Matters To Be Known Regarding Robes

Matters to be known regarding robes

Tathāgata has decreed the use of nine types of robes by the bhikkhūs. Among them, the three main types are sanghāii, uttarāsanga and antaravāsaka. Antaravāsaka is the  andana (inner garment). Uttarāsanga is the robe used to cover the upper body. Sanghāti is the robe used to cover  the body properly when travelling away from the vihāra (temple). These three are presently refered to as andana– single robe- double robe.

Dimensions of the robes:

All robes must be smaller than the Buddha’s robe. Buddha’s robes are nine sugath spans (Buddha’s span) in length and four sugath spans in width. One sugath span is one and half carpenter’s cubits (27 inches). The Buddha’s robe is thirteen and half cubits. The present day monks do not need a robe as long and wide as the Buddha’s robe. However if it is too small it cannot be worn to protect the parimacdala supaiicchanna (covering around in a disciplined manner) precept. It becomes defective if it is too large. Therefore, robes must be prepared to suit individual body sizes. Andana, which is five cubits in length and two and half cubits in width, is suitable. The single robe and double robe should be five and half cubits in length and four and half cubits in width. Robes must be cut into five or seven sections and sewn together. If the cloth is insufficient to cut sections of all three robes, it is suitable to cut into sections and sew only one or two of the robes. Robes not cut into sections at all are not suitable. When robes are made of new cloth the andana and uttarāsanga in single ply and the sanghāti in two-ply is suitable. When using old cloth two-ply for uttarānsga and four ply for sanghāti is decreed, while robes made from pansukūla material (cloth collected from charnel grounds) can be made in any desired manner. When sewing robes no stitches should be for decorative purposes. Pieces of cloth used for the knot should be rectangular. No decorative borders are allowed in robes.

Ansakada is a requsite utilized by many bhikkhus. It must be sewn as a wrap and not kañcuka (shirt), as declared by “Na kañcukam dhāretabbam’. Kañcuka is a dress such as a banion or a shirt. Ansakada should not be prepared to be like them.

Robe materials:

“Anujāmī bhikkave, cha cīvarāni khoman kappāsikan koseyyan kambalan sācan bhangan”. Six types  of  cloth are decreed for robes. Khoma is a cloth woven with a fibre from a tree with the same name. Kappāsika is cloth woven with cotton thread. Kosseyya is silk cloth. Kambala is cloth woven with wool. Sāua is cloth woven with hemp fibre. Bhauga is cloth woven with mixed thread. These six types of cloth and their equivalents are suitable for robes. Robes should not be made out of hair, feathers and padding material.

Colour of robes:

Na bhikkhave, sabbanīlakāni cīvarāni dhāretabbāni, na sabbapītakāni cīvarāni dhāretabbāni, na sabbalohitakāni cīvarāni dhāretabbāni, na sabba mañjiiihakāni cīvarāni dhāretabbāni, na sabbakachāni cīvarāni dhāretabbāni, na sabba mahārangarattāni cīvarāni dhāretabbāni, na sabbamahānāmarattāni cīvarāni dhāretabbāni.


 As decreed by the Buddha completely blue, yellow, red, maroon, black, the colour of the back of a centipede and the colour of yellowed leaves are not allowed. If robes of disallowed colours are received, they must be washed to remove the colour and re-dyed with correct colouring materials. If the colours cannot be removed, they should be used as bed linen. The rejection of colours such as completely blue and yellow by the Tathāgata is to indicate the suitability of mixed colours. The colouring obtained by boiling the bark of the banyan tree is the proper hue for robes. It is kasata hue, which is a mixture of black, red and yellow.

This kasata colour is chosen from among various colours available in the world, with due consideration for its benefits. Obstacles due to the need for frequent washing and seeking of new robes arise when white robes which are prone to become dirty quickly are used. The absence of that obstacle is one of the benefits of this kasata colour. Another benefit is that when dyed once the colour lasts for a very long time and the obstacle caused by the need to dye frequently is absent. Another benefit is that greed and conceit due to the thought, that this robe is beautiful does not arise. It is less dangerous because it cannot be seen from a distance and therefore, beneficial. This is a colour disliked by mosquitoes. Therefore, fewer mosquitos come to the robe. It is another benefit of the kasata colour. Due to many benefits such as these, kasata colour is highly suitable for bhikkhus.

Colouring materials;

During the time of the Buddha, bhikkhūs coloured the robes with a mixture of cow dung and red clay. This caused the discolouration of the robes. When the Buddha was informed of this, he decreed that “Anujāmī bhikkhave cha rajanāni mūlarajanan khandharajanan tacarajanan pattarajanan puppharajanan phalarajanan”, the six colouring materials from roots, trunk, bark, leaves, flowers and fruits be used. Although He decreed the use of these colouring materials, nothing was rejected as not acceptable. Therefore, the use of other additional materials developing suitable colours has to be acceptable. Even material such as roots, which do not give suitable colours, should not be used. Therefore, it is given in the commentaries to the vinaya “haliddim ihapetvā sabbam mūlarajanam vaiiati” all roots other than tumeric is suitable, “mañjiiihakanca tungahārakañca ihapetvā sabbam khandharajanam vaiiati”, extracts from trees such as patangi and tingol are not suitable “loddnïca kacdulanca ihapetvā sabbam tacarajanam vaiiati”, all bark except those from loth and mangrove are suitable, “alli pattañcha nillipattañcha ihapetvā sabbam pattarajanam vattatī”, all leaves except thin kasāpath and berupath (type of grass) are suitable, kinsukapupphañca kusumbhapuphañca thapetvā sabban puppharajanan vattatī, all flowers except vanuk and kela flowers are suitable, all kinds of fruits are suitable. Perfumes and starch should not be mixed with the colouring materials.

Belt (Kāya bandhana)

Anujāmi bhikkhave, dve kāyabandhanāni paiiikam sūkarantakanti. Two types of belts are decreed by the Tathāgata. Here paIIika is belt woven with no hollow inside. Sukarantaka is a belt in the form of a sheath, which is hollow inside. Flat belts woven only in a fish bone pattern are suitable. Those with a decorative weave are not suitable. Na bhikkhave, akāyabandhanena gāmo pavisitabbo as decreed here, one should not go to the village without wearing a belt. If one forgot to do so, he should immediately wear one the moment he remembers.