The Shalwar Kameez and its adoption by Pathans and Afghans
Dress of the Pathans
History is a peculiar combination of a record of wars and its effects. It also affected the dress worn at that time. One dress that is so common among the men and women of the North West Frontier and Punjab is the Shalwar Kameez. It consists of a loose shirt up to the knees and under it is a trouser called the Shalwar which is tied at the waist with a cord. The shalwar is broad at the thighs and tapers to an embroidered collar around the ankles. This was the original dress, but now many innovations have been made.
This was the standard dress of the Sikh women in Punjab but was never worn by the men. In the 19th century, one man named Hari Singh Nalwa terrorized the Afghans and the men of the frontier. Hari Singh Nalwa was a general of the army of Maharajah Ranjit Singh who was intent on expanding the Sikh empire further west. His capital was Lahore.
In a series of battles from Multan, Jamrud, Peshawar the Afghans were badly beaten. The name of Nalwa now created a great fear psychosis among the Pathans and they wondered what to do. Hari Singh was a ruthless man and the Afghans were loathing to be captured by him.
Role of Hari Singh
They also learned that Hari Singh as per his code of conduct spared the women and the children. The Afghans thought of a plan to escape from the battlefield. They decided that the best course was to wear the shalwar kameez, the dress worn by the Sikh women and escape. This ruse was successful in a number of cases, particularly during the night.
The Afghans and the Nathans thus started wearing the shalwar Kameez and now it is worn by both men and women in the North West Frontier and Punjab. It has become the standard dress of the Afghan and Pathan men. People may well ask, as to what was the dress of the Pathans before they adopted the Shalwar Kameez. The Pathans wore a robe similar to what the Arabs wear now.