A generation ago, the turban was the “crowning glory” of all Punjabis whether Muslim, Hindu or Sikh. Muslims and Hindus have given up their turbans, but it remains, literally, an article of faith for Sikh men whose religion forbids them to cut their hair. The kurta, a long straight-cut, loose shirt teamed with pyjamas, the loose baggy salwar or a kind of sarong called a loongi or tehmat makes up the traditional dress for men. Winter sees the rustic Punjabi in colourful sweaters that wives and mothers are so skilled in making. A blanket finishes his ensemble. When the urban, educated Punjabi steps out to work he will be in shirt and pant or a suit—sartorially indistinguishable from his counterparts in Tokyo or Toronto. Back home in the evening, he is likely to be found in more traditional dress. The traditional Punjabi shoes, called juttis retain their popularity with both rural and urban men; they are both elegant and comfortable. Patiala and Muktsar are famous for juttis.
It is impossible to tell by dress whether a Punjabi woman is a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian – they all dress in salwar topped by a kameez (a garment that can be fitted like a dress loose like the kurta) and accented by a rectangular scarf about 2.5 metres long called the chunni or duppatta.She’s fond of her sweaters, but she is passionately proud of her collection of woollen shawls. These can be breathtaking. The women of Punjab are responsible for the state’s most famous item of handicraft – the phulkari.This is a shawl completely covered in dense silk embroidery, folk motifs in jewel-tones on an ochre background. Gold is her weakness – brides are loaded with it. The jewellers of Punjab stock an enormous range of designs in bangles, necklaces, rings and earrings, nose-pins, ornaments to pin in the hair, anklets and toe-rings. A particular kind of bangle is the tip-off in recognising Sikh men and women. It’s called a kada and is made of steel.