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The two founders of Aligarh movement wearing Sherwani, Nawab Mohsin ul Mulk, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Justice Syed Mahmood

Sherwani (Hindi: शेरवानी; Urdu: شیروانیBengali: শেরওয়ানি) is a long coat-like garment worn in South Asia, very similar to an Achkan or Polish żupan. It was traditionally associated with the aristocracy of the Indian subcontinent. It is worn over the Kurta and Churidar, Khara pajama, a salwar. It can be distinguished from the achkan by the fact that it is often made from heavier suiting fabrics, and by the presence of a lining.

After the independence of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah frequently wore the Sherwani and made it the national dress of Pakistan.[1]

Sherwani worn by Rajputs of Rajasthan. (family of Rana Arvind Singh)


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
  • Pakistan 3
  • India 4
  • Bangladesh 5
  • Ceylon 6
  • Modern sherwanis 7
  • Notes 8
  • See also 9


The word Sherwani refers to the dress of the people of Shirvan in the Southern Caucasus region (in modern day Azerbaijan), people from that region had a considerable impact on the arts and culture of the Mughal imperial court in South Asia.


Sherwani in South Asia evolved from decorative outer-coat known as choga which was loosely worn over achkan or Jama as part of court dress of nobility and the royals of the Mughal Empire. The difference between sherwani and achkan is the opening, sherwani has long frontal opening while achkan has side opening. During late nineteenth century sherwani evolved into more tight fitted coat worn over kurta and replaced most commonly worn achkan as court dress among nobility and was more generally adopted by early twentieth century. It was gradually adopted by most of the aristocracy, and later by the general population, as a more evolved form of traditional attire. To the Muslims, like the Urdu language, it also became a symbol of Muslim nobility. Before the independence of India and Pakistan, the Sherwani was closely associated with founders of Aligarh Movement. Following Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, all the professors and students wore Sherwani. The name "Aligarh Sherwani" was also coined, inspired by the popularity of the design at Aligarh Muslim University.[2] At the Aligarh Muslim University, these Sherwanis are still worn to keep alive a long running tradition of academics.

  • The Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Sir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII, the richest man in the world, having a fortune estimated at US$2 billion in the early 1940s.[3] always used to wear Sherwani. He ascended the throne in 1911.[4] In his time, all the nobility at the court and all officers of the state also used to wear Sherwani.


Muhammad Ali Jinnah in national dress

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, frequently wore the Sherwani after Pakistan achieved independence, and made it the national dress of Pakistan. It is said he owned over 200 hand-tailored suits which he wore with heavily starched shirts with detachable collars. During his last years he was seen mostly in Sherwani and a Karakul hat which subsequently came to be known as "Jinnah cap".

Following him most government officials in Pakistan such as the President and Prime Minister started to wear the formal black Sherwani over the shalwar qameez on state occasions and national holidays. But as Dr. Tariq Rahman writes about the European style officers that "the impeccably dressed South Asian officers, both civilian and military, never wore in public till the 1970s when Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gave respectability to this dress by wearing it in public.[5] However General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq made it complusory of all officers to wear Sherwani on state occasions and national holidays.

Pakistani theoretical physicist Dr. Abdus Salam appeared in black sherwani to receive the Nobel Prize.

It has also become almost customary for bride grooms to wear a sherwani on their wedding almost always accompanied by a turban. Wedding sherwanis usually tend to have embroidered collars and have been popularized in recent times by designers like Amir Adnan and Deepak Perwani. One major difference between Sherwani wearing habits in Pakistan is that Pakistanis very rarely wear it with chooridar pyjamas preferring a shalwar instead while their Bangladeshis and Indians are distinguished by their preference for churidars.


Jawaharlal Nehru(left) wearing a Sherwani.

In India, the sherwani is generally worn for formal occasions in winter, especially by those from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Hyderabad. The sherwani is generally associated with Muslims while the achkan was historically favored by Hindu nobles. The two garments have significant similarities, though sherwanis typically are more flaired at the hips. The achkan later evolved into the Nehru Jacket, which is popular in India and Bangladesh.


The Hyderabadi Sherwani was the dress of choice of the Nizam of Hyderabad and Hyderabadi nobles. The Hyderabadi sherwani is longer than normal sherwani reaching below the knees.[6]


In Bengal (Bangladesh and West Bengal), the Sherwani or Achkan is worn by people on formal occasions such as weddings and eid.


In Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, it was generally worn as the formal uniform of Mudaliyars and early Tamil legislators during the British colonial period. The diplomatic service had incorporated its use for formal occasions overseas.

Modern sherwanis

Achkans and sherwanis are worn by many Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi grooms as wedding dress. These garments usually feature detailed embroidery or patterns.

Sherwanis have been designed by Rohit Bal for British Airways cabin crews serving on flights to South Asia.

Music director A.R. Rahman appeared in a black sherwani to receive an Academy Award.


  1. ^ Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin - Akbar S. Ahmed - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-06-14. 
  2. ^ Mourning the Sherwani, by Ayesha Javed Akram.
  3. ^ "INDIA: The Nizam's Daughter". Time. 1959-01-19. 
  4. ^ The Maharajas of India, by Ann Morrow
  5. ^
  6. ^ [2]

See also

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