An Ode to Sari

Published November 15, 2006 by axinia

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Ten years ago I heard in one speech of Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi that western cloths are actually rather ugly and poor, it looks like variety but it is not. And the Indian sari is such a masterpiece of an everlasting beauty. At that time I could not but disagree as I was very much into fashion and designer stuff, hungrily catching every news from the catwalk. Time passed, and I managed to visit the fabulous land of incsent-flavoured India and to experience the magic of sari…

But first a bit of a history.

Some people think that Indian sari is influenced by Greek or Roman toga which we see on ancient statues. This is not correct. Sari is essentially Indian and designed to suit local conditions. Cotton was cultivated in India centuries before Alexander the Great landed on the borders of India and Indian cloth (chira or Sari) was a wonder to Greek eyes. In fact, Herodotus and other ancient western historians thought there were cloth-growing trees in India! 

The origin of this fabulous garment is a bit obscure due to lack of proper historical records in India but one thing is for sure – the sari boasts the oldest existence in the sartorial world. It is more than 5000 years old and is mentioned in the Vedas.

 

One of the possible reasons for the long-lasting popularity of sari may be its spiritual beauty that lays in the creation of this large woven piece of cloth (can be 6-9 yard). Indian myths often use weaving as a metaphor for the creation of the universe. The sutra or spun thread was the foundation, while the sutradhara (weaver) or holder of the thread was viewed as the architect or creator of the universe.

 
 

 

For an unstitched length of material, the wearing of a sari entails a lot of preparation. Most saris have a fall made of cotton attached to the inside lower border, and the choli or bodice that teams up with the sari should match the ground color of the sari, or at least echo one of the tints in the borders or motifs. The sari follows the shape of the body, yet conceals, it is often said, a hundred imperfections. It is true that not only is it one of the most graceful of garments, but also one of the kindest. This perhaps explains its perennial charm. Not only beautiful, it is compassionate.

 

The success of the sari through the ages is attributable to its total simplicity and practical comfort, combined with the sense of luxury a woman experiences. Though men are intrigued by the demure, floor-length attire and tantalizing display of a bare midriff at the back, it is said that sari rarely fails to flatter a woman, making her feel fragile and feminine. It is an instant fashion, created by the hands of the wearer and subject to none of the vagaries and changes which plague the modern fashion scene.

 

So far the information. Now the experiences…

When I came to India last year the whole thing had quite a revolutionary impact on me, I suddenly felt the life there so real, so intense in controversy to our sophisticated and mechanic western reality. And many more breath-taking experiences were still waiting for me in the misty sacred mountains of Maharashtra…

I went to the concert of an Indian classical music – vocal und instrumental, in a huge Stadium in Pune. Thousands and thousands of people gathered there to enjoy the captivating harmony of ragas. The early evening set up its cosy setting on the rows. All the ladies were clad in their festive saris – myriads of marvelous colours and fabrics, with embroidery and without, glittering and matt… Such innumerable variety of saris at one place and time – that was tremendous! I got completely thoughtless watching one by one all these Indian ladies so graceful and dignified, watching these wonderful saris, admiring each like a piece of art. I felt like being in an ocean of everlasting beauty… And suddenly I remembered the words of Shri Mataji and realized how true they were!

 

 
 

 

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In fact, the nowadays fashion seem to offer a huge amount of “new” trousers, blouses, shirts, coats, suits. But do most of them really flatter us? Do they fit the best? Do they make us really unique and beautiful?

 
 

 

When I got dressed up in a sari, I realized some other things as well:

·         The sari blouse is normally very tight – it makes the shoulders round and fragile (as the opposite to the “hard” western shoulder-concept)

·         The sari itself covering me from top to bottom gives a feeling of the most pleasant comfort – protection, security and auspiciousness

·        Sari can make every type of figure look very feminine, soft and strong an the same time

·         In my splendid pink wedding dress I felt myself being a princess – beautiful, charming and glamorous. Wearing a sari I feel being a goddess – dignified, solemn, extremely soft, pouring the power of love everywhere…

In the web I found two complimentary comments of western women on sari.

