Sari: Poetry in Fabric ( MMM Write-Off)

Jun 22, 2002 (Updated Oct 20, 2003)

The Bottom Line This entry is my contribution to the Mysterious, Mystical, and Magical Write-Off.

When I went into my closet yesterday to choose what I was going to wear for the day, I caught a glimpse of red, of one of my sari’s. The sari beckoned to me from its hanger, begging to be aired out, and shaken out its stagnancy. I released the sari from its hanger, unfolded it, and gave it a whack.

As the fabric drifted down into the carpet, I heard the rustle of the silk.

It was pure magic.

I was overcome with a longing to wear that sari, and get enfolded in its warp, its weft, and its weave…

A Little Bit of History:

The Indian Sari, believe it or not, is more than 5000 years old! It was first mentioned in Rig Veda, the oldest surviving literature of the world, written somewhere around 3000 BC. The Sari, originally intended both for men and women, is probably the longest incessantly worn dress in the history of mankind.

Unbeatable in its antiquity, and yet unsurpassed as a fashion statement even today for the women of India, the sari is indeed an evolutionary triumph. India was invaded many a time, and conquered many a time, but the fabric weaving tradition of India has remained alive and kicking through the centuries. The sari’s produced by this weaving tradition continue to adorn Indian women, and of late some models on Parisian ramps, and how can I forget Madonna!

According to a charming folk tale about how the Sari came into existence.

"The Sari, it is said, was born on the loom of a fanciful weaver. He dreamt of Woman. The drape of her tumbling hair. The colors of her many moods. The shimmer of her tears. 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."

The Sari:

Sari (originally Chira in Sanskrit, meaning Cloth), is a rectangular piece of cloth, usually 5-9 yards in length. The approximate size of a sari, to make it more understandable is 47 inches by 216 inches. For an untailored length of cloth, the fabric of the sari is very well thought-out, and the design vocabulary very sophisticated.

Every Sari has a design theme, and often has a story to tell. The main field of the sari is framed on its three sides by decorative borders. Two of these borders run along the longitudinal sides of the sari, and the third comprises the end piece of the sari, and is known as its Pallav.

The Pallav is a broader, and more intensified version of the two longitudinal borders. This end piece is the part of the sari that is draped over the shoulder and left to hang over the back or front. For example, if the two longitudinal borders have vines with leaves embroidered on them, the end piece or the pallav will have a lush tree with lots of leaves, and maybe even some flowers on it.

The Different Drapes:

The Sari is the garment of choice for 75% of the population (now close to one billion), of India, due to its versatility. This unstitched piece of cloth, with the aid of manual skill, can be worn like a gown, a skirt, trousers, and even shorts. If women have stolen many hearts wearing the sari like a regal gown, they have also fought many wars on horsebacks, and conquered their enemies, wearing it in a trouser like fashion!

Chantal Boulanger, a French Anthropologist spent six years in India, in order to collect information about the various styles of draping a sari. During her time in India, she discovered 100 different styles of draping a sari, and according to her a lot of those styles, face imminent extinction.

In her book, Sari’s: An Illustrated Guide to the art of Indian Draping she says, “We cannot stop time and evolution. Education and progress are desirable, and also inevitable. But if we fight hard and spend millions to save endangered animal species, why not make a little effort to preserve human cultural heritage too? Drapes are an important part of India's culture, yet not much has been done to record and understand their variety.”


My Experience with a Saree:

Learning to drape a sari expertly, takes some time and experience. I have had many a mishap in the past, but once I got it, there was no looking back. Sari’s are fun to wear, and an expertly draped sari is a visual delight both for the wearer, as well as the beholder.

It is said that the sari rarely fails to flatter a woman. To wear a sari is an unparalleled experience: an experience that makes one feel hopelessly feminine.

Final Note:

A noted psychologist Carl Jung has waxed lyrical about the elegance of the sari :

"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".

Well, I am not ready to give up my pair of Levi’s just yet, but I have made a promise to myself. I will drape myself in a Sari, whenever it is appropriate. Maybe, the elegant Fundraiser that my son’s school organizes every year will be one such occasion. I know that I’ll probably be the only one there wearing a sari. I am sure it’ll look mysterious to some people, mystical to a few others, but I hope that it will look magical to most of them.

This entry is my contribution to the Mysterious, Mystical, and Magical write off hosted by KatM, and Fionablackwolf. Please click on the link on my profile page, to see a picture of me, draped in a sari

Please read the reviews of these other participants in this write-off. Links can be found at KatM's profile page.

amyk49 |ariel10575 | arielssong | badkittyM | dedemw | fionablackwolf (Your lovely hostess!) | freelancer1 | fyvel | goldmoon | KatM (Your other lovely hostess!) | kurt_messick | LEDOMAINE | littlelotte | marytara | mattygroves | mnehr | mridula | murasaki | rianleeann | robynkoz | schmoo321 | shadow8 | shadow_dream | skbreese | sneil_iv | snpmurray | susanwhipple | vince006 | yogore

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