It will not be exaggerating of me to say that a sari is a six yard poetry adorning a woman. A flat, rectangular piece of cloth which can take many forms. A woman draped in a sari looks sensuous yet extremely elegant and graceful. In India, there are as many diverse styles of draping a sari as the diversity in its regional cultures; and as many fabrics as there are regional handicrafts.
An interesting folklore
A weaver was working on his looms and dreaming of a woman. He dreamt of the shimmer of tears, long cascading draping hair, the shades of her moods, the soft touch and kept weaving yards of fabric. As he finished, he had six yards of a beautiful cloth, the sari, in his hands and he couldn’t stop smiling at his creation. In India, unstitched fabric is given a lot of importance and is considered pure.
Even though obscure, but the oldest depictions of a sari-like drape dates back to Indus Valley Civilization which flourished between 2800-1800 BC.
The word Sari is derived from Sanskrit ’sati’ meaning a strip of cloth. Sari finds a mention in ancient Tamil poetry, such as ‘Silappadhikam’ and Sanskrit literature, ’kadambari’ by Banabhatta.
As per the ancient Indian tradition and the Natya Shastra, the navel of the Supreme Being is considered to be the source of life and creativity and hence the midriff should be left bare by the sari. Sculptures from the Gandhara, Mathura and Gupta schools dating from 1st -6th century AD depicted Goddesses and dancers wearing a drape similar to a sari.
Various styles of sari
Factually speaking, sari is a rectangular piece of unstitched fabric of 6 yards (5 meters) length and draped around with generous pleating with a loose end flowing over the shoulder and termed as ‘pallu.’
Diversity is India’s spice of life and keeping in tune with its diversity, the art of draping or weaving a sari takes a distinct form in different parts of the country.
The most popular style of draping sari and is worn by a majority of Indian women. It is also termed as ‘ulta pallu.’
Traditionally termed as’seedha pallu’, this form is also commonly popular in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar. In this form the pleats are tucked facing towards right and free flowing part is taken to the back and brought over the right shoulder.
Typically, a 9 yard sari, known as Nauveri, where one portion of the sari is drawn up between the legs and tucked in behind at the waist, while another portion is draped as ‘pallu’ over the bosom.
Madisari, a 9 yard long sari, which after wrapping around the waist, the pleats are positioned along the left leg and rest of the sari taken over the left shoulder is wrapped once again round the waist and tucked on the left side.
‘Pleat less sari’ typically termed as a Shari is wrapped around the waist, is brought back to the right side and the pallu thrown over the left shoulder only to be brought up under the right arm and again cast over the left shoulder.
This sari consists of two parts called as Mekhela Chador, the lower part is draped around the waist and the chador covers the upper torso.
An interesting variation, Coorgi women place pleats in the back and a small section of the pallu comes over the shoulder.
Different textures, patterns and fabrics of sari are prevalent in different regions of the country. This is primarily based on the difference in weather, culture and fabric availability.