Selene:” I need not wear the pants of a man to become superior. In every spirituality there is some small part, maybe hidden, maybe not, that says that just by being born a woman, we are the spiritual heart of the home. The beautiful draping and coverage of yards of material make me feel beautiful and protected, and – at home. Every time I see a beautiful Indian woman walking in her sari through a grocery store, a mall, or just strolling with her family, I see that she walks with her head up, her hips swaying, and she is proud of how she looks, no matter what her age. She automatically has a link to her ancestral mothers and she never has to have an excuse for it.”

Bertha: “The sari epitomizes the beauty of the female form. It is ideal clothing for the summer and can be comfortably worn in the winter as well. It drapes the body all over and reveals very less but still has such a sensuous look. It can make a thin woman look voluptuous and a overweight woman look attractive. It also reflects the mood and personality of the person wearing it, through its myriad colors.”

Today even in India people seem difficult to withstand the flood of the western mind-bombing, in the sartorial world as well. And though the rural India (which is in fact 75 % of the country) is still clad in the colorful, joy-giving saris – the population if the megapolices like Mumbai and New Delhi seem to start appreciating the westernised look.

Famous swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung (1875-1961) expressed his concirn this way: “It  would be a loss to the whole world if the Indian woman should cease to wear her native costume. India is practically the only civilized country where one can see on living models how woman can and should dress“.

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Sari, it is said, was born on the loom of a fanciful weaver. He dreamt of woman. The shimmer of her tears. The drape of her tumbling hair. The colors of her many moods. The softness of her touch. All these he wove together. He couldn’t stop. He wove for many yards. And when he was done, the story goes, he sat back and smiled and smiled and smiled…

 

axinia

34 comments on “An Ode to Sari

  • I’ve always thought that saris are both glamourous and sensual. I dance a lot and have Indian clothing, especially skirts because they flow so well as I move. Maybe sometime I will be very daring and buy a sari for dancing.

  • Can i get honour of buying both you ladies Sari!

    I wish i could read most of yoru blog. I just like the energy in your blog. Saris has much more science than dressing. Hope one day I can spend some time to write a note on that!

  • Dear Axinia,

    Thank you!🙂 It felt SO GOOD reading this article, as if I read from my heart… I pray that all women may feel and enjoy their womanhood one day, that all could experience the grace and beauty of a sari or, at least of a punjabi!

  • Thank you, Delia,
    I am so glad you feel it same way! I belive every woman woudl feel same if she only tries…
    Unfortunately in the West we have not many possibilites even to find a sari. But the situation is improving🙂

  • You might enjoy my Saree Blog at Saree Dreams; nothing but gorgeous sarees. Saree is the most under appreciated fashion garment.
    I am also concerned that the art of draping a saree is also being lost. There are 100+ ways of wearing a saree, how come we mostly see 2 or 3?

  • it’s a long way back i appreciate this kind of clothing that I wish i got indian blood in me so that I could wear it without mush fuss from people around me. But I hope one day — when i stepped into an indian soil, no matter what my size, I am sure i could pick a saree for me.

    Lovely post, axinia.🙂

  • We feel the same way; we started a blog on Saree displaying, admiring, criticizing, drooling, about the Sarees.

    You might enjoy it. http://www.sareedreams.com

    Saree is experiencing a renaissances and some very creative people are putting a lot of energy in to it so that it stays beautiful, current, hip and relevant.

  • Axinia,

    I came across this blog randomly, and I want to thank you for it! Even tho I am not Indian myself, I truly feel this is the epitome of fashion and have been working hard to bring this to us “western” girls! No matter what your size or shape, they are amazingly flattering.

    Sometimes it can be daunting to wear for many people who are not Indian, because of the “exotic” look, the bright colors standing out amidst boring jeans & t-shirts, but those very reasons ARE the reasons to wear them! Anytime I’ve ever worn Indian clothing, I receive many compliments and everyone always says, “Where can I get one?!” We are all goddesses wearing saree, and we make the wee mortals look to us in adoration. 🙂

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with us, I will reference your material again & again, I am sure! Have a lovely day,

    ~~Sophia
    http://www.bollywood-designs.com
    bollywooddesigns@gmail.com

  • i experienced that the beauty and the positive feelings of wearing a saree…should just be experienced! Although i am not indian born, i use to feel comfortable and good while wearing it. as a consequence i try to put on a saree as often as possible. My husband one time smiling said: ” one day you’ll go to the office in saree” Why not? its been years now that the ounjabi for example is part of my daily guardrobe too, alternatively with western clothes. saree is woman, saree is good, saree is forever trendy!

