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The protean Gharara

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

A gharara (Hindi: ग़रारा, (Urdu: هرارغ (is a traditional Awadhi/ Lucknowi garment and is a customary or say a necessary heirloom among Muslim women in India's Hindi heartland.



It consists of a kurti (a mid-thigh length tunic), a dupatta or a veil and the significant part, a pair of wide-legged pants, ruched at the knee so they flare out dramatically. The knee area, called the gote in Urdu, is traditionally embellished with rich zari and zardozi work. Each leg of a traditional gharara is made from over 12 metres of fabric. It is famously recounted that under Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider, pyjamas were also worn in the harem. According to Abdul Halim Sharar (1860-1926), in his book Guzistha Lucknow, the Nawab, who was fond of British clothes, saw a resemblance to a British lady’s gown in the wide pyjamas and introduced them in his harem as ghararas. The upper part of the gharara is called paat or kunda and the two parts are separated by a piece of cloth called rumaali or miyaani. On top is a nefa used for kamarbands to hold it up. Intelligently, there is lachka gota stitched on the joint of the paat and gote so as to hide the joint. At a time when India was referred to as the "golden bird," this paat used to be of pure silver and gold designs. Today, it consists of a metal lace. Traditional outfits with terms resonating Gharara are also not uncommon. Shamita Shetty's iconic number Sharara Sharara soared the Sharara's popularity in India which is a cross between a Gharara and a Lehenga. It can also be cited as an example of blending of Hindu culture with Indo Islamic. Another one is the Farara. In a modern, globalised world, fusion wear is all the new craze. Farara has more tighter pants which do not profuse out but stick to the skin. The most famous among women however is the Farshi Gharara. The name originates from Farsh or ground on which the rich pajamas trail on. Abbas Ali photographed a series of women in the late 19th century in Lucknow and who are now immortalised in The Lucknow Album. Gharara workshops have been in existence since Mughal times but are now mostly restricted to Lucknow, Old Delhi and Aligarh. In modern context however Gharara can not simply be confined to political boundaries. South Asian origin brides have led the way to make space for Indian ethnic and bridal wear in the west. Search Pakistani wedding highlights on Youtube and you'll get scores of British Indian/Pakistani brides twirling around in high end couture Ghararas. The whole ambience around the Gharara is beautifully vintage and immortal. No matter the age or fashion era, the majestic three piece apparel remains a favourite. From the women of Mughal India's harem to 20th century's Fatima Jinnah to today's Kareena Kapoor Khan adorning one on her wedding, all resonate and associate with the opulent style of a Gharara.

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