Walk Through The Cultural Exploration of Traditional Indian Footwear Styles

The traditional footwear Pabu from Ladakh looks subtle and unique. The Ladaki shoes are worn by the mountain locals essential for walking and climbing terrain.

Aditi Nag
New Update

Footwear and its evolution reflects its rich tapestry of history and culture with each region boasting its styles and techniques. Footwear in India serves both functional and aesthetic purposes and has been influenced by diverse factors such as climate, terrain and social customs since ancient times. From Punjabi jutti to Kolhapuri chappal and Rajasthani mojari, each portrays its unique and embellished craftsmanship and traditional footwear designs.

It is not merely a fashion statement; it embodies the essence of tradition, identity, and craftsmanship passed down through generations. The styling has transcendence and is intertwined with religious rituals, social ceremonies, and everyday life. From brides wearing mojaris to wearing high heels and now wearing sneakers traditionality was carried together. 

After globalisation and technological advancements, the footwear industry underwent a major change. A significant evolution was also observed in terms of shifting materials where the design and pattern remained the same and were interchanged with materials that are durably affordable and match customers' preferences. Materials which are convenient like plastic, rubber synthetic leather etc were blended with traditional styling.

The evolution of footwear design and materials in India reflects a dynamic interplay between tradition and innovation, as artisans and manufacturers adapt to changing consumer preferences while preserving the cultural heritage of Indian footwear craftsmanship.

Let's explore India's rich history and elevate your curiosity by showcasing Traditional Indian Footwear Styles which may raise your urge to add it to your collection.

1. Paduka:


Paduka or Khadau represents an ancient form of footwear in India, with its exact origins difficult to pinpoint. However, it bears a resemblance to the Charan Paduka of Shri Ram. According to legend, Paduka or Khadau were brought to Ayodhya and placed on the throne during Shri Ram's exile. Another term associated with this footwear is Upanah, mentioned in ancient scripts, signifying footwear. References to Khadau appear in historical texts dating back to the 6th and 7th centuries.

Paduka is typically crafted from wood, silver, or ivory, fashioned in the shape of a fish or the wearer's feet. It consists of a sole with a post and knob positioned between the big and second toe, intricately decorated for specific occasions or religious offerings. Even common people wore Khadau made from fine teak, ebony, or sandalwood, reflecting the wearer's status. You can also check out this product here.

2. Jutti and Nagra:


Jutti and Nagra have their origins in Punjab and Rajasthan since the Mughal Era, worn by both men and women of Rajput and Mughal clans, primarily among the upper-class community.

Originally crafted from leather, some versions featured intricate zari gota work with threads of gold and silver, while others were adorned with precious stones and jewels. These footwears are created by craftsmen from various communities, including the chamars who process the hide, the rangaars who color and paint the jutti, and the mochis who assemble and finish the product through stitching and mending.

Nagra is a variant of jutti characterized by a soft, rounded tip reminiscent of a ballerina shoe, inspired by Mughal and Rajput footwear styles. Jutti typically features M-shaped curves, whereas nagra has a rounded toe-tip curve.

The artistry of jutti and nagra is vast, with designs ranging from geometrical patterns to mirror work, floral motifs, phulkari, ghunghroo embellishments, printed designs, painted details, and more. The versatility in style and craftsmanship ensures a never-ending array of options. You can also check out this product here.

3. Mojari and Khussa:


The most popular variant of Jutti is Mojari or Khussa, which originated in Rajasthan and was worn by Maharajas and kings during the Mughal period. Mojari or Khussa bears a resemblance to traditional jutti footwear.

This type of footwear, known as Mojari or Khussa, lacks distinction between left and right shoes and features an extended toe curl, particularly favoured by men. It is a cultural staple in Pakistan, with variations like the Multani Khussas being popular. Both men and women wear Mojari and Jutti, another similar type of footwear.

Mojari has gained popularity globally, resulting in a wide variety of styles. The demand for Mojari is significant, with varieties such as Jalsa, Kasuri, Salem Shahi, and more. You can also check out this product here.

