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Woman in choli ca. 1872.

A choli (Hindi: चोली, Gujarati: ચોળી, Marathi: चोळी, Nepali: चोलो cholo) (known in South India as ravike Tamil: ரவிக்கை, Telugu: రవికె though choli is still preferred, Kannada: ರವಿಕೆ) is a midriff-baring blouse or upper garment commonly worn with the Indian sari (worn in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, southern Nepal and other surrounding countries).[citation needed] It is also part of the ghagra choli costume of North India and Hindi-speaking southern Nepal.


Choli from Gujarat at the Peabody Essex Museum.
Traditional form of Choli tied at the back from Braj region of Uttar Pradesh.
Women in ancient form of long front covering choli tied at the back.
Ravike from Karnataka with Kasuti embroidery c.1855–1879. V&A Museum.

The choli evolved from ancient Stanapatta, also known as Kurpsika or Kanchuki, which was part of three-piece attire worn by women during ancient period.[1] The attire consisted of the Antriya lower garment, Uttariya veil worn over shoulder or head and Stanapatta a chestband, which finds mentioned in Sanskrit literature and Buddhist Pali literature during 6th century B.C.[2] Rajatarangini (meaning the 'river of kings'), a tenth-century literary work by Kalhana, states that the Choli from the Deccan was introduced under the royal order in Kashmir.[3] Early cholis were front covering, tied at the back. Choli of this type are still common in state of Rajasthan.[4] Pre-Christian era paintings of Maharashtra and Gujarat are considered the first recorded examples of choli.[5] Poetic references from works like Silapadikkaram indicate that during the Sangam period 3rd century BC - 4th century CE in ancient South India, a single piece of clothing served as both lower garment and upper shawl.[6] Based on paintings and sculpture, the Stanapatta evolved into choli by 1st century A.D in various region styles[7] In Nepal it's known as cholo, in Southern India it's known as ravike both of these styles are tied in the front unlike Northern Indian choli which is tied at the back; in parts of Hindi-belt, mostly in Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar pradesh women wore vest-like garment known as Kanchli over choli, this complete attire is known as Poshak.[8]

Historical paintings[edit]

Historic photographs[edit]

Changing times[edit]

Traditionally, the choli has been made from the same fabric as the sari, with many sari producers adding extra length to their products so that women can cut off the excess fabric at the end of the sari and use it to sew a matching choli.[citation needed] For everyday wear, cotton-based materials and silk cotton are widely considered the most comfortable. Chiffon, silkare best suited for formal occasions.[9] The ideal fabric for cholis in the summer is chiffon and georgette.[10]

Designers have experimented with Choli, influencing pop-culture fashion in South Asia, with adventurous tailoring and innovative necklines, such as halter, tubes, backless or stringed.[11] Anupama Raj, a designer and boutique owner commented, "There is a very real need to re-invent the choli so that it can be worn with a variety of outfits. Just as we see the choli to be a deconstructed form of the blouse, we need to deconstruct the choli." Bobby Malik, an exporter-turned-designer commented,"The choli is the most sensuous of all garments created for women. It not only flatters the feminine form, but also brings out the romanticism in a woman, but where Indian designers have failed is at giving it an international look and making it still more beautiful."[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Prachya Pratibha, 1978 "Prachya Pratibha, Volume 6", p.121
  2. ^ Agam Kala Prakashan, 1991 "Costume, coiffure, and ornaments in the temple sculpture of northern Andhra", p.118
  3. ^ Katiyar, Vijai Singh (2009). Indian saris : traditions, perspectives, design. New Delhi: Wisdom Tree in association with National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. p. 211. ISBN 9788183281225. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  4. ^ India: past & present – Prakash Chander – Google Books. Google Books. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  5. ^ Prachya Pratibha, 1978 "Prachya Pratibha, Volume 6", p.121
  6. ^ Linda Lynton, Sanjay K. Singh (2002) "The Sari: Styles, Patterns, History, Techniques.", p.40
  7. ^ Prachya Pratibha, 1978 "Prachya Pratibha, Volume 6", p.121
  8. ^ Bhandari, Vandana (2005). Costume, textiles and jewellery of India: traditions in Rajasthan. Mercury Books. p. 84. ISBN 9780811810845. 
  9. ^ Sarkar, Neeti (June 26, 2010). "Choli ke peeche". The Hindu. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  10. ^ Singh, A. D. (March 10, 2012). "Summer breezers". Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "Vidya Balan puts plunge cholis on fashion map". Times of India. December 20, 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  12. ^ Roy, Sumona (August 31, 2002). "Deconstructing the choli into daring designs". The Tribune. Retrieved 13 April 2012. 

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Choli at Wikimedia Commons