The Lungi is a popular item of clothing traditionally worn by men down in the South of India. It is a rectangular piece of cloth with no buttons, zips or stitches. Depending on local tradition, lungis can be worn by men or women. They are tied or fastened in various ways, and can be used in different cultural activities, ranging from normal daily life to elaborate wedding ceremonies. The same lungi when folded in different ways can be worn for a marriage function or a street fight. The Lungi is also called by many other names like dhoti, mundu and veshti but while a lot of people use these terms interchangeably, there are distinct differences between the terms.
In Kerala the lungi, locally known as Kaili or Kalli Mundu, is worn by both men and women. It is considered a casual dress or working dress of physical labourers. Lungis are generally colourful, and with varying designs. The plain white version of a lungi is known as a mundu. For more ceremonial occasions (like weddings), mundus often bear a golden embroidery known as kasavu.
For daily purposes, a simple double knot is most popular, since it is least likely to slip or come undone. Another way of wearing is it by draping it around the waist and pleating it in the front at the groin. A lungi can be single-coloured, or in stripes, or in motif-prints. To be very precise, there is no hard and fast rule, pertaining to the pattern of a Lungi. However, stripes in dual colours, against a background colour is the most popular type.
Kerala men folk generally tuck up their mundus or lungis. The bottom of the garment is pulled up and tied back on to the waist. This would make the mundu or lungi only cover the body from the waist to the knees. In this fashion it somewhat resembles a kilt, but without pleats. The lungi is thought to be quite comfortable, as its length can be adjusted rather easily. It is particularly popular in regions where the heat and humidity create an unpleasant climate for trousers.
Unlike dhotis, which are linear like sheets, lungis are sewn into a tube shape like a skirt. The Dhotar or Dhoti is made with very fine cotton and is much longer in length than a Veshti or Mundu, which are not designed to run between the legs. One can go to a wedding in Dhoti, but never in a Lungi. The Lungis and Mundu can be worn in half-fold.
The standard lungi is 1.15m in height and 2.0 m in length, when open. While standard lungies are produced “open” only, they however become a confortable wear only when the open ends are joined and stitched to form a “tube” (like a skirt). However people in Kerala mostly wear lungi in open condition, similar to wearing a “dhoti”, “Veshti” or “Mundu”. In Tamil Nadu, lungis are worn mostly after stitching the ends.
Here is how a tubular lungi is tied.
1. Wear the the “tubular” lungi as shown
2. Stretch and flatten the “tube” so that the lungi touches your navel and back.
3. Not allowing the lungi to fall from your front, swing your hand to one side and grip the lungi as shown to get the first fold.
4. With this grip on one side ensured, swing the hand to the other side to grip. This is to get you ready for the second fold.
5. Now the lungi is firmly held with the two-folds at the waist level around the navel.
6. Now do the first roll by folding the edge downwards over your tummy.
Do a second roll and fold. You can also do one or two more rolls to adjust the overall height and also to increase the grip at your waist. Flatten the roll at your waist to tighten it.