Updated: Mar 17, 2022
The most unique garment that unites every woman of our country is undoubtedly the 9 yards long Saree. It not only unites women of all region, it is also a common belonging across generations. The older the generation, the more exquisite is the possession. For every traditional occasion, I raid my mother’s cupboard for that perfect piece of cloth. Many a times, I have found my grandmother’s hand-me-downs too. Surprisingly, there is a Saree for every occasion!
One of the oldest forms of unstitched garments in fashion, saree has become more glamorous over time. It is traditionally worn in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Ever wondered where the term originated from? A Sanskrit term Sati meaning a “strip of cloth” evolved into “Saree” in modern Indian language. Based on ancient Hindu literature, the concept of saree evolved from Satika which means a women’s attire consisting of a lower garment known as “Antariya”, a veil that is worn over the shoulder “Uttariya” and a chest band known as “Stanapatta”. These have evolved into what is known today as “Petticoat”, “Saree” and “Blouse” respectively.
But who wore the first Saree? Its origin can be traced back to Indus Valley Civilization, during 2800-1800 BC in Northwest India. The women of the era wore it as a functional garment. Since then, Indian women love draping themselves in artistic silk, cotton or linen Sarees. It has been the canvas for weavers to manifest their artistic imagination.
Do you know what the first Saree was made of? That's right - Cotton! Cotton is a fabric that has been around for the longest time on Earth. In fact remnants of cotton fabric dated to the fifth millennium BC have been found in the Indus Valley Civilization, as well as in Peru dated back to 6000 BC. Early weavers started experimenting with natural dyes like indigo, turmeric, lac, red madder to create colorful patterns along the Pallu and border. Gradually other natural fibers like silk, ikkat, jute were used to knit Sarees.
Several years later with the foreigners’ arrival, the rich Indian women inspired the artisans to use expensive stones, gold threads to make exclusive saris for their strata, which could identify them easily. The British introduced synthetic dyes, revolutionizing the textile industry. Sarees could now have intricate designs of figures, motifs, flowers along with delicate zardozi, gota, makaish and tilla work that embellished the plain fabric. In the modern world, synthetic fabrics like polyester, georgette and charmeuse are commonly used to weave Sarees.
Being an unstitched garment, it is worn in several styles, each unique to its culture. During the Indus valley civilization, women draped the cotton cloth around their waist and pleated in the center so that they could move around freely. It is known as the “Kachcha style”. With the advent of the Aryans, the draping style changed to “Neevi”. It was very similar to the earlier style. From the Mughal period, originated the ritual of covering the head with the “Pallu”. Today, there are over 100 draping styles, differing across regions.
Saree remains as the most elegant garment of all times. It has been accepted with love across generations. Our aim is to uphold such a significant cultural icon and connect back to our roots.