“Dhauti” means “the act of washing”


The Sanskrit word ‘dhauta’, ‘cleansed,’ by itself, does not mean ‘cloth’ and much less ‘dhoti’. In fact, in the entire Vedabase, as well as in the Sanskrit dictionary, the word dhauta is only used as an adjective, not as a noun. And the Sanskrit noun ‘dhauti’ means ’the act of washing’.

In our sacred texts, the word dhauta is always used as an adjective meaning ‘cleansed’, and does not especially refer to cloth.

Srimad Bhagavatam references:

2.8.6 dhauta-atma = purified soul
6.4.4 dhauta-anghri-panir = cleansed feet and hands
6.18.52 dhauta-vasa = washed cloth
10.12.38 dhauta-pataka = cleansed of sin
10.53.44 dhauta-pada-kara = washed feet and hands
11.17.23 dhauta-dad-vasah = cleaned teeth and cloth
11.27.10 dhauta-dantah = cleaned teeth

Note: we see at 6.18.52 and 11.17.23 that ‘dhauta’ does not by itself mean cloth. The word ‘cloth’ must be added. We find the same in Santana Goswami’s Brhad-bhagavatamrta 1.6.12 dhauta-anga-ragah = [Krishna’s tears] washed away his body cosmetics.

Sri Caitanya-caritamrta references:

Adi 4.170 dhauta-vastre = cleaned cloth

Past Acharya references:

Here are more examples from Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s writings, showing that even as late as the 19th century, dhauta by itself does not mean cloth, much less ‘dhoti’.

Gitavali sarva-dosa dhauta kori = cleansing all impurities
Hari-bhakti-kalpa-latika 8.10 jala-dauta-padah = feet washed with water
Hari-bhakti-kalpa-latika 10.19 dhauta-samasta-mano-malah = cleansed of all mental impurity.
Jaiva-dharma dhauta-vastra-dharah = [Krishna] wears clean cloth

  • Bhakti

    Is the term ‘Dhoti’ in the Vedas? – Part 2


    Mar 30, 2014 — USA (SUN) — On reading the first article,
    some readers raised a doubt – “the term ‘dhauta’ is only an adjective
    and it does not necessarily denote a cloth. Only when it is used with
    the term ‘vastra’ does it denote a cloth.”

    To them, I wish to say what Srila Jiva Goswami says in his commentary to Srimad-bhagavatam
    (3.33.6). He says that “rūḍhir-yogam-apaharati”, or in other words,
    conventional usage of words overtakes etymological meaning of words.

    example, in the English language, the term ‘mobile’ actually means
    ‘that which can move around freely’. The term ‘mobile’ etymologically is
    derived from the Latin term ‘mobilis’, which means ‘the ability to move
    around freely’. However, the term is now conventionally used to denote a
    ‘mobile phone’.

    the term ‘dhauta’ is an adjective, but it is conventionally used to
    denote a cloth. If it is said that the term ‘dhauta’ cannot be used to
    denote a cloth, then it is as good as saying that the term ‘mobile’
    cannot be used to denote a mobile phone.

    course, if different words are added to the term ‘mobile’, it will have
    different meanings, for example – ‘mobile van’, ‘mobile home’ etc.
    However, the conventional usage of the term ‘mobile’ alone denotes a
    mobile phone only.

    although different terms added to the term ‘dhauta’ can produce
    different meanings, the term ‘dhauta’, and especially the term ‘dhautī’
    became associated with cloth. The Amara-kosh, which is perhaps the most
    popular Sanskrit lexicon in India, gives the following names for cloth
    used by men:

    patrorṇaṁ dhauta-kauṣeyaṁ bahu-mūlyaṁ mahā-dhanam (Amara-koṣa, ṁanuṣya-varga)

    ṭranslation: “patrorṇa, dhauta-kauṣeya etc. are names of cloth to be worn.”

    even the lexicographers before ādi-shankaracharya agree that the term
    ‘dhauta’ is used in connection with cloth. In case anyone still thinks
    that ‘dhauta’ does not conventionally refer to cloth, they should refer
    to Srila Jiva Goswami’s logic given in Srimad Bhagavatam (3.33.6).


    • http://iskcon.us/ Alexander Shenkar

      Yes, but what is your evidence that “dhauti” means “cloth” in the same way that “mobile” means “portable phone”? In other words, what is your proof of the conventional use? Also, given some of the example sastric passages, would it make sense to replace “dhauti” with “cloth”? For example: “dhauta danta” would mean “clothed teeth.” Really? Is that the correct understanding? Teeth dressed in a dhoti?

      • atma

        He gave a very convincing argument still some will not be convinced.

        Maybe you should have also posted part one http://www.harekrsna.com/sun/editorials/03-14/editorials11528.htm

        Is the Term ‘dhoti’ in the Vedas?


        Mar 24, 2014 — USA (SUN) —

        In order to derive the term ‘dhoti’, we will have to trace the original term ‘dhautī':

        The actual Sanskrit verbal root by Pāṇini is given as follows:

        dhāvu gatiśuddhyoḥ (as given in Pāṇini’s Dhātu-pāṭha)

        Then according to Pāṇini 3.1.102, the suffix ‘ktaḥ’ is added to the root dhāvu, and after eliminating according to Pāṇini’s rules, we get:


        Dhautaḥ means “that [cloth] which is washed”. When a feminine suffix is added to it, it becomes,


        When this term is translated into Prākṛta languages, the “au” in the beginning changes to “o” by the following rule:

        aut ot (Prākṛta-prakāśa of Vararuci, rule 41)

        So it becomes ‘dhotī’.

