The Kaupina

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
The Kaupina as Attire
Picture of an almost naked fisherman and his catch

Till 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.

 

South Indian Potter The Lift Irrigation System

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 kaupina".

A part of the Hindu initiation ceremony involves teaching the boys how to wear the kaupina.

See Also:

 

Kamat's Potpourri Timeless Theater Attire

Research Database

Merchandise and Link Suggestions

Top of Page

Indian Clothing
Indian Clothing

Pictures
The Princely Attire of Salar JungThe Long Gown Worn by a NawabColorful Attire of a Rajasthani Man Military Attire of Jamadar Muddu Krishna SinghElder in Traditional Indian AttirePortrait of an AristocratAttire of Noblemen of Mysore Ancient Lungi ?Nobleman of Mysore with Family
Indian Attire During the Changing TimesSomething New, Something OldIllustration Showing Wrapping Pattern of a SareeA Young Girl from Mizoram in her Traditional DressChudidars Hung for SaleA Nobleman depcited in Kavi ArtThe Lungi Attire of FarmersBeggar with Drums Outside a TempleHow to Build Houses While Wearing a Sari
The Mysore TurbanSaree is worn by young and the old alikePicture of a VillagerShepherd Boy with a Woolen HoodThe Long Gown Worn by a NawabPrincely Costume of MysoreKameez and Odhani OutfitMember of the Mysore Palace StaffA Costume of India
Ancient Costumes of IndiaCostume of a Cymbals PlayerA Young Girl from Mizoram in her Traditional DressThe Embroidered Woolen Cap of Ibrahim Adil Shah IIInexpensively Decorated HeadgearTypical Headgear worn by Sikhs and Muslims in IndiaThe Kavi (Indian Red) Turban of Swami VivekanandaThe Turayi Headgear of a Halakki TribalTilaks Maharashtrian Turban Popular during 18th-19th centuries
The Turban of Pandit Madan Mohan MalaviyaThe Elaborate Turban of a Nobleman, MysoreKulavi the stitched Head GearQuilted Hat of a Vijayanagar NoblemanRumal of a Farmer in KarnatakaThe worn out cap of a homeless manThe Man in PinkThe Colorful Turban of a Sufi MysticMarwadis Marvelous Turban
Sikh youngster with sporty Head GearMan in Yellow Turban (Peta)Festive Turban of a Sikh YoungsterHappy Villager from Rajasthan, IndiaMan in Red TurbanMan in Red RumalMan in Gandhi Topi Wealthy Mans Elongated Cap with Studded EmeraldsMoulana Lungis
Tribal Saree Styles -- Notice how short the saree isThe Saree as  CradleTribal Woman in a Old-fashioned Bordered SareeHow to Dance in a SareeA Saree Advertisement of 1950s from Phoenix CompanyWoman in her Vanity Putting on a SareeSaree Style Popular in Malabar 1900 A.D.The Throw of a SareeGirl Gets Help Putting on a Saree
Yet Another Variety of Wearing the SareeThe Half-SareeEmbroidery on a Silk SareeHow Fight Battle in a SareeThe Sari is the Attire of the Poor as well as of the RichThe Sari is Not a Deterrent to this Ephemeral ArtistThe Simple Cotton Saree of a Street VendorWomen in SareesTheres No Such Thing as a Maternity Saree
A Fashionable Style of SareeA Style of the Saree Worn Below Navel