Home | Culture | India’s Sari: Origin, Myth and Beauty

India’s Sari: Origin, Myth and Beauty

sarigirls
Far and wide, the sari or saree has been a well-known symbol of the Indian female for 5000 years. In today’s India, there are 6.5 million people involved in the production of handloom saris. Although the structure of saris are mostly the same, Indian woman have much room for personal and creative expression in their dress.The sari exists in countless varieties of draping styles, patterns, colors and weaves.

The Sari is a garment made up of a piece of fabric usually 6-9 yards, wrapped around the waist and draped over one shoulder. The midriff is typically exposed, and often one arm is covered on the side the sari is draped over the shoulder. A petticoat is usually worn beneath the sari. This piece has many different names depending on region. In western India it is called chaniyo, parkar or ghagra, shaya in the east, pavadi or padava in the south, and lahanga or lehenga in the North. A blouse is also worn beneath the sari and is called either a choli or ravika. The choli is basically a crop top, with short sleeves and a low neck. Cholis are sometimes backless or halter style and when they are they tend to be more formal than the every day versions, with a lot of embroidery and embellishments. Many women who are in the armed forces wear a sari uniform, with a short sleeve shirt tucked into the waist.

Detail_of_a_leaf_with_the_birth_of_mahavira
Kalpasutra Manuscript-1375

The Sari originated within the Hindu culture. Hindus believe that stitched clothing is impure. Hindus also believe that the belly button is very important and is a source of life and creativity. This is why the Sari does not cover the midriff. Another reason for the bare stomach is the Ancient Indian ideals of beauty. They value, like many other cultures, the juxtaposition of a small waist with larger hips and bust line. The Sari exposes the waist but also adds width to the hips and bust, emphasizing and even exaggerating the female figure. This being said, the sari still maintains a woman’s modesty, as she is covered from head to toe with fabric, and it is only a small portion of her waist exposed. The first known depiction of the Sari is a statue of an Indus Valley priest wearing a sari-like drape and dates back to 100 B.C. Sculptures from the 1st-6th century AD depict dancers and goddesses wearing dhoti wraps. Cave murals from the 5th century show women wearing full body saris. In the early 1500’s, a traveler from Portugal described women as wearing very thin cotton or silk garments that wrapped around their waist and shoulder, exposing the arm and shoulder. There are many Indian myths and legends involving saris. Most come from ancient manuscripts such as the Vedic Scripts, Mahabharata, Silappadhikaram, Kadambari and Natya Shastra. Scholars commonly believe that the earliest texts recording saris are 5000 years old.

draupadi
I find the most interesting aspect of saris to be how all women in India wear them, the way all men in America, or most, wear pants. While in some ways this could be thought of as hindering to a woman’s freedom of self, of expression and of movement. However, it could also be looked at from the other side. If you knew you were wearing a sari everyday, think of all the time and energy you would save, not worrying about clothing. The biggest advantage to this in my mind, is not having to think about finding clothes that fit all of the  figure flattering, current, matching with your personal style, affordable. For American woman, the biggest struggle is without a doubt finding clothes that are figure flattering. In our culture, it often seems that clothes were made with the attempt to sabotage your figure. With Saris, that is not a concern because the sari is literally draped around your own, actual body. It is designed to be a covering to the main point in the room-which is you-not your outfit. Weather you are a size 8 or you gain weight over the holidays and are now a size 10 doesn’t matter in the slightest. Your Sari will still look good on you because it exists in celebration of you.

Landowners+Wife+-+India+c1890sLand owner’s wife-1895

Women_in_Sarees

1912

Two+Indian+women+dressed+in+saris+-+1940

 1940

Air+India+Receptionist+in+Sari+-+1971

Receptionist for Air india-1971

bollywood-indian-movies-actresses-celebrities-stars-wear-beautiful-designers-saree-sari6

Actress Kangana Ranaut wearing designer Sabyasachi-2013

sari

         We have a beautiful selection of Sari Silk in our store currently. Come check it out!