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Monday, July 14, 2014

TNCA denies entry to sitting Judge of Madras High Court : reason - wearing veshti

A decade or so back, a  Senior journalist (of Economic Times) (who lives in Triplicane) was denied entry into a Star hotel – citing that his attire will not be allowed ! ….   South Indians, wear dhoti (famous politicians wearing dhoti would include Rajaji, Kamaraj, Karunanidhi, MGR, Mooppanar, P Chidambaram, Narasimha Rao, Deve Gowda and many more) – there are distinctly different styles in which it is worn in various parts.  Dhotis come in various hues – 4 muzham, 8 muzham, 9X5; 10X6; cotton; synthetic, silk and more…. by some estimates, the Ramraj group — which is into dhotis, shirts and innerwear — has 50 per cent market share for dhotis in South India. Of the 10,000 looms in the Coimbatore region, about 8,000 are reportedly with them doing job works.  Ramraj prides itself on having given “status and dignity” to the dhoti, began an ad campaign to reinstate its image as an apparel of choice. ”  In mid 1990s, they launched an aggressive TV ad campaign which showed men of “substance and status… film stars, industrialists” dressed in dhotis and alighting from shiny cars at banks, five-star hotels and other prominent places.

We call it veshti (dhoti – locally various other names too) (a few decades ago, most teachers used to wear it to work) is a traditional men's garment worn in India. It is a rectangular piece of unstitched cloth, usually around 4.5 metres (15 ft) long, wrapped around the waist and the legs and knotted at the waist.  In India, the garment is predominant in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Bihar,Madhya Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Odisha and Konkan and Goa.

The ubiquitous veshti might have disappeared in the modern World, where people walk out in shorts and tracks.  It has been a strongly favoured dress of the tinseldom – Sivaji  & MGR wore it in many; Rajni in Annamalai; Yajaman and more .. Kamal in Devar Mahan; Ajith in few including Veeram – and  Raj Kiran, gave a new twist to the way it was to be worn  – its popularity in no doubt ! but here is some news for wrong reasons ….

A sitting judge of the Madras High Court, a senior advocate practising in the same court and a lawyer from Madurai were on Friday denied entry into the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) Club, venue of a book release function, in Chennai for having come in ‘dhoti.’  The Justice is quoted as stating  “The British rulers prescribed dress codes in the clubs started by them. It is very unfortunate that even after Independence, the same dress code is continued in the present clubs and our traditional Indian dress is prohibited,” he said. The judge had been invited for the release of the book ‘Legal Fraternity Embraced Me’ penned by T.S. Arunachalam, former Acting Chief Justice of the Madras High Court.

The respected Justice D. Hariparanthaman reportedly reached the TNCA club premises at 5.30 p.m in his official car and got shocked when the club staff refused to allow him inside citing that he was wearing a ‘veshti.’ It is reported that senior advocate R. Gandhi and Madurai-based lawyer G.R. Swaminathan were also not allowed inside the club for the same reason.  Perhaps this is not the first of its kind (I remember the incident of the journalist denied entry into a famous hotel in Chennai for wearing veshti – though web search do not turn any positive results for the same) – earlier former Supreme Court judge V.R. Krishna Iyer was denied entry in the 1980s into the Gymkhana Club. Then, he wrote a note of protest in the guest book.”

The refusal of entry to a dhoti-clad judge of the Madras High Court has stoked a controversy, with political parties including DMK condemning the incident, as CPI(M) vowed to take up the issue in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, which is in session, tomorrow. Karunanidhi said 'vetti' (dhoti) was a symbol of Tamil culture and it was 'condemnable' that one was barred entry at a public function for wearing the traditional attire. PMK founder S Ramadoss wanted an end to such British-era practices.  He demanded that the state government move necessary amendments to ban clubs that do not honour Tamil culture.

Veshti (pancha kacham) is also  the dress of orthodox (both Saivaite and Srivaishnavaite) …. Here is a photo of goshti in front of the purappadu of Sri Parthasarathi at Thiruvallikkeni divyadesam.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

14th July 2014. 


  1. Nice, humble and meaningful protest...Sampath. I like this style very much.

  2. Dhoti is the original vest, should be humbly protested.