        If someone wants to find the original Vedic term, they will have to look for the term ‘dhauta’. They can find this term in the Vedas. Especially in the Pañca-viṁśa-brāhmaṇa, the term ‘dhauta’ can be found. The Pañca-viṁśa-brāhmaṇa is a part of the Veda.

        Anyway, I have to take my dhotis off the line and fold them. Now what do you think I might be referring too?

        • http://iskcon.us/ Alexander Shenkar

          I think your use of “dhoti” is not the same as in SB 😉

          • Ankur Sethi

            I think you don’t know what words are in sanskrit or how “words” are formed from descriptive roots. I would expect a scholar like Maharaj to understand that and at least attempt to educate devotees.

      • Ankur Sethi

        >what is your evidence that “dhauti” means “cloth” in the same way that “mobile” means “portable phone”?

        Because that it is the way it has been used for hundreds of years. With due respect to Maharaj, I expected more. The article of Mahraj is very disappointing to me. I am a big fan of Maharaj, but this seems to a page out of a typical outsider sanskritist playbook. A dhoti is something that is washed. How is that not a word for the cloth that devotees wear. In addition it is used like that for hundreds of years. It seems like Maharaj is doing a song and dance of having a preconceived idea and using selective sanskrit jugglery to support it.

        • http://iskcon.us/ Alexander Shenkar

          How do you explain the meaning of “dhauta danta”?

          Also, have you seen this? http://vedabase.net/d/dhauta

          Hardly arbitrary:

          dhauta-ātmā — whose heart has been cleansed; SB 2.8.6
          dhauta — having completely washed; SB 6.8.4-6
          dhauta-vāsā — wearing washed cloth; SB 6.18.52
          dhauta-pātakaḥ — became freed from all contamination of material existence; SB 10.12.38
          dhauta — washing; SB 10.53.44
          dhauta — having cleaned; SB 11.27.10
          dhauta — clean; CC Adi 4.170

          • Ankur Sethi

            Sanskrit uses roots to describe things. You have explained that dhauti is cleaning. So a dhoti is a word for cloth which describes it as something that is cleaned. Like the word “padapa” is a word for tree which means “drinks from its feet”. But the word “vriksha” is more common as something that is cut. So what drinks from its feet? A tree. So what is cleaned (dhauti), a piece of cloth.

            Context is important. Dhoti is a vernacular for a type of cloth. Is Maharaj trying to say that we don’t speak sanskrit nowadays. I hope it didn’t take that many words.

            It is pretty clear that in “vedic” times people wore a piece of cloth. They didn’t stitch it, they folded it in particular ways in what we now refer to as a dhoti. Is Maharaj trying to say they wore some different style of cloth or that they called it something else? I find this article very below standard compared to things I have read/heard from Maharaj.

            If Maharaj is trying to say that dhoti is not a proper sanskrit word for what devotees wear. That is very unconvincing.

          • http://iskcon.us/ Alexander Shenkar

            I think the gist of what he says is this:

            “The Sanskrit word ‘dhauta’, ‘cleansed,’ by itself, does not mean ‘cloth’ and much less ‘dhoti’. In fact, in the entire Vedabase, as well as in the Sanskrit dictionary, the word dhauta is only used as an adjective, not as a noun. And the Sanskrit noun ‘dhauti’ means ’the act of washing’.”

            Would you say that what we call “toga” would not qualify to mean a piece of cloth you call “dhoti”? Does “dhoti” not just mean a cloth, but particularly a cloth without stitches and folded in a way that is prevalent in ISKCON?

          • Ankur Sethi

            There is no “noun” in sanskrit as you are thinking of it. Read this http://uttishthabharata.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/sanskrit/

            As he write: “In fact, there is actually no word in Sanskrit for any object (barring some exceptions, which are finite in number).”

            So this is why I think this article is just misleading, or maybe this was pulled out of context.

            There are many ways to tie a dhoti. That word is used across sanskrit based indian languages. In vedic culture they wore pieces of clothes, they were not stitched. That was “clothing”, pieces of cloth. Again, not complicated.

            I can show you links where people discuss the fact that there is no mention of the word “tailoring” in the Mahabaharata and Ramayana. So what do you call what they wear?

            Then you get into how you use sanskrit, if you are describing someone, you describe the clothes that cover them, not just the word for cloth. It is all about context, something this article is missing.

          • http://iskcon.us/ Alexander Shenkar

            You know more about sanskrit than I do – so my ability to engage with you on sanskrit grammatics is nonexistent. Perhaps someone who sees this post and responses can add more clarity to the subject.

            Also – even if the dhoti garment is described in SB – does that mean that a devotee should wear it today? I’m perfectly ok to acknowledge (if such is really the case) that dhotis may be described in SB and worn in gone-by ages. I don’t make the leap of assumption that just because it was worn back then, therefore we should wear it today. That logic makes no sense to me.

  • Purusha dasa

    “Dana” means “the practice of giving in charity” and “dani” means “that which is given in charity.” Similarly, “dhauta” means “the practice of washing,” and “dhauti” or “dhoti” means “that which is washed,” and it refers to the lower cloth worn by brahmacaris and male grihasthas in Northern India. In Southern India, mature male grihasthas wear white lungis, and brahmacaris and young male grihasthas wear dhotis.