From the attire of princes to a modern man’s wardrobe essential, the bandhgala has had an eventful journey. Designer Raghavendra Rathore narrates a few episodes
An element of fashion needs to be extraordinary to become part of a culture. It needs to be effortless and have the ability to blend seamlessly with the personality and tenor of the society to which it belongs. And for this, it must have a story and an emotion. The bandhgala suit has stood the test of time in India and has made an impact on the global fashion scene too, receiving its first share of international limelight when it was worn by Sean Connery in the 1962 James Bond movie, Dr. No. Be it a wedding, a formal occasion or a festival, this royal suit has today become a must-have in the modern man’s wardrobe.
The journey of the bandhgala, and its inclusion in the hall of fame of Indian fashion as the Nehru jacket, is an interesting and rather eventful one. The ‘prince coat’, as it is sometimes also called, has evolved from the angrakha, a long-flowing double-breasted garment. Inspired by Persian culture, the angrakha was part of the wardrobe of many Indian royals before the establishment of British rule, the latter giving rise to the need for a more formal version of the garment. The angrakha eventually gave way to the more tapered and formal achkan, which soon became the preferred formal attire of the nobility.
Over the years, the trend of wearing an achkan as a formal garment receded, thanks to increasing British sartorial influence. Western jackets or suits became more popular for leisure gatherings because of their comfort. The bandhgala was the achkan’s successor – more easily manageable and charmingly aligned with the British dress code, while maintaining its Indian essence. Worn by aristocrats, polo players, maharajas and princes around the world, the bandhgala made a fashionable addition to the gentleman’s wardrobe. In India, as fashion enthusiasts sought a distinguishing name for this remarkable garment, an ideal figure was found in Jawaharlal Nehru, who was almost always seen wearing a bandhgala jacket. After India’s Independence, as Nehru became the nation’s first Prime Minister, the jacket was named after him. The Nehru jacket had, thus, arrived on the global scene as an iconic Indian silhouette.
Today, the bandhgala suit is wonderfully versatile and can be worn formally as well as informally, paired with trousers, denims and even breeches. It holds a distinct appeal across cultures and its very nature as a bespoke garment lends to it additional charisma. The bandhgala is, in fact, on its way to becoming a universally accepted garment that can be worn anywhere, from Mumbai to Manhattan.
The author is a renowned fashion designer and the views expressed in the article are his own