by Vikas Kamat
First Online: June 14, 2005
Page Last Updated: April 04, 2014
Kaupina (a.k.a. kowpina, kachcha) is a distinctly Indian form of
clothing from ancient times. It is a loin cloth passed between the legs and held by a string at the
waist, just enough to cover the private parts. The remainder of the cloth acts
as a throw or apron (see picture below).
K.L. Kamat/Kamat's Potpourri
The Kaupina as Attire
Picture of an almost naked fisherman and his catch
recent times (1970s and 1980s) laborers, tribals, and even women (during their
menstrual cycles) wore the kaupina, but its use has decreased after the
arrival of machine-made undergarments. In some rural parts of India one still
(year 2005) can come across priests, fishermen, craftsmen,
and ascetics wearing only the kaupina.
Kaupina in Indian Culture
Kaupina features often in Indian literature. It is the attire of
Lord Shiva, and sadhus who emulate him wear the kaupina as the sole clothing
as they beg or meditate. It is possible that people who wore other attires (like pitambar
or saree ) also wore kaupina as an undergarment.
Professionals in Kaupina
Many illustrations of India drawn by visiting Europeans in 18th and 19th
centuries feature men working in a kaupina -- either by choice or out of
poverty. Many medieval poets and saints are also described as "clad in
A part of the Hindu initiation ceremony involves teaching the
boys how to wear the kaupina.