4. Kolhapuri Chappal: 


The name itself suggests its origin. Kolhapur is the home of the Kolhapuri Chappal. The creation of Kolhapuri Chappal began in the 13th century when King Bijjala and his Prime Minister, Basavanna, supported the cobbler community. Later, the Saudhager family developed a lightweight version with flaps, which remains the essence of its design and style today.

Handcrafted from the thick skin of buffalo and traditionally dyed with vegetable dyes, Kolhapuri Chappal is considered the most durable footwear, capable of withstanding rocky terrain.

These sandals have a simple and subtle appearance that complements Indian attire and some Indo-Western outfits. Today, designs have evolved to include a wide variety of styles, incorporating metallic colours, zari gota work, mirror work, and more.

Kolhapuri Chappals are not only produced in Maharashtra but also in Karnataka, where they bear different names signifying their origin or the village where they are manufactured. Some of these names include Paytaan, Kapashi, Bakkalnali, Kachkadi, Pukari, and more. You can also check out this product here.

5. Pula Chappal:


Pula originates from Himachal Pradesh and is primarily crafted by villagers from Chad using bhang, shale grass, or cannabis grass. They are made by twisting dry cannabis grass into a long rope and then braiding it. This is followed by assembling and stitching together a cloth lining with colourful woollen needlework on top. Pula shoes are strong and lightweight, specially designed for snowy environments.

Made by mountain locals, Pula shoes protect wearers from extreme cold conditions and are suitable for walking on snow. They serve multiple purposes and can be worn in temples and religious ceremonies. Previously, Pula shoes were made of leather, but due to the state's reputation as the 'Land of Gods,' it is considered inappropriate to use leather. Pula Chappal is also found in regions of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat. You can also check out this product here.

6. Pabu:


The traditional footwear Pabu from Ladakh possesses a subtle yet unique appearance. Worn by mountain locals, these Ladakhi shoes are essential for traversing the rugged terrain.

Hand-woven with a perfect blend of colours, Pabu is uniquely designed to protect the feet from extreme cold conditions. Its distinctive appearance features a shoe that rises on the top edge and extends over the ankle, wrapping the entire foot to provide elevated cosiness and warmth.

The 'Theme-Pabu,' worn by Ladakhi women, is embellished with colourful motifs and has a woollen velvety surface. Firstly, the footwear is handwoven with sheep or yak wool, and the leather part is then stitched by the cobbler. As these shoes are authentically made in the regions of Ladakh hence you can find them in the local markets of Ladakh.

7. Pastoral footwear:


Gujarat is home to many nomadic clans, including the Bharwads and Rabaris. The footwear worn by these communities is known as 'Rabari na lagna joda' or 'Bharwadi Desi joda,' depending on the community.

Crafted by the Gohil community, these shoes are made from layers of vegetable-tanned leather, meticulously sewn and joined together by hand to create durable and rugged pairs of footwear. The footwear is relatively heavy, as 4 to 5 layers of leather are joined without thinning the hide. Due to their durability and unique styles, they are in high demand both domestically and internationally. Mostly authentic pastorals are found in the Kutchi region of Gujarat but you can check out some similar products here.

8. Sindhi Mojari:


Sindhi Mojari is a unique traditional footwear worn in the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal era. Originating from the Mughal Empire, these shoes were crafted from leather and adorned with gems, gold, and silver threads. They gained popularity under the patronage of Mughal king Saleem Shah.

Traditionally, Sindhi Mojari is handcrafted by artisans using tanned leather, including hides from cows, buffaloes, sheep, and other wild animals. The upper part is typically made from leather or cloth embroidered with threads and embellished with decorative elements such as brass shells, ceramic beads, and crowy nails. Sindhi Mojari is commonly worn by Pakistani women, often paired with Pakistani suits. You can find similar products here.


Sindhi Mojari Pastoral footwear Pabu Pula Chappal Khussa Mojari Nagra Jutti Paduka Traditional Indian Footwear Styles Kolhapuri Chappal