the matter of dress and ornaments, Kerala presents
through the age a picture of astonishing variety.
Simplicity and elegance of dress is a trait of
the Malayali character.
common male dress is the white 'mundu' or cloth
which is worn around the waist. A small upper
garment ie. 'thorthu' is also worn over the shoulder.
women of several castes and communities have their
distinctive forms of dress. The Hindu and Christian
women have generally preferred white clothes.
A jacket is worn over the upper part of the body.
Muslim women wear a cloth called 'Kacha mundu'
or a colored cloth, a white loose jacket and a
scarf on the head. The 'purdah' system is still
prevalent among the most orthodox Muslim women
in some parts of north Kerala.
of different patterns are used by women of all
communities and castes. These ornaments are for
the neck, the arm, the nose, and the ankle. The
oldest ornament of the 'Nair' women for the neck
was the serpent's hood, so called after the shape
of the pendant.
other necklaces were 'nalupanti', 'addiyar', 'puthali',
'avil mala', 'patakkam' etc. The ornaments for
the nose were 'mukkuthi' and 'nattu'. The 'Namboothiri'
women do not wear costly ornaments.
'Kaasumala' and the 'oddyanam' were the most characteristic
of their ornaments.
traditional Christian women bore their ear in
several places and wear a heavy gilt brass ring
called `mekkamotiram' at the top of each ear.
ornaments common among them were the `patakkamala',
`the vala', `elas', `aranjanam', rings on the
ten fingers etc.
The Muslim women wear an incredibly large number
of ornaments. They have five or six ornaments
each on the neck like `puthali', `effakkathali'
etc. and for the waist the `arapatta' in addition
to ankles, bracelets and bangles.
many as fourteen holes are sometimes bored in
each ear lobe and a long string of ornaments was
suspended through it.
modern times there has been a change in the attitude
of people towards the use of ornaments. The present
tendency is to limit the number of ornaments to
the absolute minimum.
take special care in the growth and preservation
of the hair. They use plenty of oil to improve
its growth and keep it smooth and shining. The
Kerala women apply the 'kumkum' or 'pottu' on
At one time it was done only by the Hindus and
hence it was considered a caste mark. But in recent
times young women of all castes and communities
prefer this and what was once a caste mark has
been transformed into a beauty mark.