The chadar, also spelled chador or chadoor, is a multipurpose garment worn by many people in India since before the third century C.E. Indians and others living in countries of the Middle East continue to wear the chadar to this day. Though the size, shape, and color of the chadar vary somewhat in different cultures, it is basically a large scarf, about three yards long and one yard wide, or larger. Both men and women use the chadar as a shawl or wrap for protection from the weather, for modesty, and for religious purposes. Some chadars have decorative or fringed edges.
The chadar is a common accessory in desert countries like Afghanistan, where it is often wrapped around the body, head, and face for protection from sand and dust storms. In less harsh weather, men usually wear the chadar around the shoulders, like a shawl. Women in Muslim societies are often required to cover themselves more modestly than men, and they wear the chadar over their heads as well, holding an end between their teeth when they wish to cover their faces. Some women wrap the chadar tightly around their neck and head to form a sort of headdress that may cover all or part of the face. The abundant fabric of the chadar is useful for many purposes. A mother may wrap her baby in one end of the scarf and use it to cover them both while she breastfeeds. Ends of the chadar may also be used to tie small bundles to make them easy to carry. Some women's chadars are large enough to cover the wearer from head to toe, similar to the long burka also worn by Muslim women.
The chadar also has religious and ceremonial purposes. The color and designs used in the fabric often have religious significance. Many Muslim men use the chadar to wrap themselves or kneel upon it for prayer, and a large version is often used to wrap around the dead before burial.
El Guindi, Fadwa. Veil: Modesty, Privacy, and Resistance. New York: Berg, 1999.
Murtaza, Mutahhari. The Islamic Modest Dress. Chicago: Kazi Publications, 1992.