Saree: My first love
My earliest memory of saree is my mom wearing a bright red kota saree with yellow flowers and adorned with jasmine flowers. I was mesmerized by the sheer elegance of the way the saree draped her, the pleats falling beautifully and grazing the floor and from there grew my never-ending saga of love for sarees.
I still remember how exhilarated I used to feel whenever I used to open my mom’s wardrobe and scanned through her sarees, The thrills of scanning through my chikamma’s sarees(aunty) are still etched green in my memory. These lovely ladies had an amazing collection of sungudi cotton, Pochampalli, madurai cotton, Kanchivaram and Dharmavaram silk sarees in myriad colors.
First crush, first love and first saree have a special place in one’s heart, I was thirteen, when I was first given a saree, it was a green chiffon with big white flowers, and I beamed with pride whenever I looked at it on my shelf as a child. My grandma got it for me. I still have this saree in my wardrobe, and whenever I take it out to drape, I can still feel the smile on my granny’s face when she held out the saree for me.
When I had the opportunity to attend family function, I used to observe all my aunts wearing different material of saree, one of my aunties always wore chiffon single pleated in pastel colour and her pallu used to fly like in typical Bollywood movie, another aunty always made it a point to wear Kanchivaram saree and knotted her hair at the nape of the neck and adorned jasmine flower, and another aunt used to always tuck her pallu on her waist and display those grand pallu designs. These ladies were my style icons and my inspiration.
Personally, I wear saree for any occasion, be it for lunch with friends, birthday parties or office. In fact, I am known in my friends and relatives circle for my saree draping and they would be expecting me to wear saree and make a grand entry.
Sarees can be draped in several styles, I love the Nivi drape, I feel comfortable in this drape, and I can spend a whole day in the office or anywhere in a saree without any discomfort. When I need to attend business meetings, I style a sober or dark colored saree with simple block-colored blouses and pair with shoes and here I go, looking like a boss lady and making strong statements. When I feel adventurous, like while going on saree marathon runs or riding a bike, I love the kacche or the dhoti style of drape.
Saree is the most versatile attire; this piece of clothing can be draped modestly or conservatively for a religious function or make a bold statement for office meetings and can be draped naughtily or seductively too. Saree is the only multi facet piece of clothing where a poor woman can pick up for just Rupees hundred and an elite can pick for tens of lacs of rupees. That is the acceptance that saree has across various socio-economic segments. This wonderful piece of cloth has found its acceptance in the various religions too across the length and breadth of this country.
Most of south Indian celebrations are not complete without sarees be it Gowri pooja, Deepavali or sumangali prarthane. In every south Indian wedding, saree plays the prominent part, In Kannadiga and telugu speaking family weddings, the bride wears white saree which symbolizes purity, in the Tamil brahmin weddings, the bride wears dark brown saree called koora podavai. In the entire south India, whenever a young bride visits any house be it relatives or friends, she is blessed with a new saree. For a long time, it has been prestigious to own sarees, every woman had their own unique collection of sarees, which was their signature style, the collection of sarees empowered them, it was their world, their fort, and their treasure.
Sarees have been mentioned in various historical documents like Rig Veda, a Hindu book of hymns dating to 3,000 B.C. Poetic references were made to saree in Silapadikaram indicate that during the sangam period, women were wearing this exquisite drapery. Even in Gandhi’s anecdote, he mentions that while journeying across this country saw from his train window a woman washing half her saree while half draping it. This wonderful garment has made sure to have caught its place in many such epics and biographies.
Saree had stood the test of time. Westernization has been seeing a downfall in the saree draping. It is often considered wearing saree is akin to a humongous task, but ask the earlier generation of women who wore saree day in and day out, they would rally that it is as simple as walking in the garden. Sashi Tharoor has correctly pointed out in his article “Save the sari from a sorry fate” that today’s younger women associate saree with a more traditional time when women did not compete with men on equal terms and that saree restricts them.
For a long time business dress for women never included saree and we the women of this generation should take responsibility to change it. Modern women need to embrace this 6-yard drape and it’s time for the saree to get off that cupboard and claim its place in board room meetings, to the times square, on top of Burj and I am here to make that happen.
It’s time we pay our dues and respect the saree that it truly deserves.
– Jyotsna Rajiv