika boy on migration wearing a white 'Boria' jacket made of synthetic material with printed colourful patterns as recently has become common for younger boys, and a synthetic scarf 'Angoscha' tied around his head. Delhi periphery -2005.

  Daily life
Daily life
Carpet weaving

© 2001 - 11 Elin Bolmgren & Jyoti post@marustali.net - www.marustali.net