Why Do Monks Wear Different Colored Robes?

Why Do Monks Wear Different Colored Robes? One distinct reason why monks wear different colors of robes is to set themselves apart from other monks, agencies, or parastatals in different parts of the state or the world at large.

If you make a good research, you will most likely see colors like red, yellow, brown, orange, and purple in fact, just about any color you can think of. The color varies from one temple to another as they all use a different color so distinguishing one from the next can be easy.

For example, you will find the Buddhist monks wearing yellow or red. This they do to totally separate themselves from what is called; “Zanpu” – a name for some set of government officers whose uniform color is red.

There is also another scenario that played out in 1983. This had the famous monk Ashin Nyar Na take on a blue-colored robe to differentiate himself from the set of monks of either Mahayana or Theravada origin as they were mostly dominating the whole of Asia especially, East and North Asia.

Why is the saffron color so significant for monks?

Just in case you are wondering, saffron is actually a red-like color that is derived from the only dye that was available for use way back during the days of Budhha.

The significance lies not so much with the color but with the robe itself. If you observe, you will notice the technicalities of the making of the robe. It is one that was stitched to be made robe from different pieces of cloth.

The reason behind this is that monks were known to make use of materials that were thrown away and no longer in use to produce their own robes. After which, they get it dyed to the set color which is saffron.

All in all, it would not be out of place to say that the saffron was highly significant for the monks because it might have been the only dye readily available in those days.

The robes of Buddhist monks are in what color?

You will find Buddhist monks putting on robes that are light brown in color. During the stage of production, the fabric was dyed to that color. The dye used was gotten as wooden extracts of the jackfruit tree.

For the dye preparation, the wooden extracts were made to cook for long hours before the light brown color could be achieved.

On getting to town though, the Thai Buddhist monks there spot very bright orange-colored robes.

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How can the robes of Tibetan monks be described?

Okay, to begin, the pieces of clothing that makes up a Tibetan monk’s outfit include a red-colored monk skirt and a waist coat. Then, you will observe the red kasaya that can confidently go over their entire body’s length twice wrapped around their shoulders.

When it is time for prayers, they change into a wool-like red cloak. The name for this in Tibetan is actual the “dagang.”

As the monks attain new academic milestones they have slight changes made to their robes. When they climb to Gexi – the highest form of degree academically attainable in Tibetan Buddhism, they graduate to having their waistcoats rimmed and adorned with satin borders with satin water bags flipped around their waists. The water bags are intended to hold small bottles to be used for the rinsing of the mouth.

What do the Catholic monks wear?

The catholic monks spot a very unique kind of attire called the cassock which comprises a tunic, a scapular, and a cowl – a cowl is a cloak with a hood. Most monks not just that of the Catholic faith have their robes bearing hoods. This hood is usually the same color and fabric as the rest of the robe and it stays attached to the robe.

How is a Tibetan monk robe worn?

Wearing the robe requires a little bit of skillfulness however, the next few steps will teach you how to do it easily even if you have never seen it before.

  • Step 1: Grab both ends of the robe in front. You can do this by using one hand to hold the first end and the other one for the next.
  • Step 2: once you have the ends held and spread apart, roll both sides and bring them forth towards your body.
  • Step 3: when you can see that you have exhausted the fabric, have your shoulders placed inside. Raise one arm up in the air and begin rolling the rest of the fabric close to your body.

Upon the completion of the 3rd step, you would have successfully worn the Tibetan robe.

Important things to know before visiting the Buddhist temple

Before going on a visit to a Buddhist temple, there are some very important etiquettes and mannerisms that you must know.

Some of the basic etiquettes include your outfit. Wearing flashy or dramatic clothes is usually out of place. The best is to appear as conservative as you can. Also, it is a norm to take off not just your shoes but your stockings too before going in. Other tips include:

Watch your back

You must be careful not to stand for pictures in front of Buddha images while backing Buddha.

No pointing with your soles

As you lie or sit, do well to ensure that the soles of your feet are not pointing at any images of Buddha, monks, or even anyone in particular. This is highly frowned upon as it connotes grave disrespect and lack of courtesy.

Walk right

In case you are wondering what this means, the right way to walk is when you are walking in the right direction which is, a clockwise movement around temples, monasteries, and pagodas. Doing this sends a signal that you are well informed and really do have respect for the Buddha.

No touching whatsoever

It is bad manners to touch people that you come across. Also, if you are used to greeting with a handshake, save it for when you go outside of the temple for in there, it is considered disrespectful. For emphasis’ sake, do not attempt to touch a monk much less, anyone, at all.

Have a smiling face

I know these seemingly awkward rules might get you thinking that the monks are all rigid and overbearing but, that really isn’t the case.

They are extremely nice, accommodating, and friendly to a fault. You are sure to meet them spotting a smile at you so, return the favor and smile back.


DIY – How to make a monk outfit

If you ever need to make a monk costume perhaps for a play or even if you are just generally trying your hands on different things, you can get it done by following the steps outlined below:

For this procedure, you will need a sheet (An old and abandoned bed sheet can serve in this case) and A fabric dye in whatever color you desire.

However, the dye would totally be unnecessary if the bed sheet color is the same as that which you want your robe to be. Other accessories like the crucifix and a cord (preferably 1.5m).


The tools needed to get this done yourself at home include big scissors, measurement tape, sewing thread, and lastly, a sewing machine.

Step 1

Flatten the sheet out and have it folded in half-length and another half again. The shape it should form when you do so is a rectangular one. Next, put some marks on the sleeves and the half front then, as it is still folded, cut through the layers following the thick line trail.

Step 2

After cutting, have a layer of the fabric unfolded just once and sew up following the line that forms the pattern. Have the sleeves hemmed to get the tunic successfully done.

Step 3

Go back now to the remaining two layers to get your cowl done. To achieve this, put a mark that forms a semicircle shape, have it cut out, and neatly sew along the lines. Regarding the seam of the neck cowl, use a straight stitch then make to gather the fabrics up by pulling the threads on both ends. 

Ensure that the stitching is as long as the bottom of the hood. You can decide to have a detachable hooded cowl or have it attached to the tunic just like real ones.

Step 4

If you intend to have the fabric dyes to a particular color, simply check out the directions on the packet of the dye. If you want the color more pronounced, you can double the dose then use.

You can use tiny pieces of wood to make the crucifix and that’s it, your costume is ready.

Why Do Monks Wear Different Colored Robes – Conclusion

I know that it would take a deep form of study to understand the way of life of monks and monastery practices in general but, one thing that isn’t so complicated is the answer to why they wear different colors of robes. I for one cannot imagine how difficult it would have been to differentiate them if they did.

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