  • Dear Axinia,

    Let me go point-wise:
    1) That saree comes unstitched is an adavntage – no tailor can ruin it. Also, 1 saree fits all (which, considering the Indian poor, is a blessing) and even if the weaver makes some mistakes here & there, it is difficult to notice them easily.

    2) The saree can have a myriad colours – in fact, a cousin of mine just recently bought a saree that had 50,000 different colors woven into the same. You can find the description here: http://www.rmkv.com/jothika.htm

    3) Saree is fashionable – not only the fact that you can wear it different ways, the following reasons make it fashionable.
    A) Saree ensures that all the ornaments (rings, bangles, arm-lets, waist-bands, anklets, necklaces etc are visible
    B) It is both open & closed – meaning it covers all that it needs to, yet maintains a healthy level of air circulation
    C) The accessories like the blouse can be made fashionable based on sleeve length(sleeveless, short sleeved, long sleeved & full sleeved), neck type (open neck, closed neck, round neck, polo neck, U neck, V neck etc.), the back(window back, closed back, design back etc.). You may need to see all (I am too lazy to collect all the pics – soooo sorry) before you decide what you want.
    D) Saree can be seasonal – from heavy ornamental silks to light cotton sarees.

    4) Sarees tell stories. Several Indian saree shops have made sarees that talk about the entire life of Rama/Krishna etc.

    5) Sarees can help a child bond with its mother. My mother’s saree has a specific odour that I am addicted to. Till date, I sleep really when when I have my mom’s saree on my pillow.

    6) Saree is convenient. To wipe perspiration at odd places, to breast feed child at public places, to conceal face when going around with boyfriends, to hide oneself from the harsh sun, to make a makeshift cradle for babies (most Indian labourers do this) etc.

    I just can go about this for ever… I like saree clad women..

  • Raj, thanks! No, I am not more Indian (may be it is some past life expereince, who knows?) – the only difference is that I analized wearing a sari and Indian women do not analise, they just wear it🙂

  • I just wanted to commend your very interesting blog post on sarees. Very well written! My own interest in sarees is probably not common – I’m an Indian transvestite, a normal male who happens to enjoy time dressing in female wear, and particularly so in silk sarees. I’ve been enamoured by them since I was young, seeing the women around me wearing them.

  • Well, I wore a saree for the first time yesterday….I felt sooooo confident and complete!!!!!
    its like in India,esp in our family, girls wear sarees when they cross certain age…till then we wear something called half saree (in english terms) we call it “Parikini” in our language…..
    Nice reading your blog…as Suresh said there is an energy in yours….I wanna read all your posts soon🙂..

    Nice Knowing you!!

  • Fascinating reading! My first husband came from Bangladesh, and I very happily chose to wear mainly sarees, and also shalwar-kameez, chooridar etc. I left off later for some years while my children were teenagers (thought they might feel their mother was strange!) even though my second husband (non-Indian) thinks they are gorgeous too. Then I thought – why not? So now I wear them again, and although I am now “mature” I still feel just as feminine, just as attractive. I love the colours (so much Western clothing is dark and drab), the flow of the garment, the pleasure of adding your own individuality in how you handle the saree, the way they reveal or conceal as you wish. I also find them perfectly practical – maybe not for bushwalking or painting the house, but honestly, they are just as “practical” as most Western daywear. (Do you know anyone who can walk fast in high heels, or can bend well in tight jeans?) Keep up the good work of popularizing these most beautiful of all garments!

  • Thanks Axinia for your excellent material.
    I agree completely that the Sari is a most beautiful feminine dress. I intend to visit India next year, in particular Maharashtra (a dear friend lives both at Tapola and Pune) and look forward to celebrating the cultual heritage and beauties of the country.
    Brian

  • Operating from the heart of Jaipur (the Pink City of India), Parineeta Fashions glitters like a jewel in the crown of Saree/Sari Industry. Our collection truly depicts the rich cultural heritage of India. Jaipur is famous for its Rajwada culture and traditional costumes and also, it has created a space in the heart of every tourist.

    Since establishment, we have managed to acquire a large list of regular customers for our distinguished variety of saree/sari collection. We have been at the helm of elegance and fashion. One of the overriding factors that distinguish us from the other outlets is our quality of goods that are our hallmark. The outcome is a terrific combination of variety, fashion, and dependability for our customers.

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