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Glossary of Terms

Khadi Cloth

Although the term khadi (or khaddar) literally means “cotton,” the raw materials of this Indian hand-spun and hand-woven cloth may actually be cotton, silk, or wool, all of which can be spun into threads on a type of spinning wheel called a charkha. It makes for the ideal “all-weather” garment, in that it feels cool in the summer and warm in the winter. To improve its appearance and to minimize wrinkling, the material is frequently starched. As a means of promoting Indian self-reliance, in the 1920s Mahatma Gandhi began discouraging the import of foreign-made clothes and promoting the spinning of khadi cloth as a rural cottage industry. It has become such a strong symbol of Gandhi’s principles that now the flag of India can only be made from this material.


A loose, stitched garment traditionally worn by men and women in India, as well as in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It is commonly described as a tunic.


A circle of beads, forming a necklace or rosary (mala), is a common artifact in many cultures. It is used for decorative purposes as well as being used by religious groups, notably as prayer counters — possibly following a rhythm. They are also used in the form of “worry beads” in some cultures. The religious form, common in both East and West, is used as a mnemonic device to order a series of prayers or meditational mantras.

Salwar Kameez

A type of dress worn by both women and men in northern South Asia and Central Asia, including Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. Indian women have also adopted this dress in place of the sari (the traditional dress of India). The kameez (or kamees) resembles a long shirt, or tunic, that falls to about mid-calf, and is designed to be worn over loose, pajama-like trousers (called salwar, or shalwar) that are wide at the top of the leg and taper at the ankle.

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