Shalwar Kameez is not a Punjabi/Sikh 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.

K.K.Aziz corrects texbooks in his famous book “The Murder of History: A critique of history textbooks used in Pakistan” and writes that the every day attire of rural Punjab and Sindh is dhoti-kurta for men and lhanga-kurta for women :-

Source: “The Murder of History: A critique of history textbooks used in Pakistan” by K K Aziz, p-171


I have come across troll 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)









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