Q: Upper body clothing outside temple

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at cco.caltech.edu
Thu Oct 3 20:57:48 UTC 1996

> While reading here about the fact that in southern temples removing upper 
> clothing is a required gesture of respect, I would like to ask (Indians) 
> how has the sense that it is otherwise a gesture of disrespect developed ?

Blame the Victorian/puritanical mentality that Indian universities and
work-places have inherited from the British. Add to it the unwritten rule
that an office is a bastion of conservative and /or "Western" values. A
student who attends classes dressed in a dhoti and an angavastram (or a
kurta) would be ridiculed by his peers and punished by the
teacher/headmaster. Jeans + kurta is quite okay in colleges (but not in
high schools) but a dhoti + kurta is not. However, at work, you have to be
dressed in a suit, or in the so-called "safari". Curiously enough, such
sartorial rules apply only to men. A woman who wears a sari to work or to
school would be readily accepted.  

Indians have become quite expert at compartmentalizing these things. For 
example, in many homes, using your left hand to serve yourself some food
is still an absolute no-no. But the same people would use knives and forks
and use the left hand without hesitation at an official dinner. 

S. Vidyasankar

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