An epitome of timelessness, lehenga choli for women is one of the most popular ethnic outfits in existence. Although this ensemble has been more popularised by the grand Indian weddings seen in Bollywood movies post the 1990s, it actually traces its origins all the way back to the tenth century!
With its history dating back to the Mughal era in India, the lehenga choli has evolved considerably through the ages in terms of fabrics, work, stitching techniques, etc. and can nowadays be found in a plethora of modern designs. Have a look at the fascinating journey of this classic apparel through the years:
- The Mughal Era
During the Mughal era, the lehenga choli served as the royal attire of ladies. Modest in appearance, the lehengas adorned by Mughal women were three-piece sets which included ‘peshwaj’ or a jama coat, pajamas, and a dupatta. This ensemble was a representation of their Persian heritage, and it is quite similar to the modern kurta pajama.
- The Rajput Influence
While the credit for bringing the lehenga choli to India belongs to the Mughals, the outfit was also adopted by the Rajput community here which gave it its own personal touch. The variation introduced by the Rajputs was pretty much the same as the Mughal lehenga choli, the only difference to be seen was a white translucent cloth known as ‘patka’ which was attached to the lehenga. This elegant attire was called ‘Antriya.’
- Popularity in the North Indian region
Although Mughal rule started declining in the early nineteenth century, the popularity of lehenga choli among Indian women did not diminish in any way whatsoever. Due to the massive impact of Mughal influences on the culture of India’s northern region, this ensemble grew more beloved here than in the rest of the country.
- Local variations
Just like there are different beautiful variations in a saree for women from state to state, a variety of lehenga styles started popping up in different parts of India during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Each of these lehengas depicted the distinct culture of that particular region – for instance, Gujarati lehengas featured mirror work and patchwork, whereas Rajasthani lehengas incorporated the famous kundan work and gota patti in their designs.
- Sinking popularity during the Independence Movement
Sarees became the most preferred attire of a majority of Indian women during the Independence movement, which lowered the popularity of lehengas at that point of time. Ever since, the lehenga choli was mostly seen to be worn by women living in rural areas.
- Comeback through 90’s Bollywood films
A lost trend for several decades, the lehenga choli finally marked its comeback in Bollywood movies during the 1990s. This led to the resurgence of its former popularity, and since then it has been an evergreen feature on the fashion charts. Adapting itself to the contemporary tastes of modern women, this ensemble is unlikely to go out of style any time soon!
So, this is how the lehenga choli has journeyed through the ages to become the beloved ethnic attire it is today! Similar to a lehenga, other ethnic garments like the salwar suit also boast an interesting history that you should know about.