Nepali Dress and Culture

Shelby LemonWritten by Shelby Lemon

“We have opened our eyes to the beauty around us, and let me tell you, Nepal is stunning.”

The quote “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” encompasses many of our experiences in Nepal, and traveling in general, thus far. Beauty cannot be defined by what we see and experience on an every day basis. By having a predetermined ideal for beauty we become closed minded to new and wonderful things. Culture and natural beauty are two things we have been experiencing in full and I would love to give you a glimpse into the clothing and traditions we have experienced so far. The garments are as beautiful as the people that wear them!

Nepali Dress and CultureTraditional women’s outfits are called Kurta Suruwal. It consists of flowing pants that cinch at the ankle, a beautifully patterned blouse that covers the shoulders and a scarf that is draped across the body. They have no fear of mixing and matching patterns. Govinda took Ashley and I to the market to get some Nepali clothing and though it was not the traditional Kurta Suruwal, we both ended up with a fun dress and tunic that will keep us from sticking out like a sore thumb. The experience of bartering for prices and having clothes tailored specifically for my tunic was a fun learning experience.

Most women have their noses and ears pierced with dainty gold hoops or studs. Nepali women do not always wear a wedding ring, but instead wear a red powder, called Tika, on their forehead near their hairline. Occasionally you will see a woman wearing a glass beaded necklace, which would have been a gift during the time of her wedding. Govinda mentioned that these things, the red powder, necklace, and other items, would no longer be worn by the woman if she became a widow. It is after being married that a woman wears the Tika on a daily basis.

The red powder is often worn with a red or yellow dot on the forehead (both can be referred to Tika and the dot is often called a bindi). It is a sign of good luck and is often bestowed on people as a send off or greeting. We were given a proper greeting when Sudah, Govinda’s wife, bestowed Tika upon our foreheads when we arrived at their home at the beginning of the trip. Religious men also wear it as a blessing from God.

Traditional Nepali clothing for men is rarely worn anymore. A boisterous and vibrant 70 year old man, that we had the pleasure of having tea with, put this clothing on for a picture with us. The outfit was a plain button down shirt and baggy pants in a light gray material. He topped it off with a fabric hat. Most men now wear jeans or a light trouser with a shirt tucked in. The shirts vary from button ups to T-shirts.

Now for my favorite part: the children. I am fascinated by how beautifully dressed and stunning they look each day despite the heat. The girls wear colorful dresses with bright colors and patterns. They boys dress equally as colorful. The part I found most interesting was the fact that all of the children, boys and girls, had their ears pierced and some had their nose pierced. Many also wore metal bracelets and necklaces. Some children have dark eye makeup on each day. Govinda told us that many people believe the eye black protects their children’s eyes and keeps them dry. He also said that the boys get their ears pierced when they are young, but generally take earrings our once they grow older.

These people; the women, children and men, are beautiful. They make sweating in 105 degree temperatures look good. We have opened our eyes to the beauty around us, and let me tell you, Nepal is stunning. Be sure to look at more pictures of these people on our Facebook page!