Foreign women who fail to “cover themselves and look decent” will now be asked to don saris before entering Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi, India.

Women in saris.

Women in saris. Image by Nico Crisafulli / CC BY 2.0

Temple authorities told BBC India the move was designed to maintain decency in the temple complex. “We get complaints that some foreign tourists come to the temple in indecent clothes. We have arranged saris for women and also dhotis [traditional wrap-around clothing] for men to ensure that they can cover themselves decently,” the temple’s chief executive officer PN Dwivedi explained.

Two checkpoints are now operating outside the temple entrance at which women who are wearing “outfits that end before the knee” will be fitted with saris before proceeding into the temple sanctorum. Female police are on hand to help women fit their saris, and change rooms are provided to ensure privacy. The new dress code applies to both foreign and domestic travellers.

Varanasi, India.

Varanasi, India. Image by Dennis Jarvis / CC BY-SA 2.0

Jeans and long pants are considered acceptable attire, as long as arms and legs are covered. Those in ‘short Western attire’ will be offered saris. There will be no charge for the service, Mr Dwivedi told the Times of India. “It’s on them whether they return the saris to temple office after offering prayer or taking it with them.”

“No foreign woman is going to be stopped from offering prayer inside the sanctorum, and we are not enforcing any dress code. This is just a way of motivating foreign women, who come to the temple in short Western attire to avoid such dresses,” Mr Dwivedi said.