Saturday, 23 February 2019

Is Shalwar Kameez a Punjabi dress?

On social media i have seen some posts by Punjabis of Pakistan in which they are asserting that Shalwar Kameez is a Punjabi dress and that other communities of Pakistan have adopted their dress. I also saw a tweet by a Punjabi girl few days ago in which she was criticizing Bangladeshis for appropriating their "Punjabi dress" (Shalwar Kameez). Bangladeshis were defensive in reponse and it was obvious that they were not aware of the well-known fact that the original dress of Punjabis is actually dhoti (or lung as we call it). The female dress of Punjabis is also not shalwar, its Ghagra. To this day, they wear dhoti in their villages, and are derogatively referred to as "lungmaar" (dhoti-wearer) by their Pashtun neighbors.

Some assert that Shalwar (or Partug as we call it) was introduced to Punjab by Mughals but Central Asian Mughals and their Turani nobles (including Uzbeks) wore pajamas (tight-fitting leggings) rather than baggy shalwars, not only in India (as they have depicted themselves in their numerous paintings) but also in their native Turkestan..Here is 1808's painting of an Uzbek made by artist of Mountstuart Elphinstone who visited kingdom of Kabul in 1808 ;

A Khojeh of Uzbek Tartary. Source

Iranic people like Pashtuns, Balochs, Khurasanis, Kurds etc wear baggy shalwar but as it is known as Pathan dress in Punjab and India so i believe they have adopted it directly from their immediate neighbors Pashtuns.

I have come across trollish posts by Indians in which they are saying that Pashtuns started wearing Shalwar due to fear of Hari Singh Nalwa, that they used to wear Arabic Thawb before his arrival to Peshawar in 1835. This joke does not deserve a response but unfortunately many people take this non-sense seriously so i am debunking it here with just one reference from history. In 1808 Mountstuart Elphinstone visited kingdom of Kabul and his artists made paintings of Pashtun tribesmen. All of them are shown wearing Shalwar Kameez. This was 11 years before Sikhs made their first incursion into Peshawar in 1819.

An Afghan of Daman, 1810 (c). A plate from Elphinstone's book "kingdom of caubul"

Eight Afghan Horse Merchants, Delhi, 1816 (c), From Fraser Album. Source

An Afridi, 1827-1843. An illustration for Memoirs of General Claude-Auguste, by Imam Bakhsh Lahori 

Village head man Lambadar [Lambardar], Ambh (salt range) Punjab, 1932. Photo by Helmut de Terr. Note that Salt range of Punjab borders Pakhtunkhwa. Source

4 village school teachers at Uchali Salt Range, Punjab, 1932. Note that Salt range of Punjab borders Pakhtunkhwa. Source

A family scene of Punjab. A painting by a Punjabi artist Ustad Allah Bux ( 1895-1978)


  1. آپ نے بہت اچھے سے تاریخ بیان کی.. مگر موجودہ دور بھی اسی تاریخ کی غمازی کرتا ہے جوکہ مؤخر الذکر تصاویر میں لباس ظاہر ہے...

  2. Really shalwar Qamees is the pattan dress in history ,, thanx for your love to depending pashto and pashtoon,,,

    1. khan Barmazaid refrences are based on facts being a Punjabi i appriciate this research work.

  3. modern day shalwar ameez had nothing to do with pashtuns or punjabis, it evolved in the indian subcontinent, the shalwar kameez pashtuns wear originated in the indian subcontinent and not in west asia, and im refering to the fitting and the tailoring of the dress which doesnt minutely resemble pashtun dress shown here, the more appropriate comparison would be kurta payjama of the indian subcontinent and not the pashtun dress shown here, the pashtun women also wear a kurta shalwar like dress, it is popular through out the places which are linked with south asia, since as you go further, the dress completely changes for instance in iran and Kazakhstan, so the kurta shalwar/kurta payjama, shalwar kameez are typical evolved indian dresses.


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