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The endangered sari

D K Havanoor, Mar 17, 2012 : 0:11 IST

The fast disappearance of sari is the biggest loss to our culture.

The history of Indian clothing traces back to the Indus Valley civilisation, which flourished between 2800-1800 BC.

The best known depiction of sari in the subcontinent is in the statue of Indus Valley priest wearing a drape. The sari evolved from the Prakrit word, ‘Sattika,’ as mentioned in Buddhist-Jain literature. Ancient Tamil poetry such as ‘Silappadhikaran’ and the ‘Kadambari’ by Banabhtta describe women in exquisite sari. Sculptures from the Gandharva, Mathura and Gupta schools (1st to 6th century AD) show goddesses and dancers wearing sari in the ‘fishtail’ version which cover the legs loosely and then flow into a long drape in front of the legs. It is generally accepted that sari like garments, shawls and veils have been worn by Indian women for a long time and that they have been worn in their current form for centuries.

The choli came much later. There are two schools of thought. Some researchers state that these were unknown before the British arrival in India and they were introduced to satisfy the Victorian ideas of modesty. Other historians point to much textual artistic evidence for various forms of breast bands and upper body shawls.
Now, the sari and choli are worn to protect the modesty of women and to expose some other portions like midriff, arms, the navel, back and /or cleavage. The way sari is worn by different communities’ women like Gujaratis, Maharastrians, Coorgis and Jats is different. I nostalgically recall the memories of sari and choli on most women of yesteryear, which is fast dwindling. The fast disappearance of sari is the biggest loss to our culture. The sari signified the grace of Indian women adequately displaying the curves at the right places. The gap on the midriff between sari and the choli presented the elegance of a woman’s graceful sway of her gait. With the onslaught of salwar kameez and Jeans/tops, now there is no gap, as such there is no gape. Salwar kameez, which dates back to 1st centuty BC,has invaded the sartorial wardrobe of young women and girls across the country.

Hindi cinema and TV network are endangering the several millennia old tradition of gracious sari by popularising Salwar kameez and Jeans/tops which is of western culture.

Remember the sari is the only untailored cloth which fits on every woman of any size and shape. It should be declared an endangered cultural heritage.

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