Culture
How traditional Georgian costume Chocka was born and developed
19 February, 2018
Chokha is national Georgian clothing that has some varieties according to the historical and ethnographic sides.

Chokha is sewn of thick fabric and is tight on the waist and wide on the bottom. In some parts of the Caucasus there are also female Chokhas.

As it is known, Chokha was a part of the traditional man’s wear in peoples of the Caucasus and in Georgia as well, so Chokha
is a common Caucasian clothing.

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Georgians wearing Chokha.19th century

The Chokha is a wool coat, typically worn by men, with cartridge holders on the chest. They were once basic folds, later made to hold bullets and gunpowder; now, they are simply ornamental.

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The Chokha is a wool coat, typically worn by men

In scientific literature, Chokha is known as Cherkeska, meaning that it was invented in Circassia and then it was spread among the Caucasian nations. Cherkeska is a Russian name for Circassian people.

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Chokha. 19th century

Generally, the Chokha outfit includes a khanjali (the sword), akhalukhi (a shirt worn underneath the chokha), masrebi (the bullets), and kabalakhi (a hood, separate from the robe) or nabdis kudi (a tall fur hat).

According to historical and ethnographic sides, Chokha-Akhalukhi varied.
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Horse riders wearing Chokha. Photo courtesy of National Library

There are four types of Chokha: Kartl-Kakhetian Chokha (Kartli and Kakheti are eastern provinces of Georgia), Khevsuretian Chokha (from georgia’s Khevsureti Region), Adjarian Chokha, also called Chakura (mainly found in western Georgia provinces such as Adjara and Guria and also used in Lazeti that is now part of republic of Turkey), and General Caucasian Chokha which resembles Kartl-Kakhetian Chokha but it is slightly longer.
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Child in Khevsurian Chocka

The current form of Chokha was developed in the late Middle Ages. The final shape of Chokha-Akhalukhi was formed when the active using of the firearms started.

Cartridge holders on the chest advanced the beauty and elegance of Chokha. This type of Chokha was actively used in Georgia from 18th century.
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Cartridge holders on the chest advanced the beauty of Chokha

The fact that Chokha-Akhalukhi in Georgian/Cherkeska (worn by Circassians) was formed from the development of traditional Georgian clothing Chokha,is demonstrated in medieval Georgian ecclesiastical frescoes. These frescoes depict the founders of the church. They were secular personalities, and the representatives of upper class. As it is known, initially Chokha-Akhalukhi was a clothing worn by upper feudal class.
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Traditional Georgian table (supra) in the lap of nature

A short dress was a traditional, festive and military clothing of Georgian princes and nobles. A man dressed in such a short dress, is painted on the wall of XIII-XIV century Yenashi Church in Svaneti, a historical region in northwestern Georgia. It has been confirmed that the common Caucasian Chokha / Cherkeska was invented in Georgia, by Georgian people. From Georgians, it spread among the people of the North Caucasus as a result of cultural-historical relations.

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Cossack man wearing Chokha

Chokha-Akhalukhi, with its cartridge holders on the chest, was a comfortable clothing for the fighters.

of the effective functionality of Chokha-Akhalukhi boosted its spread from Georgia to North Caucasus. From North Caucasus, it was spread among the Cossacks.

At the end of the XIX century and early XX century the firearms have been replaced and the practical value of the bullet holders was lost, but it still remained as the inseparable trait of the Chokha and the symbol of men's bravery.

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Chokha is still used in Georgia as a symbol of national pride, and is frequently worn by Georgian men at special occasions, weddings, celebrations, etc. Worn by Georgians for more than thousand years, the high-necked wool coat was rarely seen during Soviet rule, but now, for many it demonstrates pride in the country's past and serves as a symbol of national identity. It is noteworthy that this beautiful man’s wear became an inspiration to many outstanding Georgian designers, most notably David Koma, who integrated elements from national Georgian costume in his collections.

Author: Lali Patsia

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