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Sanghati - Monastic Robe

By Gaurav Manandhar at
Monastic robe - Sanghati
The tradition of wearing monastic robes is common for Buddhist monks and nuns and this tradition may date back to time of Lord Buddha himself, almost 2500 years ago.

The tradition of wearing monastic robes is common for Buddhist monks and nuns and this tradition may date back to time of Lord Buddha himself, almost 2500 years ago. The monastic robes are known as Kasaya and is usually named after saffron dye . During the time of Buddha , monks used to wear robes that were patched together from the rags. In Sanskrit and Pali , the monastic robe is also called “ civara ” which means the robe without any regard to colors.

Robe during Buddha’s Time

There are various Buddhist art in India and China where Lord Buddha was shown wearing red robes . During the lifetime of Lord Buddha , as the disciples of Lord Buddha grew in the community of Sangha , so Lord Buddha made rules to make necessity of wearing robes. The record of such rules can be found in the Vinayap-Pitaka of the Pali Canon or Tripitaka . According to record, it was believed that Lord Buddha taught first monks and nuns to wear the robes of “ pure cloth ”. The term pure cloth literally means cloth that is not wanted by anyone. It is believed that original Buddhist Kasaya /cloth was originated in India and they were constructed from the discarded fabric or cloth.

Three Piece of Kasaya

According to Theravada Vinaya , Kasaya had three pieces of cloth and together they are called “ Triple Robe ” or “ Tricivara ”. The robe wore by Theravada monks today is believed to be unchanged from the original form of Kasaya from 25th Century. The three pieces of Kasaya are as follows:

  • The Dalai Lama with monastic robe
  • Uttarasanga
    Uttarasanga is also known as the prominent robe and is mostly used to wrap the entire left shoulder and leave the right shoulder, as well as an arm open. Uttarasanga mostly cover the Antaravasaka and is covered by Sanghati.
  • Antaravasaka
    Antaravasaka is the inner robe and is mostly used to cover the lower body. It is worn under the outer cloth ( Uttarasanga ).
  • Sanghati
    Sanghati is the outer robe and usually most visible robe among the three pieces. Sanghati is worn over Antaravasaka and Uttarasanga . Actually Sanghati is also worn for various occasions.

As for the nuns of the community of Sangha , they wear five-fold robe which include the same three parts of monks robe and additional two pieces. The other two pieces are called Samkacchika and Udakasatika . Samkacchika is worn under Uttarasanga and Udakasatika is a bathing cloth.

Monastic Robe in Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism follows the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya and wears a red robe as the characteristics of Mulasarvastivadadins . There are many kinds of robes, hats, and capes that are worn by Tibetan nuns , monks , and Lamas . The basic pieces of Tibetan robes are:

  1. Dhonka – wrap shirt with cape sleeves
  2. Shemdap – maroon skirt made from patched cloth
  3. Chogyu – like sanghati and worn on the outer body and is yellow in color
  4. Zhen – like chogyu but maroon and used for day-to-day wear
  5. Namjar – larger than chogyu and are made with more patches and used for formal ceremonial occasion.

Kasaya in Chinese Buddhism

In Chinese Buddhism , Buddhist monks typically wore a red monastic robe . In some period of Chinese Buddhism , color of robes was considered as the medium to differentiate the monastics in China . The Kasaya is called Jiasha . But during the reign of Tang Dynasty , Chinese Buddhist monastics started a tradition to wear greyish-black robe and was referred as “ Ziyi ”.