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Image: Wikimedia commons

By Akanksha Sharma

Saree is one of the unifying features of India. The image of Indira Gandhi, the late Prime Minister of India dressed in starched white saree serving as a powerful leader in a male dominating society is very popularly known around the world. On the contrary, the picture of a woman from a weaker section of society, thin, poor and wearing a dirty, stained saree and carrying an undernourished child whose legs are wrapped around her waist is also a familiar image. These two images represent a very different culture and background. But, they share a very common cultural feature of India ,i.e., Saree. Saree is usually a long unstitched piece of cloth, generally is 6 yard long. It is paired with a blouse that covers the upper part of the body and underneath it, a petticoat is worn for tucking in the pleats of saree and to hold the saree in place. The draping style is different in different states of India: It comes in different fabrics, colours, and designs.


Origin of Saree


Saree worn during Indus Valley Civilization– Wikimedia commons

It is one of the oldest civilisation of India. In the history, the evidence is found that a long piece of unstitched cloth was used to be worn to cover themselves. The word saree originated from a Sanskrit word ‘Sati’ which means a strip of cloth and the word ‘Sattika’ is mentioned in the early Buddhist literature. Later the word was evolved into the word ‘saree’. A statue of a female has been recovered from the Indus Valley civilization, draped in saree. Earlier, Saree used to be worn in a manner so, that it divides the two legs, forming a trouser like look. This style was popular among the temple dancers to aid them in their movements. The early statues of Goddesses depicted that saree was worn in a ‘fishtail’ which was tied at the waist, and covered up the legs. During that era, the upper part was also covered with the saree. Later with the arrival of Muslims ghagra and the petticoat was discovered and clothes were stitched. And later blouse was discovered. Since then, saree has evolved lot.

Styles of draping saree

According to the researchers, there are more than 80 ways to wear a saree. However, the most popular and favoured style is Nivi style. This style originates from Andhra Pradesh, Nivi drape starts with one end of the sari tucked into the petticoat then the cloth is wrapped around the lower body once, and the loose end is draped over the shoulder called pallu and the rest of the cloth are divided into pleats and tucked into the waistband of the petticoat under the navel.


Nivi style of wearing Saree– Wikimedia commons


Maharashtrian Saree– Wikimedia commons

In Orissa, It is worn without pleats and is wrapped around the lower body in anti- clockwise direction and the pallu is wrapped around the body over the left shoulder. In Kerala, a two-piece saree having a decorative golden coloured border is popular. Among Maharashtrians, the draping style is similar to male Maharashtrians dhoti, and forms a trouser like attire. There are more ways to wear is differently and each state has its own traditional style of draping saree.

In Modern era, it is also worn professionally. The dress code of air hostesses on Air India flights is also saree. Many Politicians wear saree as it being traditional clothing and it also covers their modesty. Saree is also the wedding attire of women. And it is paired with a lot of old jewellery during a wedding. Instead of that, a lehenga is also worn by women. During festivals and different occasions, mostly people prefer wearing saree to give a more traditional look.

Saree is not only famous in India, but also popular among women of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. In Bangladesh, it is the national wear of women. Most married women wear it as a regular dress or wear it occasionally. Manipuri saree is the most popular saree among Bangladeshi women.


Nepali woman wearing Saree– Wikimedia commons

In Pakistan, Saree is worn by Pakistani Hindus and is commonly worn in metropolitan cities during important occasions and also wear it formerly. In Sri Lanka and Nepal, saree is worn both professionally and as a daily-wear. It is one of the cultural symbols that unites us together, even after having a very diverse culture. It enhances the beauty of women and also adds to their modesty. After all it the most sensuous, glamorous and an all-time wear for women.

Akanksha Sharma is a student of Journalism in New Delhi. She currently works as an intern in Newsgram. Twitter @meganme456


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