The Angarkha or the Angrakshak

The word angarkha is supposed to be taken from the Sanskrit Angrakshak which means to protect the limbs.

It is  long Indian robe with an asymmetrical opening in the chest area reaching down to the knees, which was very popular in N.India in the 19th century and  is also worn with slight variations by men in western India .
The  different types of angarakhas are frock style, waist-length kamari angarakha and the long angarakha which reaches below the knees. Matrerials used would depend on weather and occasion: muslin with chikankaari for summers, brocade and velvet for festive occasions .

Perhaps the most famous weare of the angarkha was Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and this portrait of him with a bit of bare chest is one of his most famous pictures.

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Unlike this portrait, men didn’t show bare chest and the flap covering the chest was tightly tied by flaps to both sides of the angarkha.

It typically has a front open with two flaps and one of the flaps (right)  will have a covering for the chest attached to it which is then tied with strings to other side.

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This is the frock styled angarkha which was made of very fine muslin and the cut can be seen in this book which is in the Metropolitan Museum site

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In the angarkha given below you can see how it is tied and supposed to be worn.

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A typical angarkha which I have seen people wear in my childhood, especially during Moharrum keeping in line with the standard set by MIr Anees the master of the craft of marsiya ( elegy writen on the Battle of Karbala). Marsiyakhwaans ( those who recited marsiyas would wear angarkha and do palli topi with chauda ( wide rimmed) pyjama . I have seen my uncle Syed TAnvirul Hasan wear the angarkha while reciting marsiya and I have one of his cotton angarkhas as a memento.

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Famous Dastangos DAnish Hussain and MAhmood Farooqi have revived the lost art form of story telling or dastangoi.

They not only tell traditional tales but dress as the dastangos of the Mughal and later period in Delhi and Awadh used to : White muslin angarkha , chaudi mori ka pyjama ( wide pyjamas) and a do palli topi. Do palli topi is unique to the subcontinent.

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This angarkha made of brocade was for festive occasions and worn in the non summer months. Summers it was always cotton/muslin in keeping with the weather.

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An intricately embroidered angarkha for royalty now kept in a museum.

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In West India the angarkhs was adapted to become an angarkhi just below the waist and worn with dhoti instead of pyjama

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Of course nowadays angarkhas have been adapted for women and we rarely see men wearing it

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To diffrenciate the photograph given below is of a sherwani which is a completely different cut and design

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Comment List

  • Hafiza Akbar Bakshi 16 / 09 / 2014 Reply

    Awesome Coverage

    • Rana Safvi 16 / 09 / 2014 Reply

      Thank you. I thought it might interest you as a designer

  • sanjeev Singh 16 / 09 / 2014 Reply

    बहुत ही उम्दा …. अंगरखा हिन्दुस्तान का बहुत ही लोकप्रिय लिबास रहा है अगर उत्तर भारत के इतिहास को सिर्फ़ लिबासों की नज़र से देखा जाए तो मध्यकालीन भारत का प्रतिनिधित्व सिर्फ़ और सिर्फ़ ‘अंगरखा’ ही कर सकता ही. इस लिबास को अंगरखा कहना कब शुरू हुआ यह शोध का बिषय है पर तेरहवी सदी में इस को अंगरखा ही कहा जाता था और यह लिबास इतना पसंद किया जाता था कि हज़रत अमीर ख़ुसरो देहलवी साहब ने इस में और पेड़ (दरख्त ) में निस्बत ( तुलना या सम्बन्ध ) पूछ डाली . वोह कहते हैं कि ,” अंगरखे और पेड़ में क्या निस्बत है ?” मतलब अंगरखे और पेड़ में क्या बात एक जैसी है ? इस का जवाब है ‘कली’ , कि दोनों में ही कलियाँ होती हैं….वक़्त बदला ज़माना बदला अंगरखा अब नये नये रूपों में आ रहा है …. और इस बदलाव के दौर में खवातीनें ज़्यादा फायदे में हैं …

    • Rana Safvi 16 / 09 / 2014 Reply

      Thank you for this input. I didnot know the association of H Amir Khusrau with the angarkha

  • Khwaja Saadat Noor 26 / 09 / 2014 Reply

    thank you, it is an informative piece. apparantly what wajid ali shah popularised and became a court dress was also called an achkan. angarkha was worn mainly in the western part of india mostly gujrat and rajasthan. the difference was that angarkha normally ended above the knee around mid thighs, where as the achkan went down much below the knee, almost the length of the sherwani. made of lighter clothes especially muslin(addhi). it is different from a sherwani as sherwani is made of heaveir clothes and has a lining inside. the flaps of the sherwani are shorter whereas the achkan flaps are bigger and are tied with strings. a sherwani must have a band gala and achkan had a round gala.

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