Friday, 15 July 2011

History of Indian Sarees


Majority of women in Indian sub-continent wear “Saree”.Saree is is a draped dress, created from a single piece of fabric five to nine yards long, which is wrapped around a woman’s body in a variety of ways. The resulting garment can be practical working attire or an elegant ceremonial gown, depending on the type of fabric used and the style of draping. While women wear the sari, men wear a version of the wrapped garment called a dhoti.
In the history of Indian clothing the sari is traced back to the Indus Valley Civilisation, which flourished during 2800-1800 BC around the western part of the Indian subcontinent. The earliest known depiction of the sari in the Indian subcontinent is the statue of an Indus Valley priest wearing a drape.Some people think that Indian saree is influenced by Greek or Roman toga which we see on ancient statues. This is not correct. Saree 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 Saree) was a wonder to Greek eyes. In fact, Herodotus and other ancient western historians thought there were cloth-growing trees in India!
Like the Greeks and Romans who followed them, the ancient people of India mainly wore garments that were wrapped and draped, rather than sewn. This was not because they did not know the art of sewing—early Indian people were experts in fine weaving and embroidery—but because they preferred the flexibility and creativity that draped clothing allowed. Loose, flowing garments were practical in the hot climate of southern Asia, and the sari, woven of cotton or silk, was both cool and graceful. Though rich and poor alike wore the sari, the wealthy could afford to have fine silk fabric with costly decorations, while the poor might wear rough plain cotton.
Women of Tamil Nadu wear silk sarees on special occasions. The Brahmin community wear the saree in a slightly different way without wearing the long skirt. The length of the saree which they wear is longer (nine yards) than the usual one. It is wound separately on both legs in a proper way without restricting the person’s free movement.
Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu and Mysore in Karnataka are famous for their unique silk and cotton sarees.
Andhra Pradesh is famous for its cotton sarees which is designed with jerry and thread. The sarees woven at Venkatagiri and Pochhampalli in Andhra are famous. Cotton sarees of Bengal is ideal as a summer wear.
In Kerala, women wear their traditional two piece cloth called mundu and neriyathu. The ‘mundu’ (one piece) is draped on the lower part of the body. The second piece; ‘neriyathu’ is worn on top, over a blouse in the same way as the sarees. This mundu also called ‘Settu Mundu’ is the traditional attire. The mundu was worn in a different way by the women of the royal families.
Sarees are worn in different ways in many places,especially in Gujarat, Manipur, Maharashtra and Coorg (Karnataka).
Saris are woven with one plain end (the end that is concealed inside the wrap), two long decorative borders running the length of the sari, and a one to three foot section at the other end which continues and elaborates the length-wise decoration. This end is called the pallu; it is the part thrown over the shoulder in the nivi style of draping.
In past times, saris were woven of silk or cotton. The rich could afford finely-woven, diaphanous silk saris that, according to folklore, could be passed through a finger ring. The poor wore coarsely woven cotton saris. All saris were handwoven and represented a considerable investment of time or money.
Simple hand-woven villagers’ saris are often decorated with checks or stripes woven into the cloth. Inexpensive saris were also decorated with block printingusing carved wooden blocks and vegetable dyes, or tie-dyeing, known in India as bhandani work.
More expensive saris had elaborate geometric, floral, or figurative ornaments or brocades created on the loom, as part of the fabric. Sometimes warp and weft threads were tie-dyed and then woven, creating ikat patterns. Sometimes threads of different colors were woven into the base fabric in patterns; an ornamented border, an elaborate pallu, and often, small repeated accents in the cloth itself. These accents are called buttis or bhuttis (spellings vary). For fancy saris, these patterns could be woven with gold or silver thread, which is called zari work.
Sometimes the saris were further decorated, after weaving, with various sorts of embroidery. Resham work is embroidery done with colored silk thread. Zardozi embroidery uses gold and silver thread, and sometimes pearls and precious stones. Cheap modern versions of zardozi use synthetic metallic thread and imitation stones, such as fake pearls and Swarovski crystals.
In modern times, saris are increasingly woven on mechanical looms and made of artificial fibers, such as polyester, nylon, or rayon, which do not require starching or ironing. They are printed by machine, or woven in simple patterns made with floats across the back of the sari. This can create an elaborate appearance on the front, while looking ugly on the back. The punchra work is imitated with inexpensive machine-made tassel trim.
Hand-woven, hand-decorated saris are naturally much more expensive than the machine imitations. While the over-all market for handweaving has plummeted (leading to much distress among Indian handweavers), hand-woven saris are still popular for weddings and other grand social occasions.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing history of Indian sarees. It will surely help the old women in sarees online shopping !! Regards !!

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