Kaupinam, Kaupina, Kowpeenam, Kowanam or Langoti is a simple loincloth or undergarment worn. It is made up of rectangular strip of cotton cloth which is used to cover the genitals with the help of the strings connected to the four ends of the cloth for binding it around the waist of the wearer. It has fallen into disuse amongst the common people, but a spiritual Hindu uses it for purposes well known to him. The Generally kaupina has religious significance attached to asceticism for the Hindus. The Bhagavata Purana mandates that a true ascetic is to wear kaupina at all times.
Lord Shiva is sometimes depicted wearing Kaupina. Shivite practice of wearing the kaupinam survives in certain confines. Similarly Lord Muruga of Palani or Palaniandavar and Lord Hanuman are sometimes shown wearing kaupina. Certain Aghori and Kapalika rituals mandate the Kaupina. And so are some Tantric rituals.
While the Kaupina is said to be associated with celibacy, there are no verifiable basis for this, except that sannyasis are celibate. By tradition, a person who has renounced the world may try to avoid clothing to cover himself fully and restricts himself to a loincloth. Yudhisthir changed his dress accordingly when he went on exile. His saffron loincloth indicated freedom from all attractive material garments.
Followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who lived in the Vrindavana are said to have worn no more than loincloth. Mahatma Gandhi also took to the mendicant’s dress but it was the extended version of the kaupina. Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi was a well known personalities linked with kaupina.
G-string is sort of modern undergarment that uses a narrow piece of cloth that passes between the buttocks to hold or conceal the genitals. It is attached to a band around the hips. While the G-string is close to the Kaupina in terms of purpose, the former clothing is probably aimed at maximum exposure, like swimming or beach areas etc.
PALANIANDAVAR. This is a manifestation of Lord Muruga. In this depiction, Lord Muruga is all Grace and Love. His bright face in equal to the rising sun; His very sight pours grace upon the devotee. His forehead displays Tilakam, Sandal, and Vibhuti. His broad chest having a cord with Danda, the staff gives safety for others; His left hand on thigh or carrying the Vel shows abundant grace; His jeweled ankles shine with beauty; He shows grace to all wearing only a Kaupina or loincloth. Sometimes His blue peacock stands by. Palaniandavar Shrines are found mainly in the South and the Temple is Palani has a string of bhaktas going there for darshan.
KAUPEENA PANCHAKAM was written by Sri Adi Shankaracharya
This is a very short poem with five stanzas that glorifies the life of a Sannyasi. A Sadhu renounces everything before entering in to Sannyas, and wears only a kaupina aka kaupeena (loin cloth). That too is for the sake of the world. “A sannyasi, accepting the renounced order very strictly and wearing nothing more than a loincloth, should always enjoy the philosophical statements in the Vedanta-sutra.”
Vedantha Vakhyeshu Sada ramantho,
Vishokamantha karane charantha,
Kaupeenavantha Khalu bhaghyavantha -1
Who is reveling in the thoughts of Vedantic declarations,
Whom does a meager portion of begged-food satisfy,
Who is walking around without a trace of sorrow
The man with just the loincloth is indeed the lucky one. -1
Moolam tharo kevalam ashrayantha,
Panidhvayam bhokthuma manthrayantha,
Kandhamiva sreemapi kuthsayantha,
Kaupeenavantha Khalu bhaghyavantha -2
Who rests (sleeps) at the roots of a tree,
Taking only two hands-full of food
Who is disregarding wealth as a torn piece of cloth
The man with just the loincloth is indeed the lucky one. -2
Swananda bhava pari thushti mantha,
Sushantha sarvendriya vruthi mantha,
Aharnisam brahma sukhe ramantha,
Kaupeenavantha Khalu bhaghyavantha - 3
Always contented in the joy of ones own self
Who is peaceful by curbing desires his senses
Who is immersed day and night in the bliss of Brahman
The man with just the loincloth is indeed the lucky one. -3
Dehadhi bhavam parivarthayantha,
Naantha na Madhyam na bahi smarantha,
Kaupeenavantha Khalu bhaghyavantha - 4
Always witnessing the changes of his own body,
Who is seeing himself as the Self, the changeless,
And who never bothers to think about the end, middle and outside (of the world),
The man with just the loincloth is indeed the lucky one. -4
Bhikshashano dikshu paribramayantha,
Kaupeenavantha Khalu bhaghyavantha - 5
Always singing the sacred glory of Brahman, the eternal
Always contemplating that ‘I am Brahman’,
Who is wandering around just on alms obtained,
The man with just the loincloth is indeed the lucky one. -5
Hara Hara Mahadeva
by Yogi Ananda Saraswathi