Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:
Thank you for the A2A.
Why I believe that there is definitely a difference in the way the Thamizh pasanga wear their veshtti and how the Malayali chekkanmaar wear their mundu.
For starters, though both are essentially cotton, the bleached smooth pure white variety is more popular in Tamil Nadu, whereas in Kerala, the standard mundu is off-white and usually worn in double layers. This also gives it the alternate colloquial name ‘double mundu’.
In Tamil Nadu, the veshtti looks like a perfect cylinder. No crumples, no pleats, nothing. Just perfect at all times. Even while sitting down!
In Kerala, however, the corner of the mundu is just bunched and tucked into the waist. It’s a more casual style. Look at the guy standing at the far right in the picture below…
That is exactly how they wear the mundu on any ordinary day. It is roomy, allows easy movement of legs and it’s much easier to transform into the more easily manageable form sported by the other two guys in the pic…the ‘swag fold’ I call it 😀
For formal occasions, some men take the pains of making tiny pleats at the corner instead of bunching it up. They just make sure that the border or the kara, as it is called, is seen completely.
One other difference is in what they do with the little corner of the mundu that dangles outside the waist tie. You can see it clearly in the pic below…
Malayalis typically leave it like so, while men from Tamil Nadu usually tuck that into the waist as well, thereby enhancing the cylinder effect.
I am referring to the direction the mundu is worn. I’m not sure if there are any rules relating to the direction in which the mundu is worn in Tamil Nadu. It doesn’t look like there are. Look at this picture for instance…
The men are wearing their veshtti towards either side, possibly based on their personal preference.
But in Kerala, the rules are pretty much straightforward. Malayali Muslims wear the mundu with the tuck in towards the left side, while all others (Hindus & Christians) wear the tuck towards the right side. Some adhere to this unwritten rule strictly, though the new generation is seen to be a bit more relaxed.
The Swag Fold
This is also markedly different in the way men of Tamil Nadu and Kerala do it. The fold basically involves picking the lower corners of the mundu and fastening them together at the waist. The difference lies in the way the corners are fastened.
In Tamil Nadu, the fastening is more secure. Once tied, the knot doesn’t give away easily. They don’t pull up their dhoti corners unless absolutely necessary, though. Most times, men are seen with their veshti in the formal manner.
But in Kerala, the ‘swag fold’ is a measure of the guy’s style factor. The mundu is folded halfway up most of the while, except while sitting down (for obvious reasons) and when in front of an elder or respectable person.
There is no ‘fastening’ as such. A corner is just tucked in. It is done in a very loose manner, which means it gives away often and the wearer has to undo it and tuck it in again. This is viewed as a style element of sorts. The way the mundu is tucked in and the entire act of actually doing it has been highly stylized, thanks to Malayalam actors like Mohanlal and more recently Nivin Pauly.
Yeah, Malayali men like to show off their footballer legs 😛
Made for Each Other
Men in Kerala are more bothered about matching their mundu kara with their shirt than their counterparts from Tamil Nadu. I know my dad goes to great lengths to ensure that his shirt and the kara on his mundu match. They are usually of the same color.
If they don’t have a mundu to match the shirt they intended to wear that day, they typically go in for the versatile kasavu mundu, which is basically a mundu with just a plain gold border. This goes with pretty much any shirt.
Men of Tamil Nadu are more casual in their approach towards this matching business and most of them go in for white shirts.
So there is a difference, in fact, there are many differences. But there’s no denying that guys from Kerala and Tamil Nadu look their best in a traditional mundu and shirt!
Signing off with a rather hilarious yet 100% correct video about the ubiquitous mundu ^_^